The US Air Force has proposed millions of dollars in incentives for contractors who bring forth a T-X trainer aircraft that exceeds the service’s outlined performance requirements, according to the latest draft request for proposals released late on 26 July.

Contractors who offer a trainer with higher sustained G and maneuvering, as well as lower turn-around time, would receive reductions to their total evaluated price. That adjusted price, based on more advanced capabilities, would come into play as the Air Force evaluates the T-X candidates.

The Air Force plans to procure more than 300 T-X trainers to replace its aging fleet of T-38s and prepare its pilots for single-seat, fifth-generation fighters. Boeing and Saab have teamed up with a clean-sheet design for their trainer bid, while Raytheon is offering the T-100 variant of the twin-engined Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master. Lockheed Martin stepped away from its clean sheet design and is pushing its “ready-to-go” T-50A. Lockheed and Korea Aerospace Industries recently completed an initial test flight of the second T-50A trainer aircraft, the company announced on 26 July.

Contractors would receive a $13.2 million decrement to its price for every 0.1G above the threshold of 6.5Gs, and $4.4 million for every 0.1G above 7.0G. The service set a 7.5G ceiling with a maximum $88 million price reduction, according to the draft RFP.

While the Air Force has previously called for the trainer to maintain a minimum 20˚ high angle of attack during manoeuvres, the recent draft outlines a $6.4 million decrement for every 0.5˚ between 20 and 23. The offeror would receive a $3.2 million dollar decrement for every 0.5˚ above 23 and up to 25˚, with a maximum $51 million decrement.

The service also provided incentives for demonstrated turn-around times under the 45min minimum, with a $4.3 million decrement for every reduced minute.

Offerors could also receive additional decrements if they bring forth objective capabilities for the T-X programme, including terrain warning and avoidance, ground based training system and aerial refueling full integration.

“Based on the multiple reviews with industry, the air force now has a much better appreciation of the potential value of performance above threshold capability,” Air Force spokesman Maj Rob Leese says in an email to FlightGlobal. “The closer we are able to get to objective levels of performance, the more we will be able to offload or download skills training from more expensive aircraft. Therefore, in our evaluation of proposals we will incentivise specific performance aspects, allowing for additional capabilities that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of pilot training for decades to come.”

While the reductions provide an attractive incentive for bidders, the call for advanced capabilities could work against contractors offering an off-the-shelf option, according to Lexington Institute chief operating officer Loren Thompson. With the final RFP due in December, industry could still suggest changes to the Air Force’s latest cost incentives, he said.

“Any reward for enhanced performance works to the advantage of offerors who have the discretion to design their aircraft,” Thompson says. “Companies who think they’re being disadvantaged will definitely get in contact with the air force and request changes.”

Still, the price reductions might not only spur innovation, but the quantified incentives could quell some of the contract protests that have besieged the US Defense Department in recent years, according to Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute.

“You want it to be a price shootout? Or do you want it to be the best product to meet your specs?” he says. “And the answer here is a bit of both.”