The new T-X jet, designed by Boeing and Saab as a training aircraft for the US Air Force, has taken its maiden flight.
Having first been unveiled to the public in September, the T-X finally took to the skies on Tuesday December 20th. According to Boeing, the 55 minute flight validated key aspects of the aircraft’s design, which features a single-engine along with a twin-tail. The jet was flown by lead T-X test pilot Steven Schmidt and chief pilot for Air Force Programmes Dan Draeger, who sat to the rear of Schmidt.
“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said.
“The aircraft met all expectations. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”
“It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission,” Draeger added. “I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training.”
Boeing and Saab are hoping that the T-X is selected to replace the Air Force’s ageing Northrop T-38, in service since the 1960s and still used to train fighter pilots around the world. A new training craft is needed to support the fifth generation of fighter jets, such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
The contract could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars to Boeing and Saab, with a minimum of 350 new aircraft due to be ordered, and possibilities for contracts with other parties beyond the Air Force. If selected, the T-X is planned to have initial operational capability by 2024.