The Air Force is on schedule to deliver a contract award in July for its T-X trainer replacement program in July to replace the aging T-38C Talon, which was involved in a crash Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, told reporters Thursday that no cause has been determined for the latest T-38C crash, the second in six months, and the T-X replacement program remains on schedule with no changes.
“I have full confidence that we are on timeline with that. I have nothing to indicate there would be any delay,” Kwast said. “I am very hopeful that we will stay on time, and we really need to. In fact, if I could accelerate it I would because the faster we get that the more quickly we will be able to jump into the future.”
Kwast wants to see the T-X program completed rapidly to make use of the new data collected from the Air Force’s updated Pilot Training Next program based in Austin, Texas. The new trainer aircraft will include artificial intelligence components and augmented virtual reality systems to reduce current training time in half, according to Kwast.
“When they’re coupled with a software-driven aircraft that can morph itself into all kinds of different things for different missions and different ways of training you really start getting some magic. This is especially true in how quickly you can teach people to be good at this business in a machine that is reliable and low cost,” Kwast said.
Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50A, Leonardo DRS’ T-100, and a new design from Boeing [BA] and Saab are being considered for the July award.
The new plane selected for the T-X trainer program is expected to start replacing the T-38C Talon in 2022.
Kwast said Air Force engineers and safety investigators are currently working to study the cause of the latest T-38C crash on Wednesday at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both crew members on the plane ejected successfully.
The latest crash follows an incident in November 2017 where a dual gearbox failure caused a T-38C crash at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, killing the pilot.
“I will tell you that initial indications are that this is not linked to the T-38 crash we had down at Laughlin Air Force Base with regard to root cause. But, again, we don’t want to jump to any conclusions,” Kwast said. “Even though we’ll wait for the final report, the initial indications are that people do not have to worry that this is a trend or that these crashes are somehow linked. They are not.”