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FARNBOROUGH: USAF considers expanded role for T-X

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The US Air Force is considering expanding the scope of its T-X trainer requirement to include the role of an aggressor aircraft or potentially as a replacement for its Fairchild Dornier A-10 Warthogs.

Although the service is yet to issue a formal request for proposals on T-X, USAF officials have expressed interest in using the aircraft to fulfill the close air support mission of the A-10 replacement, also known as AT-X, said Dan Darnell, vice-president of strategic initiatives at Raytheon, speaking at the show on Tuesday.

“They made it clear that it’d sure be nice if there was some accommodation for air refueling beyond this point and the aircraft could be used as an aggressor and/or a replacement for the A-10,” Darnell says.

Leonardo, Raytheon’s airframe partner in the T-X contest, unveiled a new multi-role version of its M-346 trainer this week. The M-346T can switch between a trainer and combat role, and development will wrap up in about two years.

Raytheon, along with its partners, will implement a block upgrade on an existing airframe for their T-100 offering. The T-100 has aerial refueling capability via a hose and drogue system, but design engineering work to develop a boom receiver is ongoing, Darnell says.

T-X competitor Lockheed Martin recently scrapped its clean-sheet design for the trainer in favor of the T-50A, while Boeing/Saab and Northrop Grumman/BAE Systems teams are moving forward with new designs.

The air force is still finalising its requirements for the trainer and Darnell estimates that the service’s final request for proposals should be issued by year-end, with a downselect at the end of 2017.

Raytheon’s proposed aircraft already exceeds the service’s stringent sustained 6.5g requirement, Darnell says.

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