By David Oliver
“If it looks right it will fly right” is the age old adage for pilots, and Boeing’s T-X fits the bill, the winning design for the US Air Force’s competition to replace its fleet of 50 plus-year old T-38 Talon advanced trainer aircraft that was selected on 27 September 2018 looking definitely right.
When the T-X completion was announced, Boeing was looking for a European Partner for future projects and Saab Group was looking for a US partner with no product and in December 2013 it was announced that Saab had partnered with Boeing in the design of the T-X airframe with only a three year lead time.
The first of two prototypes of the tandem-seat single-engine Boeing T-X powered by a General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan, BTX-1, flew on 20 December 2016. The twin tail design was fitted with an F-16 tricycle landing gear to save cost. Its slightly warped swept wing is equipped with Leading Edge Extensions (LERX) and leading edge slats, all of which are designed for both ease of high speed and low speed handling. The side opening canopy enables the changing of ejection seats without the lengthy reassembly of a rear sliding canopy. For ease of maintenance most of the aircraft’s systems can be reached without ladders.
Saab is responsible for the design and manufacture of the rear fuselage that will be built in a new site for advanced manufacturing and production in the United States at West Lafayette, Indiana which will have a close partnership with the state’s Purdue University.
Other cost saving components incorporated in the Boeing T-X include the F-22 side-stick and F-16 throttle and although the US Air Force selected the Collins Aerospace’s ACES 5 ejection seat, the aircraft is also qualified for the Martin-Baker Mk.18 ejection seat. The USAF requirement did not include and air refueling capability but again the design feature a built-in receptacle for a potential AAR fit.
In September 2018, Boeing won a $9.2 billion contract for 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment and Saab secured a $813 million contract to manufacture five engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft plus to static test airframes in Linkoping. There will be no changes from the prototypes to the production aircraft. Initial Operating Capacity (IOC) is due in 2024.
Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe recently told EDR that T-X is Saab’s most important programme and that it opens new opportunities for considerable worldwide sales. Designed from the outset for growth, At Le Bourget 2019 Boeing announced that it sees possible sales of 2,600 aircraft through its production life and that light attack and aggressor variants may well be in the pipeline.
Photos by Boeing and David Oliver
T-X T2 First Flight_MSF17-0022 Series