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06 June 2016

Lockheed Martin T-50A Completes First Test Flight

On 2 June 2016, Lockheed Martin announced successful completion of the initial flight test for the T-50A, the aircraft the company is offering for the USAF T-X Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition.

Lockheed Martin T-50A

The original T-50 was developed as an advanced jet trainer for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) in collaboration with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Over 125 have been delivered to RoKAF and further quantities are in production and/or delivery for Iraq (24), Thailand (4), and the Philippines (2). Over 1,000 pilots have so far been trained on the T-50 fleet, which has logged over 100,000 flying hours.

The T-50A is a further development that bridges the gap to fifth generation aircraft, incorporating, for example, the same large multifunction displays in the cockpit as the F-35 LIGHTNING II. The company believes that only the T-50A fully meets the requirements of the APT programme and that a ‘clean sheet’ design – as proposed by the Boeing/Saab and BAE Systems/Northrop Grumman/L-3 Communications teams – “pose prohibitive risk to APT cost and schedule requirements.” A team comprising Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Raytheon, and CAE will offer the T-100 aircraft, developed from the M346 MASTER jet trainer.

Current indications suggest a Request for Proposal (RfP) is likely to be issued by the end of this year, which may result in slippage of full operational capability (FOC) by up to two years, to 2032-3034. Initial operating capability (IOC) is still slated for 2024, according to observers close to the programme.

The aircraft in its new configuration with the 5th Gen cockpit and other upgrades performed flawlessly,” said Mark Ward, Lockheed Martin T-50A lead test pilot, after his flight in Sacheon, South Korea. “I have no doubt this aircraft will close the gap which currently exists between the trainer fleet and 5th Generation fighters.”
Tim Mahon