Boeing’s contender for the US Air Force’s T-X trainer program has completed its first flight.
The maiden flight lasted 55 minutes with lead T-X test pilot Steven Schmidt at the controls and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger in the instructor’s seat.
Schmidt said the aircraft met all expectations.
“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said in a statement on December 20 (US time).
“It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”
Boeing unveiled the T-X trainer, designed in partnership with Sweden’s Saab in September at a ceremony at St Louis.
Features of the aircraft include a single GE F404 engine, twin tails, what Boeing calls “stadium seating” and advanced avionics.
Draeger said it was a successful test mission.
“I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training,” Draeger said.
A second T-X was currently in ground testing and expected to start flying in early 2017, Boeing said.
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) December 20, 2016
Boeing and Saab are one of five teamings competing for T-X, as well as Lockheed Martin with Korean Aerospace, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, Raytheon and Alenia Aermacchi, and Textron AirLand.
T-X initial operating capability is planned for 2024, with the USAF planning to acquire 350 T-X aircraft to replace its ageing Northrop T-38 Talon trainers. A final RFT was due for release by the end of this year, with selection of the winning design planned for 2017.
The T-X program may also have longer-term relevance for Australia. Included in the 2016 Defence White Paper’s Integrated Investment Program (IIP) document is a new $5 billion project to replace the RAAF’s Hawk lead-in fighter trainers.
The IIP details a requirement for “a new lead-in fighter training system to support those students who go on to complete the ADF’s fast jet pilot training.”
The IIP lists a timeframe of 2022-2033 and a budget of $4-5 billion.