Monday, February 22, 2016

Raytheon, Finmeccanica Join in Bid to Design Training Jets: Aircraft makers turn to foreign designs for U.S. Air Force training jets

The Wall Street Journal
By Doug Cameron
Feb. 22, 2016 1:26 p.m. ET

Raytheon Co. said Monday it would team up with Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA in a coming contest to build hundreds of new training jets for the U.S. Air Force that is dominated by planes designed with overseas partners.

The Air Force is expected to award a deal next year to build an initial 350 planes to replace aging T-38 training jets, and analysts expect international sales could expand the potential value of the T-X program to around $15 billion.

At least four U.S. defense companies are expected to submit bids, with only Northrop Grumman Corp. pushing a homegrown model. Raytheon, Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. would each present foreign-designed aircraft.

Potential bidders have juggled partners and designs over the past year, and the reliance by some on repurposing existing jets made by overseas partners reflects an effort by the Pentagon to reduce costs by harnessing existing technology from the global commercial-aerospace industry.

“Particularly in the jet trainer market, there are simply too many good options on the shelf around the world,” said James Hasik at the Atlantic Council, a think tank. “I’d like to see more of this reliance on globally available designs for stuff, so that the government’s [research] monies can be reserved for the most challenging problems,” he said.

Raytheon will offer the T-100, an updated version of the existing M-346 plane that Finmeccanica originally had proposed in partnership with General Dynamics Corp. before the U.S. company last year opted to drop out of the contest, believing it couldn’t win and make a profit.

“The M-346, the basis for the T-100, is already operational and preparing pilots around the world for the challenges of today’s complex fighter platforms,” Filippo Bagnato, managing director of Finmeccanica’s Aircraft Division, said in a prepared statement.

Lockheed Martin last week confirmed it would offer the T-50A jet developed with Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. after concluding an all-new plane was too costly.

Conversely, Northrop will pursue a clean-sheet design, dropping plans last year to proceed with a version of the Hawk trainer designed by BAE Systems PLC that is widely used by air forces including Saudi Arabia’s.

Boeing has partnered with Saab AB on an all-new plane to offer in the competition, and has identified winning the contest as a priority for sustaining its defense business, notably after losing to Northrop in the competition to build a new long-range bomber.

Saab Chief Executive Håkan Buskhe last week expressed confidence that the five-year partnership to secretly develop a T-X bid with Boeing was going to be successful.

The latest Pentagon budget request includes only $12 million for the T-X program in fiscal 2017, but this would rise sharply after the Air Force completes requirements for the plane later this year. Industry officials have indicated it has moved toward a more sophisticated design capable of supersonic flight that would dovetail with the introduction of advanced jets such as the Lockheed-built F-35.

Textron Inc., which had planned to offer a version of its self-financed Scorpion military jet, has said it would wait for the final requirements before deciding whether to make a bid, potentially with another all-new design.

Original article can be found here:

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