The entrant into a Air Force competition to be the next training jet for fighter pilots has made its first flight over Greenville.
Lockheed Martin completed the first flight operations of the T-50A on Saturday.
“Flight operations are in full swing at the Greenville facility,” said Rob Fuller, communications senior manager for Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Ga.
The aircraft’s final assembly and check-out will be at the company’s Greenville Operations facility located at the S.C. Technology and Aviation Center.
Fuller said there will be more flights of the T-50A over Greenville, as they are needed for the overall program.
“It’s more as flight tests demand,” Fuller said. “As the RFP process is completed toward the end of the year, there are certain test points that need to be done to validate the data.”
Lockheed Martin will use the T-50A — an iteration of the T-50 trainer produced in partnership with Korea Aerospace Industries — in the Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition. The Air Force is looking to replace its aging fleet of T-38 Talon trainers that have been in operation since 1961. Requests for proposal are expected for the program by the end of the year with a potential timeline of award announcement sometime in late 2017.
The Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace partnership will be competing with teams such as Raytheon/Alenia Aermacchi, Boeing/Saab and Northrup Grumman/BAE Systems. Lockheed Martin officials have tabbed their project ready the day a contract is awarded. Additionally, officials said the T-50A has already logged flight hours compared to others in the competition that will be “clean-sheet” designs — or aircraft that have not been developed physically, only on paper.
“I think we are in great shape,” Fuller said. “We have been working hard and since our first flight in Korea, we are bringing on-board our ground-based training and now we are looking to make everything fully operational.”