The aircraft will be Lockheed Martin’s entry into the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Pilot Training competition. The company’s Greenville location was selected to be the T-50A final checkout and assembly location in February.
“We now have two aircraft in flight test proving our upgrade, and we’re nearing completion of our assembly and training operations center in Greenville, South Carolina,” said Doug Batista, Lockheed Martin T-50A program manager, in a statement from Lockheed Martin. “We’re on track to provide the U.S. Air Force with a production line and training capability on day one of contract award.”
The company’s Greenville operations site is located at the S.C. Technology and Aviation Center and includes 13 hangars and 1.2 million square feet of covered space and an 8,000-foot runway. Lockheed Martin has begun the conversion of Hangar 11, a former military hanger built in 1958, to house the production of the T-50A.
The conversion includes a new interior roof, construction of office space and a fresh coat of paint on the floor. The intent, contract award pending, is to be able to produce four T-50As per month in Greenville.
“We are finishing the proposed hangar and plan to have an inauguration on Aug. 16,” said Leslie Farmer, communications lead for Lockheed Martin Greenville Operations. “We will be ready to receive and complete the aircraft if the contract is awarded.”
The competition to replace the T-38 as the Air Force’s new training aircraft is valued at between $10 billion and $11 billion. The T-38 is in its fifth decade of use. The T-50A is a modified version of the T-50 which was originally produced for Korea Aerospace Industries. The unmodified version has nearly 100,000 flight hours spread among the 100 models in operation.
“We expect to have flight operations complete by November at the Greenville facility,” Farmer said. “Everything we are doing for preparation is to show the Air Force that we are ready and that this is a capable program.
“This is just a continuation of the T-50 aircraft with several modifications. It is a proven aircraft with a proven performance.”
The initial contract for the U.S. Air Force will be for an estimated 350 of the new trainers. However, factoring in the potential for international sales of the jet, that number could climb to between 500 and 1,000. The focus, if awarded the contract, will be on the initial order from the Air Force and, after that, the government can determine the direction with any international sales.
If Lockheed Martin is awarded the contract, officials said the Greenville Operations facility will expand its workforce from the 600 already employed to nearly 800 between 2019 and 2022.
The venture between Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace is one of four expected to submit a bid for the project. The others are Boeing Co. and Saab; Northrup Grumman, the manufacturer of the T-38, and BAE Systems; and the Textron AirLand Scorpion, a jet similar to Lockheed Martin’s that’s already in production.
Farmer said the timeline for the project is the Air Force to issue its request for proposal in December with those due back to the military in February 2017 and the Department of Defense making a decision by the end of 2017 or early 2018.
Lockheed Martin said it completed the initial test flight of its first T50A on June 2.