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WASHINGTON — Raytheon on Monday officially announced it is teaming with Italian aerospace company Finmeccanica and CAE to offer the T-100 for the US Air Force T-X advanced trainer competition, a move first reported by Defense News last week.

Raytheon, one of the world’s leading companies for training and avionics, will be the prime contractor on the T-100 training solution, while Finmeccanica will provide the foundational aircraft platform, Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346, company officials said during the rollout event. CAE will design and manufacture simulation equipment, training systems and courseware for the T-100, and Honeywell Aerospace will provide twin F124 turbofan engines to power the aircraft.

“Raytheon is leading this effort because our pilots deserve a comprehensive training solution that provides the foundation for their combat readiness,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon’s space and airborne systems. “They must be prepared to take full advantage of the advanced capabilities of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters. Our integrated T-100 training solution will do just that.”

If selected, the T-100 will be built, tested and fielded in the United States, Yuse stressed. Raytheon has not yet chosen a facility for the project, but is considering every option, including building a new site from scratch, said Roy Azevedo, company vice president of secured sensor solutions for space and airborne systems.

The winner of the T-X competition will provide the Air Force with 350 new aircraft to replace the aging T-38 fleet that currently trains the service’s pilots. But T-X is not just about a new airframe, Raytheon officials emphasized during the briefing. A crucial piece of the future training system will be the ground-based training a pilot receives before actually sitting in the cockpit, they said.

Raytheon looks at the T-X as a “total training solution,” Azevedo stressed. The company is uniquely suited to build T-X because of its word-class training, avionics and manufacturing capabilities, he argued.

“The airplane is just the beginning,” Azevedo said. “We are going to be offering a solution that goes from the classroom to the simulators to the aircraft; that includes live virtual construction to train the pilots and provide a comprehensive system that allows these pilots to get their wings and become combat ready.”

Another advantage is that the T-100 offering is low-risk and affordable because the aircraft is already operational, Raytheon and Finmeccanica officials stressed during the briefing. The M-346, the basis for the T-100, is currently training pilots around the world with the Israeli, Italian, Polish and Singapore air forces.

“This partnership aims to provide the US Air Force with the most advanced, effective and affordable solution for the next-generation military pilot training requirement,” said Filippo Bagnato, managing director of Finmeccanica Aircraft Division.

In joining the Finmeccanica and CAE team, Raytheon is replacing General Dynamics in the role of prime contractor. GD dropped off the program in March; since then, Finmeccanica and CAE have been without a prime for the offering.

Raytheon is entering a crowded field. In addition to the T-100 team, competitors include a pair of clean-sheet designs being put forth by a Boeing/Saab team and a Northrop Grumman-led coalition that includes BAE Systems and L-3; the Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries T-50A; and a design from Textron AirLand, which may be loosely based on its Scorpion jet.

While the Boeing and Northrop teams have decided to move forward with clean-sheet designs, Raytheon believes using an existing airframe is a safer, more affordable option for the Air Force.

“I would say having a proven solution doing the job the Air Force needs today — I like our position a lot better than starting from a clean sheet of paper,” said Jim Hvizd, Raytheon vice president of business development for space and airborne systems.

Nabbing T-X will provide the winning company not only a contract for 350 aircraft, but also an inside track to any number of international customers who buy the F-35 around the globe. T-X, along with its advanced ground-based training system, is crucial to the Air Force's plan to train a new generation of pilots to transition from legacy fighter jets to the F-35 in future decades.

Industry expects the Air Force to release a request for proposals for T-X later this year, with a contract award in 2017. Initial operating capability is expected in 2024.

Email: lseligman@defensenews.com

Twitter: @laraseligman

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