Boeing wins $9.2 billion Air Force contract to build training jets

Crew chief Dave Long greets pilot Lt. Col. Chris Loeppke on Jan. 21 after chalking in the first T-38C Talon aircraft to arrive here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve White)

Boeing received a contract worth up to $9.2 billion to build new training jets for the U.S. Air Force, the company announced Thursday.

The aircraft giant, which submitted a bid in partnership with Swedish company Saab, outlasted Lockheed Martin and Italy’s Leonardo in the competition for the contract. The Air Force currently plans to buy 351 of the Boeing jets, which will replace an aging fleet of T-38C Talons.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of unwavering focus by the Boeing and Saab team,” Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said in a statement. “It is a direct result of our joint investment in developing a system centered on the unique requirements of the U.S. Air Force. We expect T-X to be a franchise program for much of this century.”

In addition to T-X fighter and bomber training aircraft, Boeing will supply the Air Force with simulators and associated ground equipment. The contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 jets and 120 simulators. The Air Force will start by acquiring 46 simulators.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson noted that the original cost estimate for the program was $19.7 billion.

“Through competition we will save at least $10 billion on the T-X program,” she said in a statement.

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Lockheed Martin offered to build a modified T-50 training jet, which was developed with Korea Aerospace Industries. Leonardo submitted a version of its M-346. Boeing and Saab designed a new jet for the program.

Boeing will deliver the first T-X aircraft and simulators in 2023. The Air Force expects full operational capability by 2034.

The company said more than 90 percent of its offerings under the contract will be made in America, supporting more than 17,000 jobs in 34 states.

Earlier this week, Boeing won a $2.4 million Air Force contract to build a replacement for the iconic UH-1N Iroquois helicopter, also known as a “Huey.” Boeing partnered with Leonardo to offer a military version of the Italian company’s AW139 chopper.