Lockheed Martin-Korean Aerospace Industries jointly developed T-50 A training jet will be competing in the US Air Force’ new training planes contract estimated over $8 billion.
The USAF aims to replace its T-38 fleet in 2017 and could eventually buy upto 600 planes, Reuters reported Friday.
T-50A will be competing against Boeing-Saab’s new plane and Textron-Northrop Grumman’s new plane.
Lockheed had prepared a detailed proposal for both high-end and lower-end new design but finally decided to proceed with a modified T-50, Rob Weiss executive vice president of Lockheed's Advanced Development Programs of Lockheed Martin was quoted as saying by the news agency.
He said the modified training plane would meet the government's needs at eight times less cost and three times quicker than a new design, and with far less risk. Weiss declined to provide any detailed cost data.
Michael Griswold, director of T-50 business development for Lockheed, said company officials concluded they could not meet the Air Force's target of fielding an initial number of new training planes in 2024 with a new design - unless the program was structured to start production before design work was completed, something Air Force officials viewed as unacceptable.
Lockheed said it was conducting ground tests of two prototype T-50A aircraft, and would bring them to the United States this summer.
It said it had selected its Greenville operations facility in South Carolina as the preferred final assembly and checkout (FACO) site for the T-50A.
"The T-50A is production ready now," Weiss, executive vice president of Lockheed's Advanced Development Programs, said.
Weiss said the Lockheed manufacturing line in Greenville was nearly complete, and the company could start accepting T-50 orders at the South Carolina plant by the end of the year.
That would allow the Air Force to significantly accelerate its plans to field an "initial operational capability" of new training planes by four or five years, he said.