Boeing Readies Air Force Training Jet for First Flight

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Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and its partner, Saab, are preparing their entry in the contest to build a new training jet for the U.S. Air Force for its first flight before the end of the year. The clean-sheet design was rolled out in mid-September, and the Boeing team has built two production copies it plans to use to persuade the Air Force that the so-called T-X is the service’s best choice.

Including the Boeing/Saab team, there are four competitors for the training jet contract. Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) has teamed with Korea Aerospace Industries on a version of the Korean company’s T-50 that made its first flight in June.

Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) and its partners are also working on a clean-sheet design, and Raytheon Corp. (NYSE: RTN) has partnered with Italy’s Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica) on a modified version of Leonardo’s T-100.

According to report in Defense News, Boeing T-X team leader Tom Conard said:

We’re looking to fly soon, before the year is over. And as we’re preparing that jet to fly, our flight crews are training in the training system devices to prepare them [for] exactly what they’re going to see in the jet.

Boeing is checking off test points on the T-X and expects the next test to put the plane through a simulation of flight by tying it down to a runway and going through the procedures for takeoff, climb and landing. The Boeing team will also test how the plane responds to simulated system failures.

The Air Force is expected to issue its final request for proposals (RFP) this month, and Boeing expects to fly the T-X at about the same time.

The initial phase of the contract is worth about $8.4 billion, but the total could run much higher. The Air Force plans to buy 350 of the new planes.

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