The T-50A aircraft, produced in a partnership between Lockheed Martin (LM) and Korea Aerospace Industries, is the US Air Force’s safest bet to replace its aging jet trainers, says Lockheed Martin executives.
The T-50A is “the lowest risk option out there, from all standpoints,” said Mark Ward, T-50 chief test pilot for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, at the Air Force Association annual conference on Sept 19, 2016.
The modified T-50 aircraft features a single GE F404 engine, an optional dorsal aerial refueling capability, a larger cockpit display that can feature F-16 or F-35-style interfaces, and updated training software. Stadium seating for the instructor pilot and embedded sensor training are also included.
Two aircraft have already been built, and the first has completed all of its subsonic testing, stability and control testing, and ground testing, Ward said. Lockheed is conducting avionics testing on the second aircraft to ensure the new cockpit’s functionality.
Lockheed benefits from being able to draw on over 100,000 flight hours and data from its T-50 aircraft, Ward added. More than 150 T-50 models have been sold worldwide to countries including South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Iraq and the Philippines.
The T-50A is “about 80% F-16 designed,” with an F-16-style radar and target display. It also features an F-35 tactical situation display and electronic warfare-style display. The trainer’s head-up display can change from an F-16 style to an F-35/F-22 format “at the push of a screen,” Ward commented.
The company is competing with three other teams — Boeing with Saab, Northrop Grumman with BAE Systems, and L-3 and Raytheon with Alenia Aermacchi — for the Air Force contract to replace the aging T-38 fleet. The Air Force intends to buy about 350 aircraft and wants an initial operating capability by 2024.
Ward said that Lockheed continues to perform testing on the aircraft in order to spot-check specific modifications, adding that, “every bit of testing we do now to gather data, subtracts from what the Air Force will have to pay”, which will shorten the length of post-contract test time.
September 23, 2016