The US Air Force is reportedly mulling the idea of using its new T-X jet trainer as an aggressor aircraft and even as a replacement for its A-10 Warthog aircraft, it emerged at the Farnborough air show Tuesday.
Speaking at a briefing to present Raytheon's offer in the competition, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Daniel Darnell said the Air Force might yet look to extend the use of its new aircraft beyond just training pilots.
"They made it clear to industry that it would be nice if there was some accommodation for refueling, and the aircraft could be used as an aggressor and/or a replacement for the A-10," he said. "It is not a requirement."
Raytheon is acting as prime contractor behind the offer of the T-100 jet trainer, which is based on the M-346 trainer already sold by Italy's Leonardo-Finmeccanica to Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica launched a new dual-role version of the aircraft at Farnborough on Monday that will switch from training pilots to handling combat operations and will be ready for service in two years.
Armaments that the plane will be able to carry include the GBU-12 and GBU-49 laser-guided bombs, GBU-38 JDAM, Lizard laser-guided bomb, and the Small Diameter Bomb, as well as a gun pod. The Iris-T is already being trialed, and the AIM 9L will be integrated.
Darnell said an RFP was expected by year's end and that Raytheon is now selecting a site to undertake final assembly in the US of the T-100 should it win the competition. A source said a decision would be made by the fall.
Darnell said that 70 percent of work on the aircraft and training system would be undertaken in the US, including work on the Honeywell engine and CAE simulators.
Given the aircraft and simulators are already in use, he said that Raytheon would only need 30 months from a contract award to the training of the first US students. Five training bases are envisaged in the US, with 40 ground-based training systems, he said.
One change that will be made to the M-346 cockpit is the switching from three displays to one large display, in keeping with the F-35 and Air Force requirements.
The M-346 can refuel using hose and drogue, but the T-100 will upgraded to refuel using a boom, Darnell said.
Darnell — a former US Air Force pilot who has flown the M-346 — dismissed what he described as "urban legends" about the M-346 not meeting performance requirements for the T-X competition.
"The minimum G is 6.5 and we easily meet that, and we also exceed the turn rate," he said.