Who Will Power the T-X Trainer? Play the Percentages

by Carter Palmer, Power Systems Specialist, Forecast International.

Boeing/Saab T-X Trainer. Source – Boeing

The T-X competition is receiving a lot of attention in the aviation world. Such a lucrative contract—350 aircraft and further orders likely—promises a heated contest, with the triumphs and upsets a competition of this scale brings. The contending entrants are impressive and include both clean-sheet and current production models. While the designers – Boeing/Saab, Lockheed Martin/KAI, Leonardo, Sierra Nevada/TAI, and Stavatti – prepare for the impending battle, it’s worth a look at the engines that will power the aircraft.

While the airframe manufacturers are globe-spanning enterprises, the builders of the engines that power the aircraft are all U.S.-based. Two of these, Williams International and General Electric, have an equal chance of being part of the winning package, based on sheer percentages alone: each company produces engines for two of the planes under consideration.   The third engine manufacturer, Honeywell, enters the arena with a popular, proven design.

Despite powering only one of the aircraft, Honeywell has a fighting chance, as its engine is fitted to the T-100. Based on the successful Leonardo M-346, an aircraft in service with many countries, the T-100 is to be fitted with two F124 engines. The engine is familiar, in Taiwan especially, thanks to its afterburning cousin, the F125, which powers the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo. The dual-engine model joins similar aircraft powered by Williams International.

A pair of Williams FJ44s will power the Sierra Nevada/TAI Freedom Trainer, a clean-sheet design which has yet to fly. The Stavatti entrant, based on the ATG Javelin, will presumably be powered with the two Williams FJ33 engines that powered the Javelin. Williams International’s bailiwick is lightweight, fuel-efficient turbofans, many of which equip light business jets, cruise missiles, and drones, but their engines are not unknown to trainer aircraft. In fact, a Williams International engine powers the Leonardo M-345HET. Still, despite favorable odds, the Williams-powered aircraft face stiff competition.

General Electric F404 engines power both the Boeing/Saab T-X and the Lockheed Martin/KAI T-50. The F404 is no stranger to military aircraft: its platforms include the Saab Gripen and legacy Boeing F/A-18s. Unlike the other entrants, both the T-X and T-50 are single-engine models. The F404s feature afterburners, something the Honeywell and Williams International engines lack. The T-X and T-50 match-up will likely provide excitement, as Boeing and Lockheed Martin rivalries run deep.

The T-X competition has the potential to become legendary, as entrants vie for the profitable contract. Training men and women in the art of flying fast jets, the T-X has a crucial role to fill. Look for the trainer finally selected to begin operations in the early to mid-2020s.

Please feel free to use this content with Forecast International and analyst attributions, along with a link to the article. Contact Ray Peterson at +1 (203) 426-0800 or via email at ray.peterson@forecast1.com for additional analysis.

Forecast International produces two distinct Power Systems products. The Aviation Gas Turbine Forecast presents the 15-year outlook for aviation turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft engines and more. The Industrial & Marine Turbine Forecast covers the markets for gas and steam turbines, mechanical drive engines, and marine power, among others.

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