BAE Systems is confident of winning the US Air Force's T-X advanced jet trainer competition, with company officials predicting that the service's decision will be based on price, rather than performance.

"We are going to win T-X, based on the requirements they have and the budget," said Ian Reason, BAE's business development director for training solutions and services.

US-based BAE Systems Inc will lead the company's pursuit of the T-X requirement, offering a development of the Hawk 128, which is now in service with the UK Royal Air Force as the Hawk T2. With the design likely to face competition from the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and a T-100 development of Alenia Aermacchi's M-346, Reason said the contest would come down to more than handling performance.

"If you score us on how much sustained g you can pull, we'll lose every time," he said. "But no-one can gold-plate their training any more. We've got a great product because it's designed as a trainer, rather than a light-attack aircraft with a secondary trainer function."

Reason's comments, made at BAE's Warton site in Lancashire, England, on 25 May, come soon after an Alenia official voiced his belief that the Hawk would fail to progress in the expected T-X competition because of claimed performance shortfalls. The UK company swiftly refuted its rival's claims.

The potential bidders are waiting for the release of formal requirements from the USAF in advance of a potential 350-aircraft deal to replace its Northrop T-38C trainers. Additional US purchases could boost this number to around 500, according to Reason, with further sales opportunities to be available from offering the selected type via Washington's Foreign Military Sales programme.

Meanwhile, BAE is also pursuing near-term sales prospects with countries including Iraq, Oman, Poland and Saudi Arabia. Although the company has delivered the last of 28 Hawk T2s to the UK, "we still have assembly in India, and the supply chain is active," Reason said. "We have retained the critical skill sets to start up production again in the UK, India or the USA.

"We are well positioned to repeat the success of the last 30 years with the Hawk for the next 30 to 50 years," he said. "It's a fifth-generation training aircraft, available now."

Source: Flight International