WASHINGTON: While Northrop Grumman isn’t doing much at the upcoming Farnborough Air Show — at least publicly — they certainly shook things up today with their announcement that they are swapping places with BAE Systems to take the lead role in the competition for the $11 billion, 350-plane T-X trainer program.
While the BAE-Northrop team is still offering BAE’s Hawk jet, being the lead or prime contractor on a program is where the real money lies, so this move highlights Northrop’s political and manufacturing power.
Here’s the official word:
“The decision to realign was reached mutually by all team members to better leverage Northrop Grumman’s domestic development and production capabilities, which were realized through the company’s establishment and investment in its Centers of Excellence last year. The Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, L-3 and Rolls-Royce team is committed to providing the Hawk as the most capable and affordable training solution for the Air Force.”
There are five centers, including their Manned Aircraft Design Center at Florida’s Melbourne International Airport and the Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence on the other coast of Florida in St. Augustine. Much of the work on the T-X will presumably be done at these two new locations. The centers have been a key push by Northrop CEO Wes Bush to make the company more nimble and cost effective. The announcement of the centers two years ago included a number of plant closings.
BAE has supplied Hawk trainers to Britain, Canada, and Australia — our three closest allies — and is presumed to be the front-runner for the US Air Force’s $11 billion prize.
But BAE is not alone in this competition. Lockheed Martin and the South Korean maker of the T-50 have teamed up to offer the South Korean trainer. General Dynamics is partnering with the Italian company Alenia Aermacchi and will offer the Italian M-346, which will be made in the US. And Boeing and SAAB announced last December that they would offer a new aircraft for the competition.
The plane, after years of wandering in the desert, finally found a home in the 2015 budget submission with $600 million allocated across the Future Years Defense Plan and starting in fiscal year 2017.