Leonardo has selected the historic aviation town of Tuskegee, Alabama, to assemble T-100 jets proposed to succeed the Northrop T-38 as the lead-in trainer for US Air Force fighter and bomber pilots.
Should the T-100 win the USAF contract later this year, the Italian manufacturer of the M-346 Master derivative announced plans to invest $200-250 million to build a final assembly site at Moton Field, once the home of the school that trained black pilots to fly fighters for the US Army Air Corps in World War II.
The facility will be contracted by a public-private partnership formed between Leonardo and Macon County, which would then be leased by Leonardo and staffed 750 employees.
“Building the T-100 aircraft in Alabama will create American jobs while providing the Air Force with the world’s best trainer,” said Leonardo DRS chief executive William Lynn, prime contractor for the T-100 team.
Leonardo selected Moton Field only a few weeks after confirming plans to participate in the T-X competition. The company had originally teamed with Raytheon as the prime contractor, but their US partner pulled out of the relationship after internal discussions with Leonardo on details of the bid failed to achieve an agreement.
Before backing out of Leonardo’s team, Raytheon had selected a different site to assemble the T-100 for the air force in Meridian, Mississippi, but the company’s withdrawal prompted Leonardo to re-open the selection process.
Lockheed Martin plans to assemble Korea Aerospace T-50 training jets in Greenville, South Carolina. Lockheed submitted its T-X bid 30 March.
Boeing has assembled the first two T-X trainers designed in partnership with Saab in St. Louis, but has not yet announced a location for final assembly. In a 29 March conference call announcing Boeing's official bid in the T-X competition, Boeing's T-X programme manager told reporters the final assembly facility will be located in the US.
The USAF plans to buy at least 350 T-X jets to replace the 55-year-old T-38C Talon fleet.