WASHINGTON — Rolls-Royce will join up with BAE’s Hawk Advanced Jet Training System (AJTS) to compete on the US Air Force’s next-generation trainer, bringing its Adour Mk951 engine to the T-X completion.
The engine manufacturer becomes the fourth member on the AJTS team. BAE has already agreed to partner with Northrop Grumman and L-3 Link Simulation & Training on their bid.
“Rolls-Royce’s extensive propulsion expertise, coupled with their lengthy relationship with the U.S. Air Force, makes them the perfect choice to integrate their Adour Mk951 engine in the Hawk AJTS aircraft,” Robert Wood, vice president and lead for BAE’s AJTS team, wrote in a Sept. 12 statement. “Rolls-Royce is the obvious selection to round-out the Hawk AJTS team, we look forward to working with them as we pursue the T-X program win.”
“We are delighted to join the Hawk AJTS team and bring our decades of experience to the program,” Tom Hartmann, senior vice president for Customer Business at Rolls-Royce Defense, said. “The Hawk AJTS is the affordable, low-risk option, offering proven performance to the U.S. Air Force.”
The T-X competition will purchase 350 new trainers to replace the service’s fleet of aging T-38s, a contract likely worth billions of dollars.
The Air Force is targeting a request for proposals on its next trainer by fiscal 2016, with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh telling a May 8 Senate hearing that his office is looking at initial operational capability (IOC) in “fiscal year 2023 or 2024.”
Air Force officials had hoped to achieve IOC in 2020, but sequestration budget cuts have pushed that date back. Further delays are possible as the trainer competes with other modernization priorities. While not ideal, Welsh expressed confidence that the service could continue using the T-38 through the late 2020s if need be.
The delay hasn’t harmed interest in the competition. In addition to the Hawk team, Lockheed Martin is offering of the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 and General Dynamics is partnered with Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, offering its T-100.
Sources have told Defense News that Boeing is in discussion to partner with Saab on a clean-sheet bid for the T-X competition, potentially based on the Swedish company’s Gripen design.