TEAMS ARE FORMING to bid for a US Air Force programme to upgrade the avionics in 425 Northrop T-38 Talon advanced-jet trainers. McDonnell Douglas (MDC) has teamed with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and Northrop Grumman is expected to announce its team this month.

Newly formed Lockheed Martin has indicated that it might not bid for the programme, but upgrade specialists Sierra Research and Smiths Industries have made it clear that they intend to participate. A draft request for proposals (RFP) is expected in June, the final RFP in September and contract award in February 1996.

MDC's bid will be led by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, with IAI's Lahav division as the major subcontractor. Lahav has experience in upgrading Northrop F-5s. McDonnell Douglas Training Systems would supply the 16 ground-based training devices required under the contract.

Virginia-based Sierra Research is the only company, which has experience in upgrading T-38 avionics, having completed a demonstrator for the USAF and a prototype for NASA. The company, which has upgraded F-5s for Norway, says that it is talking to potential partners on the new programme.

The industry-funded USAF demonstrator featured a 1553B digital databus, GEC-Marconi head-up display (from the Lockheed Martin F-16) and Litton laser inertial-navigation system. The aircraft was first flown in 1989, evaluated by the Air Force and de-modified in 1993 "...because there was no operational requirement and no funding", the company says.

In 1989, Sierra won the contract to upgrade NASA's astronaut-flown T-38s with commercial avionics, including AlliedSignal electronic flight-instruments, flight-management system and weather radar. The prototype was first flown in May 1991. Budget cuts prevented further aircraft being upgraded, the company says.

Source: Flight International