T-X: Coming Quick

Air Education and Training Command has nailed down its broad needs for the T-X trainer aircraft to replace the T-38, said Brig. Gen. Dawn Dunlop, head of AETC plans, programs, and requirements. The Air Force needs 350 T-Xs, with initial operational capability in 2023, to replace 421 T-38s, Dunlop said in an interview with Air Force Magazine. The T-38 fleet, which has received a number of service life extension program modifications over its 54-year life, will be phased out between 2023 and 2029, Dunlop said, but if there is a delay to T-X, “we would have to do additional SLEPS on the T-38.” The T-X is to finish delivery in 2031. The Air Force needs a new jet trainer, Dunlop noted, because “12 of the 18 tasks” that pilots must learn for advanced fast-jet training “can’t be (accomplished) by the T-38.” These have chiefly to do with cockpit management, especially at high rate of turn and G-loading. While the program has passed the Air Force’s own requirements review, it will go before the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council in April for its blessing. At that time, the Navy, which has been an observer on T-X, will depart the program, as its needs “will be met by the T-45” through 2035, Dunlop said. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James will reveal details about T-X requirements and the new acquisition strategy planned for the jet under her “Bending the Cost Curve” initiative at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., this week.