Images of Northrop Grumman’s T-X prototype – the Model 400 – undergoing taxi trials were unofficially released this week.
The Model 400 is Northrop’s entry for the U.S. Air Force (USAF)’s T-X next-generation trainer requirement, which will evaluate number of lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) aircraft from around the world.
Northrop’s competitors include Boeing (partnered with Saab), Lockheed Martin (partnered with Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI), and Raytheon (partnered with Leonardo).
Numerous observers have noted that the Model 400 bears a broad resemblance to the Northrop T-38 Talon, which the Air Force is seeking to replace through the T-X program (Flight Global). However, the Model 400 was evidently built with a high input of composite materials.
The Model 400 also eschews the twin engine configuration in favour of a single GE F404-102D turbofan, and sports a redesigned low radar cross-section (RCS)-focused nose.
Boeing and Saab are expected to officially unveil their offering, a new clean-sheet design. In addition, the Model 400 will also compete with the Leonardo M-346 Master (via Raytheon) and KAI T-50 (via Lockheed Martin).
Comment and Analysis
From an industry perspective, the USAF T-X program is a very important opportunity. With an expected order of 300 to 450 aircraft, the USAF acquisition will provide the winner with quantitative scale, more so than any past or current Western LIFT tender of this generation.
The winner would essentially be cemented as the market leader, not just in the area of LIFT aircraft, but potentially lightweight fighters as well. In this respect, it will be worth keeping a closer eye on Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Should either one win the T-X competition, the resultant aircraft (which would be of U.S. origin) will translate into a new and competitive product for the market. In effect, the T-X could become the U.S.’s next-generation product for the developing world.