C4iSR: Air

US Air Force expects to expand vertical fight training with T-X

04 January 2019

Maj Gen Doherty (left), 19th Air Force commander, taxies out to the flightline with a Boeing pilot for a T-X trainer familiarisation sortie in St Louis on 27 November 2018. The T-X trainer will provide student pilots with the skills needed to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft. Source: USAF

Key Points

  • The USAF will expand its vertical fight training now that it has Boeing under contract to deliver the T-X trainer
  • The service performed its first sortie after awarding Boeing the contract

The US Air Force (USAF) will expand its vertical fight training now that it has Boeing under contract to deliver its T-X advanced pilot training programme, according to a key officer.

Major General Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, on 27 November flew the USAF's first official sortie in a T-X aircraft. The service awarded Boeing its contract in late September to build the aircraft that will eventually replace its fleet of Northrop T-38C Talon trainers.

David Deptula, dean of the Air Force Association's (AFA's) Mitchell Institute and a retired fighter pilot and USAF commander, told Jane's on 4 January that vertical fight training is the ability of a pilot to perform basic fighter manoeuvres. While the T-38C can perform these basic fighter manoeuvres, it is limited because it has such a small wing with huge turn rates. He said the T-38C, at altitude, tends to lose airspeed very quickly in high speed turns.

"[The T-38C is a high-performing aircraft, but in the context of fighter aviation capability and skills that are necessary to be learned to succeed in fighter manoeuvres, the T-X might be a better performing aircraft," Deptula said.

Maj Gen Doherty told Jane's on 18 December that the aircraft, flown in St Louis, Missouri, had a great thrust-to-weight ratio and that the T-X felt similar to a combination of a mini-Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and a mini-Lockheed Martin F-16V Viper.

"I thought it met all my expectations of what we were looking for as an air force and Air Education and Training Command for a fifth-generation platform for the future," Maj Gen Doherty said.

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