Leonardo DRS announced yesterday that is plans to build its T-100 trainer at a new assembly center at Moton Field, in Tuskegee, Alabama, if it wins the USAF’s T-X trainer contest.
In a bid to increase it’s ‘built in America’ appeal, the T-100 facility would see local workers completeing structural sub-assemblies and final assembly, as well as flight testing and check out.
Leonardo DRS CEO William Lynn said in a statement: ‘Building the T-100 aircraft in Alabama will create American jobs while providing the Air Force with the world’s best trainer.’
The M-346-based T-100 looks to be a good candidate on paper, despite Leonardo having parted company with two previ0us US prime contractors: General Dynamics and Raytheon.
There is little doubt that pricing has been a real sticking point in the past, however Leonardo DRS says it now has a very competitive offering. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have both submitted proposals to Air Force Materiel Command and while performance of the platforms is crucial in meeting the strict USAF parameters, cost will be king in T-X.
The M-346 is proving to be very effective in service in Italy and Israel in particular. It’s embedded synthetic simulation is proven and world-leading in terms of fielded systems. Despite its twin-engine design, the M-346-based T-100 is thought to compare very favorably when stacked up against the afterburning GE F404-powered Boeing BTX and Lockheed Martin T-50A when it comes to operating costs. The M-346 is also now fielding a radar in test work in Italy, plus it has a live electronic warfare system as well as the embedded, synthetic, versions of such capabilities. Leonardo is also now testing a range of weapons on the M-346 and the Italian Air Force is making good ose of its Masters as Red Air aggressors to support front line training and exercises.
These factors are not part of the T-X calculation, but the winner’s potential pedigree to turn its hand to other roles in the future, particularly red air, will be of interest to the USAF.
Whilst the USAF is also looking at an OA-X light attack experiment this summer, it is likely that this will favor a lower-end turboprop candidate such as the Beechcraft T-6 or the Embraer A-29, although the experiment will also look at higher-performance solutions such as the Textron AirLand Scorpion.