Friday, March 16, 2012

Another Opportunity

It looks as though things are setting up for another one of those USAF procurement debacles. You know the drill, a competition is established, proposals are submitted, comparisons are made, contract is awarded and then protracted propaganda war ensues and nothing gets to the field.

When I think of how long ago I went to pilot training, I'm astonished. It's a Satchel Paige sort of memory, "If I'd known I was going to live this long..." It was 1964 that I reported to Willy Air Patch. At the time USAF had eight pilot training bases and six of them had converted from the T-33 to the new supersonic white rocket, the T-38 Talon. It was a thrilling time.

Seventeen years later in 1981, I reported to Holloman AFB for duty in the AT-38B, a modified version of those T-38s. They were still serving reliably but they suffered incredible stress and abuse. Engines that used to cruise comfortably in the '60s at 40,000 feet and higher now could not be depended upon to run reliably very much above FL 330. Still, they were a thrilling ride.

Last December I visited Sheppard AFB where the guys headed to fighters were training in the T-38C. It's a glass-cockpit, GPS, INS, HUD, computer intensive high-tech system installed in those very same 1960's airframes. The technology is incredible, but you can only put so much lipstick on the pig before the oink peeks through. The metal is incredibly old and it can only flex so many times.

Here are the contenders for the replacement:

T-50 Golden Eagle: Supersonic ROK Proven

Lock-Mart is the major player, so look for them to have the high ground in the battle. This is like Beech-Hawker v Embraer on the COIN aircraft or Boeing v Northrop-EADS for tankers.

T-100 Italian Transonic Newer

I guess sequential numbering is no longer in play.

1 comment:

FlyingBarrister said...

Beech Hawker is the entity. I believe you mean Beech Hawker v. Embraer.

On that AFG deal, I hope we withhold the funds and let the Afghanis decide on their own dime. There is a helicopter program on the slate for Mi-17's, the number is relatively low but the cost is also over $300MM. American taxpayers would be hit for $600-700MM to provide a mere 40 aircraft more or less plus the program to put them and keep them in flight.

I'll pass.