Originally published at 5:31 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Raytheon will announce Monday it is joining Alenia Aermacchi and CAE to offer the T-100 for the US Air Force T-X trainer competition, Defense News has learned.
A news release sent by Raytheon Tuesday said that the company, "along with its industry partners, will make an announcement regarding the US Air Force Advanced Pilot Training competition" on Feb. 22.
Raytheon will likely become the prime contractor on the T-100 offering, replacing General Dynamics in that role. The latter company dropped off the program in March; since then, Alenia and CAE have been without a prime for the offering, based on Alenia's existing M-346 trainer design.
The winner of the T-X competition will provide the Air Force with 350 new aircraft to replace the aging T-38 fleet used for advanced jet training. The service believes a new trainer is needed not just because of the age of the T-38 fleet but because it cannot provide ample training for pilots who will be flying the F-35 joint strike fighter in the future.
Nabbing the T-X contract will also provide the winning company an inside track to any number of international customers, especially given the popularity of the F-35 around the globe
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.
The T-X competition has undergone a dramatic shift over the last two years. In 2015, Boeing was the only competitor publicly planning on offering a new design for the Air Force, with industry consensus being the service was looking for an off-the-shelf capability.
Since then, Textron has thrown its interest into the ring, and Northrop abandoned the Hawk design for a new development, leaving only two existing designs remain in competition: the T-100 and the T-50, and even Lockheed admitted it considered a clean-sheet development seriously.
The Air Force plans to award a contract for T-X in 2017, according to official budget documents. Meanwhile, initial operating capability has slipped one year, from 2023 to 2024, Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed's advanced development programs, better known as the Skunk Works, told reporters Feb. 11.
A spokesman for Raytheon declined to comment.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.