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US Navy selects Textron King Air 260 trainer to replace T-44s

A Beechcraft T-44C Pegasus, pictured in 2021. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) has selected the Textron King Air 260 to replace the Beechcraft King Air 90 (designated T-44 Pegasus) multi-engine trainer. The initial contract award announced on 25 January orders 10 T-54s for USD113 million, with options for up to 64 of the aircraft, which will be designated T-54A Multi Engine Training System (METS).

Deliveries are expected to run from 2024 through 2026. T-44 retirements will begin six months after the first T-54 delivery, the USN told Janes . The T-54s will be equipped with ‘glass' multifunction displays, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transponders, weather radar, and other modern systems that the ageing T-44s lack.

“The new METS aircraft will give us the ability to train pilots across the services with an advanced platform that better represents fleet aircraft,” said Captain Holly Shoger, the USN programme manager. “The T-54A will include the latest avionics and navigational updates, such as virtual reality and augmented reality devices.”

The aircraft will be used to train pilots from the USN, US Marine Corps (USMC), and US Coast Guard, who are training to fly multi-engine aircraft. The navy and USMC operate large multi-engine fleets, and pilots will train on the T-54 for eventual transfer to fly the P-8, EP-3, KC-130, E-6, E-2, CMV-22, and MV-22, the USN contract award said.

According to Janes World Navies , the USN operates 54 T-44s, with the first example delivered in 1977.

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