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Boeing’s T-X bid a bellwether for future

by defensetech on October 17, 2012

ST. LOUIS — Boeing is consciously taking a departure from its normal design process in coming up with a concept for the forthcoming U.S. Air Force T-38C replacement competition.

This process could help shape the company’s bids for other Pentagon competitions to come — such as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (Uclass) and next-generation bomber.

The very fact that the company is planning to compete with a clean-sheet design is viewed by some analysts as bold. Senior Air Force officials have said they want to proceed with a program at the lowest possible cost and risk. The likely candidates are thought to be the existing designs now being pitched by foreign suppliers — BAE’s Hawk-based concept, the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 and Alenia Aermacchi’s M346. These companies all tout their designs as inexpensive because the development costs have already been paid by other customers.

The ability to build something new is an advantage, though, according to Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft. “We are going to try to disrupt the market with a purpose-built platform that provides the right capability at the right cost at the right time for the customer,” he tells Aviation Week.

Chadwick says the company has embraced a “one Boeing” concept that has allowed for improved collaboration among the different business units – including Boeing Commercial Aircraft and the various divisions of the Defense Space and Security sector. This has facilitated an unprecedented amount of best-practice sharing as well as lessons from failed work.

And, an “immersive development,” or Imdev, concept is allowing for collaborative design work using virtual tools across the company.

This push, coupled with a variety of options for T-X, gives company officials confidence in their approach.

“When you’re starting with a clean piece of paper you’re unconstrained; when you’re starting with an airplane that’s already in flight test or in some stage of production you’re dramatically constrained,” says Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Works advanced development unit. “but [we’ve] got unlimited degrees of freedom here… We would contend, potentially, that for the same amount of investment and a different approach to balancing what’s on the ground with what’s in the air, you could make a different trade; whereas if the airplane is already built you can’t make that trade.”

With its T-X procurement, the Air Force is looking to buy a full, fast-jet training system that will ready pilots for service in the F-22 and F-35. This will include the aircraft as well as a robust, ground-based suite of coursework and simulation-based training.

Davis notes that since Boeing is not bounded by the capabilities of an aircraft that already has been built, the company can tinker with the balance of what learning can be done on the ground and what must be done in high-cost flight hours.

What is unclear is just how much research and development funding Boeing plans to sink into its development before bidding a design to the Air Force. Significant financial pressure at the Pentagon is forcing the service to reduce its R&D spending as much as possible. Boeing may have to underwrite some of its design work, as it is doing with the KC-46A development, to balance out the cost of its design with that of one of the off-the-shelf options flying today.

Company officials declined to outline how far along they are in detailed design work and how much funding they are willing to put into their design for T-X.

– This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

–  By Amy Butler

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicky October 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

The US Military T-X should have the capability for Combat duty Such as CONUS duty and Homeland defense duty on top of their flight training for pilots as well

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Kelly October 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Why? And what particular tasks to do have in mind?

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Nicky October 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

CONUS duty and Homeland defense duty. The Future T-X should have the ability to shoot down aircraft, Light attack, ISR and border patrol on top of their pilot training duties. It should even have the ability to respond to a 9/11 style attacks.

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Tiger October 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I think that is what the A-29 program is for. That is the what your describing. The T-X is really meant to train advanced pilots for Gen 5 jet flying.

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Nicky October 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

What would the A-29 cover, basic, intermediate flight training, CAS, ISR and Light attack missions

BajaWarrior October 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Because the kid barely capable of not killing himself, the IP and trashing the jet needs weapons and a tactical mission…great idea bro!

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Nicky October 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

If it's not flying a training mission, the future T-X can pull CONUS homeland defense duty as well. Why have a plane sitting around doing nothing but training pilots, when you can have an Advance trainer such as the T/A-50 and the M-346 can pull Homeland defense missions such as Air sovereignty patrols when they are not training pilots. It would make sense to have a plane that can do both Advance pilot training and when it's not training pilots, pull Air sovereignty patrols, border patrols & border ISR patrol.

BajaWarrior October 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Why would you want to significantly increase the cost of the aircraft? A student pilot does not need an aircraft that can employ weapons and they most certainly do not need the extra equipment like radar, targeting pod, etc

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Prodozul October 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Oh but a student pilot does need all of that! **** this jet needs to be able to detect and hit targets in geosynchronus orbit while under a cyber attack at the sametime tracking potential targets on another continent! All the while using a fleet of stealthy uav drones launched fron ford class carriers!

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JE McKellar October 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

So maybe the Boeing project is actually the beginning of a bid to replace the F-5 and F-16 fleet of our clients and allies? Maybe even the National Guard? It's not like they're gonna have a bunch of hand-me-down early model F-22's and F-35's to go around.

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Tiger October 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm

They are losing that market place already to SAAB & others.

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Benjamin October 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

The T-X should not have an air defense capability but should be able to be developed into a fighter like the T-38 was turned into the F-5 Freedom Fighter.

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Kim October 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Actually it was the other way around; the T-38 is a development of the F-5.

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Amicus Curiae October 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

Jets dedicated to the training of new pilots should be fully utilized in that role. Why do you think there would be time available to do other things? Maybe you think extra jets will be built? If so, they would be re-engineered for the new role with the proper sensors and weapons. This would take time and money and the result would be inferior to an F-16A. The T-X should be optimized for training pilots, period. Otherwise, you might as well use tandem seat F-16s. The only justification for a new type is efficiency in the training role. It needs to be the smallest, lightest, cheapest vehicle that can do the required tasks. Insistence on capability for alternate missions will kill the whole program. Duh!

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Mastro October 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

Great- so another $100 million dollar plane!

Ever read the history of the Jaguar? The Brits/French combined a supersonic trainer req with an attack req and got a mediocre plane at high prices.

I love this from Boeing- the US requirement is big enough for a new design- and is a good opportunity to crush the Korean and European defense industries.

If it gets too costly- well- just go with one of the foreign planes-

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blight_ October 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I get the feeling that pulling in commercial and military guys is only going to forment cross-departmental rivalry…

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Dfens October 18, 2012 at 10:58 am

The commercial side engineers are used to making their customers happy, not screwing them like on the defense side. My bet is the commercial side guys propose an ME-262 looking airplane, except with a round fuselage. Those people love round fuselages.

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Lance October 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

With cuts and sequestration the the USAF funds being sucked up by the KC-46 and F-35 programs I do not see TX going much further than paper work. Fact too is the T-38 dose the job fine now and even F-22 pilots have no problem transitioning from trainer to raptor. The fact all but one entrees is euro-crap again is another alarm. Overall TX was made under the Bush era spend spend spend time and now that money is all gone TX may set for a long time in the file cabinet.

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Tiger October 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

The T-38′s can not last forever. A easier to maintain, cheaper to fly, Fly by wire, trainer for the next 40 years is not a bad idea. In this budget period? Agreed, other issues are more pressing.

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Kim October 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm

True, new and much more advanced fighters need new trainers to match. A pity, really, seeing that the T-38 is a beautiful plane.

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Lance October 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

IM just saying for the next 10 years I dont see the T-38 going away. For now with the T-38 is doing well both for Eagle and Raptor pilots.You cant and dont need a Stealth trainer.

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Tiger October 18, 2012 at 1:20 am

Nobody said it was stealthy. . Just something not designed when a 1967 Nova was a everyday car. This Next gen trainer will last for maybe 40 years.

Michael October 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I've seen the Hawk demonstrator at a couple of airshows, and I like what I see. I couldn't tell the difference between it and the T-45 except for the paint scheme.

The M-346 looks like kinda like the jet plane from the Cars movie.

I've wondered for a while if the T-50 would be a winner in the T-x competition. I just don't know. The foreign element is what makes it questionable to me.

I'd be interested in seeing Boeing's design. I think they need this right now.

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Richard October 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Lockheed Martin was heavily involved in the T-50 development and South Korea is a huge customer of US-made fighters. So I guess that at least KAI&Lockheed Martin wouldn't have a problem with the whole foreign element thing. Plus, let's not forget the lobby already in place.

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XYZ October 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I think it's definitely possible they could pull this off, assuming they are all in.

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Dfens October 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

I guess Boeing remembers Senator Pat Schroeder crying on the steps of the Capitol Building because the JPATS trainer would not accommodate most female pilots. Good to see someone learned something from history. Obviously the US Air Force has not. Over the last 6 years the defense budget has gone up 10% but employment in the defense sector has declined 3%. In fact, despite the fact that we spend more on defense now than we did at any point during the Cold War, our defense work force is the smallest it has been since the 1940s. Always good to see that trend continue. Hell, let's outsource all our weapons. What could possibly go wrong?

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Riceball October 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

Even if we go with the Korean or BAE trainer they would still need to be built in the US so we really wouldn't be outsourcing it any more then we would a Boeing built product. Of our military gear from uniforms, to guns, to planes and tanks have to be built in the US even if it comes from a foreign owned company.

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Dfens October 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Hell yeah, and you know what, my house became a bicycle factory on Christmas Eve right before my kids got new bikes from Santa Claus!

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Nikolett November 20, 2012 at 12:09 am

I just quite like what we should suibmt here. Incredibly new not to mention wise. A single problem though. I’m running Opera with the help of Debian not to mention components with the existing web design products would be a bit wonky. I just know it’s not really common developed. Yet it’s an issue towards keep in mind. I just hope that going barefoot will guidance not to mention continue to keep up the top good penning.

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Musson October 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

I am just waiting for some idiot to propose we buy the trainer from China to cut costs.

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Chimp October 20, 2012 at 7:46 am

Well, the JL-15 does look nice…

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ViperZeroOne October 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Thanks for making my point for me. Students do not need the extra avionics, but the planes can't fly 24/7/ Planes need down time for maintenance as well as keeping the flying hours on the airframe reasonable in order to keep them around long enough. Or are you going to print more money to pay for the extra airframes needed over time as well as the extra cost per flying hour. Extra weight and complexity equals more maintenance and more power/fuel to operate.

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FormerDirtDart October 18, 2012 at 10:01 am

I'd add that using a high speed jet for border patro/ISR missions is massively cost prohibitive, and inefficient. A Cessna Caravan would be more appropriate. A border patrol and advanced jet trainer have requirements pretty much on opposite ends of the operational spectrum.

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Nicky October 18, 2012 at 11:26 am

What about using either the T/A-50,F/A-50 or the M-346 for Air sovereignty patrols. When they are not flying training missions for pilots. Wouldn't doing a Air sovereignty patrols be part of an advance pilots training as well.

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Riceball October 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

You make a very good point, however, many nations either operate what are essentially trainers in a tactical role or have trainers that have weapons and tactical capability and can be used for light attack when needed. The USAF actually did the same thing during Vietnam, the A-37 Dragonfly ring any bells? I will grant you that the A-37, while derived from the T-37 was not being used in a dual training and light attack role but was a dedicated light attack aircraft.

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Nicky October 18, 2012 at 2:08 pm

That's why if the USAF went with either the T/A-50,F/A-50 or the M-346 . They can have a 5th gen advance trainer who on the fly can pull Air sovereignty patrols Light attack and CAS as a secondary role, when they are not flying training missions. It will save them so much money if they have an advance trainer with Secondary tactical roles of Air sovereignty patrols, Light attack and CAS. Even have the capability for CONUS point defense when crap really hits the fan.

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FormerDirtDart October 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

And nothing you have stated has anything to do with my comment. The T-37 Tweet was not an advanced jet trainer. It was a basic flight trainer, which was replace with by the T-6 II, a turboprop.

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