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Lockheed shows off T-50A for Air Force competition

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., flies in Lockheed Martin’s T-50A trainer simulator during an event at the Greenville facility. (Video by Matthew Clark)

By Matthew Clark
mclark@scbiznews.com
Published Feb. 29, 2016

As he climbed into the “cockpit,” of a Lockheed Martin Corp. T-50A training simulator, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was worried he would crash into something … or anything.

However, Graham went from takeoff to landing in the company’s offering into the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition unscathed during a media event officially unveiling the T-50A at Lockheed Martin’s Greenville Operations facility.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., takes instruction and begins to operate Lockheed Martin’s T-50A flight simulator at the company’s Greenville operations facility. (Photo by Matthew Clark)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., takes instruction and begins to operate Lockheed Martin’s T-50A flight simulator at the company’s Greenville operations facility. (Photo by Matthew Clark)
“Anybody can fly this … that can be the selling point,” Graham, a 33-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, said as he climbed out of the simulator.

The T-50A, a variation of Lockheed Martin’s joint venture with Korea Aerospace Industries, will have its final assembly and check out at the Greenville Operations facility, an announcement made by Lockheed Martin on Feb. 11. The latest event was to show the new training aircraft to the region. Rob Fuller, Lockheed Martin’s communications manager for the T-50A program, said if the company is awarded the final contract by the Air Force, it could mean more than 200 additional jobs for the Greenville facility.

“This is a very important program,” Fuller said.

The Air Force announced an initial request for proposal in 2015 for a new training aircraft to replace its 1,200 T-38 Talons manufactured by Northrup Grumman from 1961 to 1972. The Air Force said it plans to award a contract for 350 of the new trainers. Fuller said he expects the official Air Force request for proposal to come in third-quarter 2016 and a contract award sometime in 2017. The Air Force hopes to have the operational capability of the chosen aircraft planned for the end of 2023.

The Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries venture is one of four main candidates Aviation Week has reported as being in the hunt for the new contract. Among them are the joint teams of Boeing and Saab, Northrup Grumman and BAE Systems, and the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

Fuller said because two of the T-50 model have already been produced for South Korea, with approval from the Department of Defense, that could be beneficial for the Lockheed Martin venture.

“I do think there are advantages, and we have taken a lot of that risk of producing a new aircraft out of it,” Fuller said. “We’ve done that while bringing the cost down to the Air Force.”

Because the T-50A is part of a competition and no contract has been awarded, Fuller said the cost of the project, including the costs already incurred by Lockheed Martin, were not being released. He did emphasize the importance of the project, if awarded, to the Greenville facility and the potential of an additional 200 jobs.

“These are good, high-paying jobs too,” Fuller said. “We did a really long analysis, and Greenville has always had a very good history and we have had a really great relationship with the state of South Carolina.”

The new T-50A will incorporate an embedded training system, fifth-generation cockpit and refueling capabilities, all things the original T-50 did not include.

“This is a fundamental part to train our warfighters,” said Mike Griswold, the T-50 business development director for Lockheed Martin. “We believe this is the right choice and the right time for the Air Force.”

The Greenville Operations facility for Lockheed Martin was recently selected to assist with logistics and engineering services for the KC C-130 aircraft – an extended tanker version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The facility currently employs approximately 500 employees which provide full-service maintenance, repair and overhaul, as well as original equipment manufacturer sustainment services.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-235-5677, ext. 107, or @matthewclark76 on Twitter.

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