WASHINGTON --- The battle to build the US Air Force’s $16.3 billion T-X trainer officially kicked off Friday with the release of the final request for proposals.
The competition pits defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Sierra Nevada Corp. against each other for one of the last major Air Force aircraft programs on the horizon. The T-X will replace the T-38 and will be the first trainer designed to train the fifth-generation pilots of the F-22 and F-35.
"Our ability to get the most out of our fifth-generation aircraft depends on success in the Advanced Pilot Training program," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. "In terms of both providing realistic, holistic training and reducing flying hours on our fifth-generation platforms, T-X is a program we've got to get right."
The winner of the contract — planned to be announced in 2017 — will likely be responsible for manufacturing the entire 350-strong-aircraft program of record. After the delivery of five test aircraft, the Air Force plans to execute contract options for two batches of low-rate production and eight rounds of full-rate production. The contract also includes ground training systems, mission planning and processing systems, support equipment, and spares.
Initial operating capability is planned by the end of fiscal 2024.
One of the biggest questions is whether financial incentives given for higher-performing bids will swing the competition. For example, the service will knock up to $88 million off a proposal’s total evaluated price for high-G maneuvering beyond the threshold value, and $51 million for high angle of attack. These incentives, introduced in an earlier draft version of the request for proposals, remained the same in the final version.
Because T-X is one of the service’s most high-profile aircraft programs, the Air Force has taken special care to guard it from a protest — an event that most in industry see as probable. In a statement, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service conducted “extensive dialogue with industry” that helped refine the final request for proposals (RFP).
"Our dialogues have clarified RFP requirements and saved tens of millions of dollars in development cost and risk while still ensuring we acquire capability needed to train our next generation of pilots,” she said. (end of excerpt)
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