Meanwhile, there could also be other potential candidates for the UJTS, although in reality they only have one outside chance. British manufacturer BAE Systems was responsible for the design of the T-45 Goshawk which was produced in collaboration with McDonnell Douglas (later Boeing) as a highly modified version capable of carrying the Hawk. BAE Systems still builds the Hawk, in its second generation Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) iteration. The Hawk AJT was not offered for TX, BAE Systems decided instead that the Air Force specification required a completely new design, and in the UJTS category the UK design is also likely unable to meet the performance requirements. of the opponent.
Perhaps the most surprising apparent competitor in the UJTS competition is the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), or LCA, light fighter aircraft, which is operated by the Indian Air Force as the Tejas. While the Indian Navy has previously rejected a naval LCA as a potential carrier-based fighter aircraft, HAL has flown a prototype two-seat Navy LCA and the aircraft appears to have been offered to the US Navy as a trainer, although its chances of success must be taken into account extremely to lose weight.
With the US Air Force having said it will purchase at least 351 copies of the T-7A, and possibly up to 475, this option as a base for the UJTS might make the most tax sense. A large production run planned in St. Louis, Missouri would help achieve economies of scale and there would likely be some degree of similarity between synthetic training, maintenance, and logistics.
However, cost will not be the only factor under consideration. The information request published by NAVAIR on May 14 of last year makes it clear that a non-developing aircraft is needed and that while it will not need to be fully carrier-compatible, it will have to perform touch-and-gos on the bridge. , as well as performing Aircraft Carrier Field Landing (FCLP) exercises – essentially the same thing, but at a land airfield. How the aircraft handles high sink rate landings, and many of them, will be critical, but removing the constraints of stopped landings and catapult launches will significantly reduce the modifications needed to existing designs.
The Navy says it expects each UJTS aircraft to complete 400 flight hours each year, recording about 1,200 FCLP landings ashore, as well as up to 45 touch-and-gos on actual aircraft carriers. .
Regardless of the option chosen for the UJTS, it is becoming increasingly clear that the replacement of the T-45 is becoming a priority for the Navy. These jets, of which around 194 are in service, were once slated for retirement in 2018, before a decision was made to extend their lifespan to 2042. In the meantime, readiness rates have deteriorated, and between 2016 and 2017, the jet also suffered a number of high-profile hypoxia incidents, the cause of which turned out to be a complex combination of factors.
On the other hand, last year’s Boeing T-7B proposal involves only a “partial replacement of the T-45C”, with the aircraft also being used for opposing air missions. The third part of its mission would be a “tactical auxiliary” – downloading hours of training from expensive F / A-18s and F-35s to operate and preserving the precious airframe hours of these frontline fighter jets.
The opposing side of the UJTS program could also have a significant influence on the chosen design. The demand for red air is only increasing, and the performance demands of opposing jets are also increasing. This would appear to play on the strengths of the T-50A and the T-7 in particular, both of which offer combat performance, although the less capable M-346 is also already in regular use as an aggressor platform. Whichever jet you choose, it could eventually help replace the Navy and Marine Corps F-5 fleet, despite the fleet expansion and upgrades that are already underway for these jets. In the meantime, to meet a voracious appetite for red aerial work in the community, the Navy is also adding surplus USAF F-16s for opposing tasks, a process you can read more about here.
Currently, there is no publicly available timeline to indicate when the Navy might select a new trainer and when it might start purchasing them. However, the service has said it wants to start replacing the first T-45s around 2028. In its proposal, Boeing predicts that it could deliver a first example of the T-7B to the Navy as early as June 2025. With this aggressive schedule to the mind, we may not have to wait too long until a T-45 successor is selected.
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