Lockheed ponders T-50 re-engining for T-X programme

Washington DC
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Lockheed Martin has considered re-engining options for the T-50 Golden Eagle as the company waits for the US Air Force to finalise requirements for the T-X trainer contract.

With the 17,700lb thrust (78.7kN) General Electric F404, including afterburner, the Lockheed/Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 is already the most powerful jet in the competition to replace the Northrop T-38C trainer.

But the air force's requirements have not been set, and options range from a rebuilt T-38C to a clean-sheet design, with an off-the-shelf trainer somewhere in the middle.

If a clean-sheet design is selected, the Lockheed/KAI team may seek to upgrade the T-50's engine to compete with potential new offerings from Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

Michael Griswold, Lockheed's director of T-50 business development, said the 22,000lb thrust GE F414 would be considered.

Griswold also confirms Rolls-Royce has offered the 20,000lb thrust EJ200 engine that currently powers the twin-engine Eurofighter Typhoon. Last year, Dan Korte, president of R-R Defence Aerospace, said the EJ200 had been offered to T-X bidders.

Even if a F414 is selected for a T-X version of the T-50, Griswold said, the EJ200 may still be a re-engining option for international customers, especially existing Typhoon operators.

The case for replacing the F404, however, may never materialise. Although the air force is still debating the options, the Fiscal 2012 budget request asks for about $300 million for a three-year, engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase. If that funding profile is maintained, the air force's only option would be buying an off-the-shelf trainer.

The candidates include the T-50, the Alenia Aermacchi M346 rebranded as the T-100 and the BAE Systems Hawk 128.