Questions Remain about T-X

Although members of industry descended upon Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, in late January to discuss the options available for the T-X trainer, Air Education and Training Command boss Gen. Edward Rice said it’s still not clear when or if the Air Force can afford to procure a new aircraft. “That’s been our challenge for some time now. The requirement for a new advanced trainer is well-known and well-recognized inside and outside the Air Force,” Rice told reporters at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 21. “We’ve been open and clear about our challenges finding the money and we need to do this in a responsible way,” he added. The issue, said Rice, is not so much in keeping the current T-38 flying. Rather, it’s more an issue of “divergence over time.” As the Air Force’s fifth generation fleet continues to grow, training with a fourth generation platform will become increasingly difficult, he said. AETC is using F-16s to train its F-22 pilots today, but Rice said that’s not really an option for the F-35 strike fighter. “I can’t produce enough F-16 pilots today for the Air Force. I can’t afford to get into a situation where I have to use F-16s in large numbers to train in for the F-35s,” said Rice. “That’s part of the calculus with T-X.”