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04:22 PM, January 6, 2017
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Boeing's T-X jet trainer.

Defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Sierra Nevada have been put into competition against each other to build the US Air Force’s $16.3 billion T-X trainer.

The competition officially kicked off Friday with the release of the final request for proposals, DefenseNews reported.

The T-X will replace the T-38 and will be the first trainer designed to train the fifth-generation pilots of the F-22 and F-35.

"Our ability to get the most out of our fifth-generation aircraft depends on success in the Advanced Pilot Training program," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement.

"In terms of both providing realistic, holistic training and reducing flying hours on our fifth-generation platforms, T-X is a program we've got to get right." He added.

The winner of the contract, planned to be announced in 2017, will likely be responsible for manufacturing the entire 350-strong-aircraft program of record.

After the delivery of five test aircraft, the Air Force plans to execute contract options for two batches of low-rate production and eight rounds of full-rate production.

The contract also includes ground training systems, mission planning and processing systems, support equipment, and spares. Initial operating capability is planned by the end of fiscal 2024.

The service conducted “extensive dialogue with industry” that helped refine the final request for proposals (RFP), Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said.

"Our dialogues have clarified RFP requirements and saved tens of millions of dollars in development cost and risk while still ensuring we acquire capability needed to train our next generation of pilots,” she said.

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