On December 30 the Air Force formally opened the bidding process for the T-X program to replace the T-38 Talon jet trainer. Announcing they were accepting bids is a major step in the $16 billion dollar program that is expected to be awarded in 2017.

The new aircraft training system will prepare Air Force student pilots to fly 4th and 5th generation fighter jets. Initially purchasing about 350 aircraft the Air Force plans to have the jet trainer fully operational no later than 2024.

This comes after extensive dialogue with industry as part of our Cost Capability Analysis,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “T-X is one of our beta cases for CCA which is one of our many BTCC initiatives. Our dialogues have clarified RFP requirements and saved tens of millions of dollars in development cost and risk while still ensuring we acquire capability needed to train our next generation of pilots.”

“In terms of both providing realistic, holistic training and reducing flying hours on our fifth-generation platforms, T-X is a program we’ve got to get right,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said in the statement.

“Our ability to get the most out of our fifth-generation aircraft depends on success in the Advanced Pilot Training program” also known as the T-X program, Goldfein said. – US Air Force news release

Second Lt. Duston Obrien, 435th Fighter Training Squadron upgrade pilot, and Maj. Gavin Peterson, 435th FTS instructor pilot, prepare to take off in a T-38 Talon at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Photo by U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer

The T-X Request for Proposal (RFP) includes all aspects of the complete training system including delivery of the first five test aircraft.