The unveiling of the Boeing/Saab team’s ‘clean sheet’ T-X design today in St. Louis has lived up to expectation. This is a serious contender for the USAF’s new trainer requirement. We are told it will exceed the tough performance criteria set by the air force.
Boeing had to underscore how it has a clear path to take this aircraft through a slick flight test program to enable it to compete with the mature and proven designs on the table — it has built two aircraft already — an impressive start! It has also tapped into Saab’s ‘breaking the cost curve’ mantra for both unit and through life cost.
The rollout ‘look and feel’ had Saab’s fingerprints all over it. The aircraft itself, well it has several other aircraft from which one could draw comparison. From the front three-quarters it bears an uncanny resemblance to Textron AirLand’s Scorpion. The undercarriage is narrow-track and decidedly F-16-like. Some have suggested it has F-104 Starfighter looks. There’s a hint of Gripen about it, but above all… it looks the business.
The question is: has Boeing done enough to compete with the likes of the T-50A from Lockheed Martin?
Our view is — yes it has.
Boeing says the aircraft is ‘Real, ready’ and ‘the right choice’. Well it’s certainly real, it’s not really completely ‘ready’ just yet — but the indications are that a lot of development work has been done and that flight-testing may be a straightforward validation of the modelling data.
Boeing and Saab are clearly taking T-X very seriously — there’s a lot at stake for the St. Louis plant, where the jet will likely be assembled (we think Saab is building the rear and central fuselage).
In summary, this team has done a lot of good work to ensure it is well poised to be ‘the right choice’ for the USAF.