MELBOURNE, Australia — Boeing is promoting its T-X advanced trainer and its associated training system at the Avalon Airshow in Australia, positioning itself for a possible opportunity there.
Speaking to reporters at the show, Boeing’s vice president of international sales for strike, surveillance and mobility, Thom Breckenridge, emphasized the holistic training system that includes ground-based training and support offered by the company, with its T-X aircraft being a part of the whole system.
These included leveraging on improvements in technology such as the visual acuity of simulators, with Breckenridge noting that training will be more effective with the pilot “optimizing the time spent in a ground-based trainer versus in a jet later on.”
He also stressed that the aircraft is being designed with the maintainer in mind, citing the sideways-opening canopy, which allows for removal and installation of the aircraft’s ejection seats without the need to remove the whole canopy, thus eliminating the need to ensure the cockpit is properly sealed following canopy fitment.
When asked about Australia as a potential market, Breckenridge said “there is no specific RFP yet, but we do understand there is a requirement and we’ve had discussions with the RAAF,” calling it “early days,” although Boeing is confident it can meet its timeline and requirements.
The RAAF, or Royal Australian Air Force, currently operates a fleet of 33 BAE Systems Hawk 127 lead-in fighter trainers. These aircraft have a secondary weapons delivery capability. When asked about the possibility of arming the T-X aircraft, Breckenridge said the growth option is was built in as part of the design, although the company is currently focused on fulfilling its contract with the U.S. Air Force.
Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper had flagged a program to replace its existing lead-in fighter training system expected to begin from 2022 until the end of the next decade.
However, Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, commander of the RAAF’s Air Combat Group, noted at a separate event during the show that with the last Hawk about to be delivered to the RAAF following a capability upgrade to train fast-jet pilots on fifth-generation fighters, the type will continue to serve in the service until at least the end of the decade.
In September 2018, the U.S. Air Force announced that Boeing had won the service’s competition for a new advanced jet trainer, with a total of 351 aircraft and 46 simulators to be supplied at a cost of $9.2 billion.