|T-38 in "Aggressor" paint.|
As the USAF finalizes the capabilities it wants for the T-X, more manufacturers are deciding to forego license-building proven designs and will offer "clean sheet" designs instead.
Boeing, which has partnered up with Swedish-based Saab, was the first to do this. This despite the initial rumors of a "downgraded" Gripen being used as the basis.
Northrop Grumman, soon after taking the lead over from its partner, BAE, has decided that it will also develop a clean sheet design instead of offering a version of BAE's Hawk. While some were rather surprised by this announcement, one has to wonder what chances Northrop Grumman/BAE really had with the 40-year-old Hawk.
|KAI's T-50 Golden Eagle|
Lockheed Martin will wait until the actual statement of requirements are released before it puts forward one design or the other. Undoubtedly, there is pressure to keep with the T-50 design after S. Korea has ordered 40 F-35 Lightning IIs.
General Dynamics is still offering up a version of the Alenia Aermaccchi M-346 Master. Given that the M-346 is based on the Russian Yakovlev Yak-130, it may not be the most palatable option. It also lacks the sheer lobbying power of its competitors.
|Textron AirLand Scorpion|
The big unknown so far is what the requirements will actually be. While the program is intended to procure only 350 aircraft, their is potential for a lot more. Foreign sales are almost a certainty, and there is certainly a need for an aircraft to provide an "aggressor role" for the USAF's fighter aircraft.
While the USAF pursues mega-buck aircraft like the JSF, there is still a market for lightweight, low-cost fighters. Friendly nations that do not have the funds (or the security clearance) to buy high-end fighter aircraft still need an option. Do not forget that the T-38's sibling, the F-5 Freedom Fighter, was meant to be just that.
With Saab/Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and possibly even Lockheed Martin going forth with clean sheet designs, there could very well be more to the T-X than a simple trainer.