David Oliver – The first of two prototypes of the tandem-seat single-engine Boeing T-X powered by a General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan, BTX-1 flew on 20 December 2016.
The twin tail design was fitted with a F-16 tricycle landing gear to save cost. Equipped with Leading Edge Extensions (LERX), a slightly warped swept wing and leading edge slats, are designed for both ease of high speed and low speed handling. The side opening canopy enables the changing of ejection seats without the lengthy reassembly of a rear sliding canopy. For assist maintainers, most of the aircraft’s systems can be reached without ladders.
Saab is responsible for the design and manufacture of the rear fuselage that will be built in a new site for advanced manufacturing and production in the United States at West Lafayette, Indiana which will have a close partnership with the state’s Purdue University.
Other cost saving components incorporated in the Boeing T-X include the F-22 side-stick and F-16 throttle and although the U.S. Air Force (USAF) selected the Collins Aerospace ACES 5 ejection seat, the aircraft is also qualified for the Martin-Baker Mk18 ejection seat. The USAF requirement did not include an air-to-air refuelling (AAR) capability but again the design features a built-in receptacle for a potential AAR fit.
In September 2018, Boeing won a $9.2 billion contract for 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment and Saab secured a $813 million contract to manufacture five engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft plus to static test airframes in Linköping, Sweden. There will be no changes from the prototypes to the production aircraft. Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is due in 2024.
Designed from the outset for growth, at Le Bourget Boeing announced that it sees possible sales of 2,600 aircraft through its production life and that light attack and aggressor variants may well be in the pipeline.
by David Oliver