Boeing T-X: New Jet Fighter Trainer

Boeing unveiled a new aircraft at its defense headquarters last week. There are high hopes the T-X Trainer will help land Boeing a new contract with the U.S. Air Force. The company teamed up with Saab to create the Boeing T-X. "It's an honor to build the future of Air Force training," said Saab President and CEO Hakan Buskhe. "We have created the best solution thanks to great cooperation and a clear strategy since day one."

The Boeing T-X has a single engine, twin tails, stadium seating and a glass cockpit with improved visibility. Boeing believes the design is more affordable and flexible than older aircraft. "We took a page out of what the Air Force industry has been asking for for years by putting an open mission systems architecture in the airplane," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Defense Phantom Works. He says the aircraft's design allows it to evolve with changing technology and training needs. "It is the iPhone of airplanes," Davis said. "So when a new training app comes along, it's really easy to upload that training app, verify the jet and you're ready to fly."

Boeing's clean-sheet T-X trainer is designed to fly like a fighter, with a twin tail configuration similar to the F-35 and F-22 to give the aircraft optimal handling at all speeds. The Boeing T-X uses a single GE F404 afterburning turbofan, the same engine found on the F/A-18, giving the trainer the high G and high angle-of-attack capabilities required to mimic flight in modern fighters. The aircraft uses some technologies found in the F/A-18 Super Hornet, developed by Boeing, as well as Saab's Gripen multirole fighter. Boeing has already manufactured one T-X that will fly for the first time before the year is out, and a second aircraft is also near completion, which will begin structural proof tests in the next few days.

The government contract calls for at least 350 planes to be built, but analysts say there is potential for three times that many because of demand around the world. "It's an honor to build the future of Air Force training," said Saab President and CEO Hakan Buskhe. "We have created the best solution thanks to great cooperation and a clear strategy since day one."

The U.S. Air Force plans to replace its fleet of aging T-38 aircraft. The Boeing-Saab partnership is one of several competitors for the contract.

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