The U.S. Air Force, which has been aiming to pick a prime contractor for its new T-X training jet by year’s end, may delay a decision until the spring to ensure it finishes a thorough review of industry proposals, according to a service official.
The review is “event driven,” not schedule driven, because the Air Force wants to avoid any mistakes that could prompt a losing bidder to challenge the contract award, said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy for the Air Force acquisition office. A formal protest could take several months or longer to be resolved.
“We’re very focused on getting it right,” Bunch told reporters Oct. 17 after speaking at an Air Force Association breakfast. “Sometimes you got to go slow to go fast, because if we do it and we end up in a protest and we go through that process, that could set us back and it could take us even longer.”
Although Congress authorized no new programs in the continuing resolution (CR) it passed to keep the federal government open until early December, Bunch insisted that the possible T-X delay is not due to the CR. "The CR is not what's impacting that," he said.
Competitors for T-X include a Boeing [BA]-Saab team, which is pitching a new design; a Lockheed Martin [LMT]-Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) team, which is offering the T-50A; and Leonardo DRS, which is proposing the T-100.
The Air Force is expected to award a $16 billion contract for an initial 350 aircraft, plus ground-based training and support. T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 Talon trainers.