We’re having to cope with something of an autumnal show spike here on The DEW Line, with Dave Majumdar currently at the AFA event in Washington DC and myself having covered the DSEi exhibition in London last week; hence the recent productivity drop on the blog.
As expected, the US Air Force’s long-anticipated T-X trainer need is one of the hot topics at AFA, with whisperings that Boeing and Saab may be close to announcing an offer based around the Swedish firm’s Gripen fighter. Interesting stuff, as I for one had thought that the US company had been working on a new-start design as a potential Northrop T-38 Talon replacement.
So, could a derivative of the Gripen make sense to the USAF?
Two of Saab’s key selling points for the type have always been its low acquisition and operating costs, so faced with offers of high-end dedicated trainers like the Hawk T2, M-346/T-100 and T-50 then why not, beyond the obvious fact that it isn’t a lead-in trainer in its current guise?
In its favour, Saab’s attempts to remove as much US-produced equipment as possible from its developmental E-model fighter would allow a US partner to place significant work back on home turf, were such a teaming to happen. Also worth considering is that considerable work has been conducted to study adapting the Gripen (company-sourced image of a D-model trainer shown below) so that it could be operated from an aircraft carrier deck: that certainly wouldn’t hurt, were the Department of Defense to drive for a joint training type for the air force and navy.
I’d file this idea as not being crazy, but certainly as sitting towards the unlikely end of the scale for an eventual T-X outcome. But, as Dave has written from the show, as the USAF’s Air Education and Training Command still doesn’t know when a programme could start, or even how it could be funded, we shouldn’t count on seeing any kind of a T-38 successor for a fair few years yet.