The USAF T-X program seeks to replace the aging line of Northrop T-38 "Talon" aircraft in the advanced jet trainer role. To date competitors include Boeing, Northrop, Lockheed, Raytheon and, to a lesser extent, Textron AirLand. The Boeing, Northrop and Lockheed designs remain frontrunners with the Lockheed proposal being based on the existing T-50 "Golden Eagle" operated by South Korea (and jointly developed between KAI and Lockheed). The Boeing and Northrop submissions are "clean sheet" designs - though Northrop initially moved to offer an advanced form of the BAe Systems Hawk (Hawk T2/128) for a time.
The service seeks 350 aircraft to fulfill the advanced trainer role. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the T-X is planned for 2023.
The Northrop prototype was revealed in August of 2016 as it conducted tests in the Mojave Desert. Like the competing Boeing T-X, the Northrop model is powered by a single General Electric F404 (non-afterburning) turbofan engine (17,200lb thrust) - already in the USAF logistical inventory. The crew of two sit in a traditional tandem seat cockpit arrangement with the engine installed aft. The engine is aspirated by a split-air intake system and exhausts through a single port under the tail. A tricycle undercarriage is fitted. The prototype T-X has been constructed by Scaled Composites.
Unlike the Boeing T-X offering, the Northrop aircraft has a single vertical tail fin and low-mounted wing mainplanes. Additionally, a noticeable "chine" is present along the fuselage sides - a longitudinal line at the hull cross-section, typically encountered with "stealthy" aircraft. The T-X trainer is categorized as a "5th Generation Jet" - intended to train new generations of pilots for the newer platforms such as the Lockheed F-22 "Raptor" and F-35 "Lightning II" systems.
While Boeing is partnered with Sweden's Saab for its T-X proposal, Northrop has teamed with BAe Systems and L-3 Communications. The Northrop T-38 Talon - formally introduced in 1961 - has been in service for over 50 years with 1,146 aircraft built. This amounts to 95,000 pilots having trained some 17 million hours on the system according to Northrop marketing material.
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February 2017 - Northrop Grumman announced Feb 1st, 2017 that it will not be competing in the USAF's T-X competition. Northrop Grumman was partnered with BAe Systems in the venture. The move leaves just teams from Boeing and Lockheed in the running.
September 2018 - Boeing was announced the winner of the T-X advanced trainer competition with its T-X submission.
Northrop Grumman / BAe Systems - USA Manufacturer(s)
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