The Air Force in the waning days of 2016 issued a pair of highly awaited requests for proposals (RFP) for the T-X trainer and JSTARS recapitalization programs.

The solicitation released for T-X is a development RFP, according to Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog. The $16.3 billion RFP includes all aspects of the system, including engineering and manufacturing development (EMD), low rate initial production (LRIP), full rate production (FRP) and sustainment transition support.

The solicitation lays the groundwork for delivery of the first five test aircraft. There are also contract options for the first two LRIP lots and FRP of lots three through 11 for a total of 350 aircraft. Provisions are also included for ground support systems such as training systems, mission planning and processing systems, support equipment and spares.

The T-X program will replace the Air Force’s T-38 pilot training aircraft. As one of the Pentagon’s few new start programs, as many as six contractor teams could issue bids for the program, according to Lexington Institute COO Loren Thompson. Boeing [BA] and Saab are teaming to offer a clean sheet design; Lockheed Martin [LMT] is teaming with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to offer KAI’s T-50; Northrop Grumman [NOC] is teaming with L-3 Technologies (formerly Communications) [LLL] and BAE Systems while Raytheon [RTN] is teaming with Leonardo, CAE [CAE] and Honeywell [HON].

Textron [TXT] has been rumored to be bidder for T-X with its Scorpion aircraft, but company spokesman David Sylvestre said Friday Textron is waiting for the Air Force to release its final set of requirements for the program before it makes its decision whether to bid for the program. T-X will replace the service’s fleet of T-38 pilot training aircraft. The service anticipates a contract award in calendar year 2017 in support of initial operational capability (IOC) by, or earlier, than fourth quarter fiscal year 2024.

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalization effort is another highly anticipated program. The $6.9 billion RFP is includes all aspects of the system, including airframe, radar, communications system and battle management command and control (C2) suite, according to the Air Force. The RFP lays the groundwork for delivery of the first three aircraft for testing. There are also contract options for LRIP, for two more weapon systems and FRP of lots 1-3 for four additional weapon systems, for a total of 17 aircraft.

The RFP issuance was delayed by months due to language in the FY ’17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that limited funding for the program unless the contract for the EMD portion was firm-fixed price. The Air Force had a hybrid approach of cost-plus and fixed price portions for EMD (Defense Daily, Sept. 21).

Fortunately for the Air Force, the NDAA also included a provision for the defense secretary to waive this limitation of he or she determines such a waiver is in the United States’ national security interests. The Air Force said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall waived this limitation on Dec. 23, allowing the service to proceed with this program.

The teams lining up for JSTARS aren’t proposing simple offerings like in many other programs. Both Boeing and Northrop Grumman are allowing the Air Force to choose which radar offering it would like as part of their bids. Northrop Grumman had previously been debating whether to offer a radar sensor of its own as part of its JSTARS bid or to offer one from Raytheon, who is also competing for the program as it is undergoing radar risk reduction efforts. Raytheon did not respond to multiple requests for comment before press time.

Thompson said companies considering using products of other companies directly competing on certain programs are not only unusual, it demonstrates how desperate contractors are for new start business. Thompson also found it interesting that a leading radar house, Northrop Grumman, had considered using the radar of another leading radar developer to boost its chances of winning. Thompson said Northrop Grumman has radars on the F-35 and F-22, though they are different types of radars than the ones being proposed for JSTARS.

Thompson believes Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are teaming to offer a Bombardier plane. Lockheed Martin didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time. Boeing spokesperson Holly Braithwaite said Friday the company is offering a modified version of its 737-700 commercial aircraft. Thompson also believes Northrop Grumman is offering a General Dynamics [GD] Gulfstream 550 aircraft.

JSTARS provides airborne battle management command and control (C2) of joint and coalition forces, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information about ground movements to detect and track enemy forces. The Air Force expects a contract award in FY ’18 to have assets available for IOC in FY ’24 or earlier.