Lockheed Says T-50A is Lowest Risk

Lockheed Martin’s T-50A entrant in the T-X competition is “nothing new” and meets all the Air Force’s needs with little development, program chief test pilot “Red” Ward told reporters at ASC16. The T-50A, which is “a Lockheed airplane through and through,” has served in the Republic of Korea Air Force since 2005, has racked up over 100,000 hours, can be turned in under 30 minutes and is producing a mission capable rate just under 90 percent, Ward asserted, calling it the “lowest risk” option among the entrants. The jet has 80 percent commonality with the F-16 design and 70 percent commonality of parts with the F-16. Lockheed is testing two versions of the T-50A for the T-X program. One has the main new feature of the jet, a spine that houses the air refueling system, and the other is mostly a stock T-50A, but both have wide-area glass cockpit displays, a new head’s up display, and sidestick controllers. Ward said Lockheed is offering the Air Force the opportunity to remove the air refueling gear—which weighs about 400 pounds—for the majority of missions that don’t require it, thus saving weight, fuel, and maintenance. “We’ll have to see how many the Air Force wants,” he said of the air refueling kits, but it would be well under the 350 jets the T-X program calls for. The T-50A “already can do” everything called for in the threshold requirements, such as a top speed of 625 knots/1.2 mach, and 75 degrees angle of attack, and a mean time between failure of under 10 hours. The T-50A uses the GE F404 engine, and Ward said it has an afterburner because students need to see how afterburner affects aircraft handling with its sudden acceleration and effect on fuel consumption. Though company spokesman Rob Fuller said Lockheed is “laser focused” on only offering what USAF wants for T-X, the T-50A has a combat counterpart called the FA-50, which has six hardpoints and could could be adapted for aggressor work or other missions if USAF opts to pursue it after T-X.