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US Air Force releases final T-X trainer RFP

T-X contenders are off to the races today, after the US Air Force released its much anticipated final request for proposals for the T-38 trainer replacement programme.

The $16.3 billion RFP encompasses a total of 350 aircraft, including delivery of the initial five test aircraft, contract options for LRIP lots 1 and 2 and full-rate production of lots 3 through 11.

The USAF is expected to award the contract in 2017 and reach initial operational capability by the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2024, the service says in a 30 December statement.

The final RFP did not change course from the air force’s draft version released in July, which proposed millions of dollars in incentives for contractors who bring forth a trainer aircraft that exceeds the service’s outlined performance requirements.

Contractors who offer a trainer with higher sustained G and maneuvering, as well as lower turn-around time, would receive reductions to their total evaluated price. Competitors would receive a $13.2 million decrement to its price for every 0.1G above the threshold of 6.5Gs, and $4.4 million for every 0.1G above 7.0G. The service set a 7.5G ceiling with a maximum $88 million price reduction, according to the draft RFP.

Competition for the T-X programme has been heating up all year, with Boeing’s extravagant T-X rollout in September and more recent media days from Lockheed and Raytheon this December. Four competitors will face off for the T-X competition. Boeing and Northrop Grumman have each put forth clean-sheet designs, while Lockheed has opted for the existing T-50A and Raytheon has chosen the the T-100 based on M346 twin-jet design.

With the exception of looming nuclear recapitalisation, the USAF has bitten off most of major acquisition programmes with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the B-21 bomber. That makes those 350 aircraft all the more enticing to competitors. A T-X win could provide a boost for Boeing, which has faltered in the fighter jet market in recent years.

For the USAF, the T-X competition also represents what the service hopes to be a turning point in defense acquisition. The air force spoke with industry for several months before releasing the final RFP, a move that could prevent the kind of contentious protests the service saw following the B-21 bomber contract award.

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