A top Boeing executive predicts an all-new aircraft design will replace the Northrop T-38 Talon and that the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will re-enter a competition in Switzerland for a fighter contract.

Boeing Military Aircraft president Chris Chadwick spoke boldly of the company's chances in both scenarios on 23 June.

The US Air Force is still evaluating requirements for the T-X contract, and options include buying three off-the-shelf platforms with the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, BAE Systems Hawk and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 Golden Eagle.

But Chadwick predicts that the USAF will favour a clean-sheet design to replace more than 450 T-38s over the next two decades.

T-38 Talon

"My perspective is the customer would prefer that," Chadwick says. "That may seem like an obvious statement, but in today's constrained budget one could see that they could move in a different direction."

In such an environment, the reverse may be true. With three viable off-the-shelf candidates to replace a trainer, spending billions to develop an all-new design may not seem the obvious path for the USAF.

But Chadwick disagrees that a natural replacement exists to fulfil the USAF's requirements for a T-38 replacement.

"Depending on what the requirement is, do you have to modify those existing platforms?" Chadwick asked. "And, if you have to modify them and the cost is 'X', then is it potentially better to at least to look at what industry might go and provide?"

Chadwick's comments appear to further distance Boeing from teaming up with BAE's Hawk or Alenia's M-346 derivative for T-X. Boeing currently is producing or marketing both aircraft in different countries.

Meanwhile, Chadwick also sought to revive hopes for the Super Hornet sales campaign in Switzerland. Boeing withdrew the fighter from the Swiss competition two years ago, ceding the race to the Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen.

A public referendum now is expected to decide the future for the tender to replace Switzerland's F/A-18C/D Hornets.

"We believe they will establish a new requirement [after the referendum]," Chadwick says, "that will allow us to re-enter the competition."

Boeing is marketing the Super Hornet to Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Japan, India and Kuwait, and other possible customers in the Middle East.

The US Navy recently agreed to buy 124 more F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs over the next four years, raising overall orders to 629. Australia also has received the first five of 24 F/A-18E/Fs purchased three years ago.

Source: Flight International