Boeing has begun preliminary design work on a possible replacement for the US Air Force's Northrop T-38 Talon advanced jet trainer.

However, the US defence contractor plans to "assess the requirement further" before deciding whether it will go ahead with that option or partner an existing manufacturer, says Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive of Boeing Defence, Space and Security.

"There are three potential paths forward for that requirement. We could go with an off-the-shelf solution, it could be a clean-sheet solution, or a combination of the two. It is important to work with the customer and decide what they want," he says.

"Work is under way on all of those three paths and we want to understand what will work best for the customer."

T-38 Talon
 © Northrop Grumman

He adds that Boeing has been engaging the USAF at its Phantom Works research and development division, and this could help it to find a solution.

"Phantom Works is useful for helping to figure out future scenarios. And we will use that to help the customers work out what may be required going forward," says Muilenburg.

The USAF's existing 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. This would replace more than 450 T-38s over the next two decades.

In 2008, Boeing became an international marketing partner for the Aermacchi M-346 and it has been supporting the Italian company in global competitions.

Earlier this month, Flight International reported that the M-346 had edged out the T-50 in Singapore's highly anticipated advanced jet trainer requirement. Boeing's training systems division will provide the ground-based training system to support the M-346 in Singapore.

Both the M-346 and the T-50 are expected to be in the fray for other international AJT competitions in India and Indonesia, while the United Arab Emirates has yet to sign a contract with Aermacchi even though it selected the M-346 a few years ago.

Source: Flight Daily News