On September 27, 2018, the United States Air Force (USAF) awarded The Boeing Company a contract, worth up to $9.2 billion, to procure 351 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems (GBTS) to replace the existing fleet of T-38C jet trainers. The Air Force had originally valued the contract at roughly $19.7 billion. Information on the value of other competitors’ bids was not available.
The FY2019 Administration budget request included $265.465million for the T-X.
According to the USAF, the T-38C trainer fleet is old, costly, and outdated, and lacks the technology to train future pilots for fifth-generation fighter and bomber operations. Based on Air Education Training Command’s evaluation of the required capabilities to train future pilots for fifth-generation fighters and bombers, the T-38C falls short in 12 of 18 capabilities, forcing the USAF to train for those capabilities in operational units where flying hours are costly and can affect fleet readiness.
Based on the requirements set forth in the USAF’s RFP, the APT T-X aircraft may shift training from Field Training Units, where expensive fifth-generation aircraft are used, to less expensive trainer aircraft. Also, the higher fidelity GBTS could improve training for student pilots and move many tasks from aerial flight training into simulators.
The APT T-X acquisition strategy poses potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following: Is the number of planned aircraft purchases sufficient? Given the reported Air Force pilot shortage, should the procurement be accelerated? What effects do increased F-35A and KC-46 purchases, along with development of the new Long Range Strike Bomber, B-21, have on the USAF budget and the feasibility of an additional Major Defense Acquisition Program?
Given that the winning bid was roughly half the expected cost, can the contract be carried out on time and on budget?
Click here for the full report (35 PDF pages), hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.