WASHINGTON, -- Prime aerospace defense contractors are throwing everything they have into the competition to replace the venerable T-38 Talon as the United States Air Force’s next jet trainer. Dubbed the T-X program, this new jet is supposed to bridge the gap between primary training on the T-6 Texan II and the advanced fighters that student pilots will one day fly, such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
About 350 jets are envisioned to be initially ordered by the USAF, but that number could grow substantially as export customers emerge—and if the aircraft ends up providing additional duties for the Pentagon. Namely, a version of the T-X, which will be far more maneuverable than the already-nimble T-38, could find a serious niche in the adversary support mission.
This unique Scaled Composites-Northrop Grumman heritage was clearly evident when the company’s T-X broke cover on Friday.
Dubbed the Model 400, the aircraft looks like a modernized, composite hybrid of the T-38 Talon and the F-20 Tigershark. It packs a single F404-GE-102D engine, a derivative of the same engine used in the F/A-18A/D, the JAS-39A/D (Volvo RM12), the F-117A, and India’s Tejas light fighter—as well as Lockheed's T-X competitor, the T-50A.
Revealed Monday on Twitter, Northrop Grumman’s T-X contender looks like a redesigned, single-engined T-38 of the 1960s with some similarities to the ill-fated F-20 Tigershark of the 1970s, both of which were also originally developed by Northrop.