GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC
Manufacturer will pursue export sales, with Israel targeted, to offset drop in production
Boeing is concerned about the continuation of production of the T-45 Goshawk jet trainer after US Navy procurement was cut to six aircraft for this year, half the minimum economic rate and down from the 14 ordered in fiscal year 2001.
The company is lobbying for procurement of 12 aircraft annually from fiscal years 2003 to 2006, to complete the USN's requirement for 234 aircraft at an economic production rate. Boeing says the USN has yet to complete its transition to the T-45 training system.
While NAS Kingsville, Texas, is equipped with the T-45A for intermediate and advanced training, the second training wing at NAS Meridian, Mississippi, has the digital-cockpit T-45C for advanced training but still uses the 30-year-old Rockwell T-2C Buckeye for intermediate training.
From FY2003, the USN plans to upgrade T-45A aircraft and simulators to T-45C Cockpit 21 standard, with head-up and multifunction displays similar to those in the USN's frontline fighters. "We want identical all-digital aircraft at both sites," says Lon Nordeen, T-45 business development manager.
Boeing is pursuing international sales to offset the fall in domestic production. The export potential for the carrier-capable Goshawk would seem limited, but Boeing has identified Israel as a prospect. The Israeli air force is expected to need replacements for its Israel Aircraft Industries Zukit intermediate and McDonnell Douglas TA-4 advanced jet trainers before the end of the decade.
"Israel is one of a few possibilities, but they do not have an official programme," Nordeen says. With the Zukit, a locally upgraded Fouga Magister, not expected to be retired before 2006-8 and the TA-4 later, a competition is unlikely to be launched before year-end "and probably later", says Nordeen.
Israel has a potential requirement for around 30 jet trainers, and is likely to consider some form of privately financed programme. The country is being targeted for the T/A-50 supersonic trainer being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin.
Israel may also be a prospect for Boeing's upgraded Northrop T-38C supersonic trainer, which has substantial Israeli content.
Source: Flight International