Raytheon has withdrawn as the prime contractor for the Leonardo T-100 in a joint bid for the US Air Force T-X trainer contract, stating on 25 January that the two companies “have decided not to jointly pursue the programme.”

Raytheon will not enter the trainer competition again with another partner, a Raytheon spokesman told FlightGlobal.

“While we remain confident that the T-100 is a strong solution, our companies were unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the US Air Force," Raytheon said in a statement. "Consequently, Raytheon and Leonardo will not jointly pursue the T-X competition."

The team announced their joint venture in February 2016]. The T-100 contender is based on Leonardo’s Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer, which is employed by air forces in Italy, Israel and Singapore. In a 25 January statement, Leonardo does not close the door on the competition.

"Leonardo is evaluating how to leverage on the strong capabilities and potential of the T-100, in the best interest of the U.S. Air Force," Leonardo says in the statement.

Raytheon's abrupt withdrawal leaves Leonardo with a difficult decision: bid on a US programme without an American partner or lose one of the most lucrative contracts from the USAF outside of its bomber and fighter programmes. Leonardo could also seek out another US partner and launch a new team, but the clock is ticking with the contract award date expected in 2017.

Raytheon made an aggressive pursuit of the T-X contract earlier this fall with the announcement that the T-100 would be assembled in Meridian, Mississippi. The company also discussed its bid at the 2016 Farnborough air show, where Leonardo also unveiled a new multi-role version of the M-346.

On 30 December, the USAF released its final request for proposal to replace more than 420 of its legacy T-38Cs. The $16.3 billion RFP outlined a total of 350 aircraft, including delivery of the initial five test aircraft. The service is expected to award the contract in 2017 and reach initial operational capability by the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2024.

With Raytheon out of the picture, three competitors remain. Boeing and Saab unveiled their clean-sheet trainer last September. Northrop Grumman has also rolled out its new Model 400, while the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries team has highlighted its low-risk asset with the existing T-50A.

Source: FlightGlobal.com