The US Air Force has started searching for options to upgrade or replace a 20-year-old fleet of about 178 Hawker Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk jet trainers.

The Air Education Training Command (AETC) uses the Hawker 400-derived T-1As mostly as advanced training jets for airlift and tanker pilots.

The T-1As are young compared with the AETC's 50-year-old fleet of Northrop T-38C Talons, the lead-in trainer for fighter and bomber pilots, but the Jayhawk is derived from the commercial market, where newer models offer greater fuel efficiency and lower maintenance cost.

The USAF now wants to study options that include "upgrades to the current platform, acquiring a replacement platform or other options not yet identified", the AETC says.

Hawker Beechcraft and Nextant Aerospace have launched a major upgrade programme for the Hawker 400, which add new engines, avionics and winglets. Nextant has already delivered the 400XT, while Hawker Beechcraft's programme has been delayed for nearly a year.

 T-1A Jayhawk - USAF

US Air Force

The AETC is also considering acquiring very light jets as another option to replace the T-1A (above). A market survey released in November asks industry to provide data about the performance and cost of jets in the very light category weighing below 4,540kg (10,000lb).

Market surveys are a very early step in a process that sometimes leads to a funded acquisition programme, but also signal the USAF's informal interest in making a fleet change.

"It's simply an attempt to discover what technology industry has to offer that could save money while maintaining our performance and capability standards for training," the AETC says.

The T-1A fleet study comes while the AETC continues to pursue a requirement to replace more than 450 T-38s with a new trainer by the end of the decade. The candidates include the Alenia Aermacchi M-346-derived T-100, BAE Systems Hawk T2, a Boeing clean-sheet design and the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50.

Source: Flight International