Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) have announced the successful first flight test of the T-50A, which is being proposed for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition. The flight took place in Sacheon, South Korea. Lockheed Martin T-50A lead test pilot Mark Ward said the aircraft performed flawlessly.
The T-50A configuration is based on South Korea’s FA-50, which is currently in production. The FA-50, the most advanced version of the T-50, incorporates air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, along with an avionics suite that contains an electronic warfare suite, a multi-mode radar and an advanced data-link.
Lockheed is pitching its bid as the low-risk option for the future T-X trainer. More than 100 T-50s are already in service, and more than 1,000 pilots have been trained on the platform. Two T-50s are to be modified into production-representative T-50A prototypes. Lockheed Martin is currently standing up its T-50A Final Assembly and Checkout site in Greenville, South Carolina.
Lockheed says it could adapt its F-35 Ground Based Training System to the T-X, reusing hardware and software and making the transition easier from one to the other. In addition, it notes that the T-50A cockpit features flight controls and displays similar to that of the F-35.
In addition, Lockheed points out that the T-50A, with a new refueling receptacle behind the cockpit – as it is on the F-16, F-22, and F-35 – could give F-35 pilots initial refueling experience, with an instructor in the back seat.
The T-X will replace the aging T-38 Talon, which is no longer able to fully prepare Air Force pilots for advanced new-generation aircraft. The Air Force says it plans to award a contract for 350 T-Xs to replace the 431 T-38s in the fall of 2017, with initial operational capability by the end of 2023.
The competition is also expected to attract bids from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Textron AirLand.