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USAF to contract F/T-7X aircraft for fighter pilot training

19 March 2020
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Having previously failed to secure the USAF’s wider T-X advanced pilot training requirement, the Lockheed Martin-KAI T-50A looks set to be adopted in limited numbers on a contracted basis for air combat training. Source: Lockheed Martin

The US Air Force (USAF) plans to contract a small number of trainer aircraft to teach skills specific to air combat under its Reforge proof of concept (RFX) programme.

A notice of intent to award a sole-source contract to Hillwood Aviation for between four and eight advanced trainer aircraft to provide a total "turn-key" flying solution out of Langley Air Force Base (AFB) in Virginia was posted on behalf of the USAF's Air Combat Command (ACC). These aircraft will be designated F/T-7X, in line with the T-7A designation recently given to the Boeing-Saab Redhawk that was selected to satisfy the USAF's wider T-X Advanced Pilot Training (APT) requirement.

"ACC [has] drafted a concept of operations to rebuild the current fighter training forge (Reforge CONOP) employing an F/T-7X, ACC variant of the T-7, in a 12-month focused training programme. The CONOP deliberately develops and experiences fighter aviators with relevant tactical skills prior to their fighter's Formal Training Unit (FTU). Reforge pilots will be eligible for the FTU/Track-1 course, taking about half as long as the Basic course", the notification said.

As noted by the ACC, the new aircraft should have similar capabilities to the T-7A Redhawk that is currently in its engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, and will provide approximately 3,000 sorties/4,500 flight hours annually for one day short of five years.

The notification states that the Acquisition Management Integration Center (AMIC) has identified Dallas-based Hillwood Aviation as the only source capable of providing aircraft with an active radar capable of detecting a fighter-sized target no later than 20 miles or the ability to install one without lapse or disruption of service within one year; with an embedded (synthetic) training system, or the ability to install one without lapse or disruption of service within one year; and with a closure rate of at least 1,100 kt when conducting in-unit air-to-air combat training.

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