By Jamie Freed
AVALON, Australia (Reuters) – Boeing Co is in talks with potential customers globally, including the Royal Australian Air Force, about ordering the new T-X training jet selected by the U.S. Air Force for a $9.2 billion contract in September, an executive said on Tuesday.
“We really do see a fit and need for this across fleets all over the world,” Thom Breckenridge, Boeing Vice President of International Sales, Strike Surveillance & Mobility, told reporters at the Australian International Airshow. “We have been in discussions with several customers about the T-X globally.”
Australia, a major Boeing customer, is among the potential buyers of the T-X as it looks to replace its 33 BAE Systems PLC Hawk trainers within the next 10 to 15 years, Breckenridge said, declining to name other countries that were interested.
He said Australia had not yet issued a request for proposal but initial discussions about the T-X had been held with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
“We are very eager to understand RAAF’s needs and talk to them about why we see the benefits of T-X,” Breckenridge said.
RAAF did not respond immediately to a request for comment. Alongside its 2016 Defence White Paper, Australia listed a future project called the “lead-in fighter training system” with a programme time frame of 2022-2033 and an investment value of A$4 billion ($2.86 billion) to A$5 billion.
Boeing, in partnership with Sweden’s Saab AB, in September beat out Lockheed Martin Corp and Italy’s Leonardo SpA for the U.S. Air Force contract, which includes an initial 351 jets and 46 simulators.
The low price of the Boeing fixed-price contract surprised analysts, but CEO Dennis Muilenburg in October said on an earnings call that the T-X was expected to be a programme with production and services opportunities for much of this century. It could be modified to be a light attack fighter in the future, he said.
Breckenridge said the development of a clean-sheet design with easy access for maintenance had allowed for a “new and disruptive” offering at an attractive price point.
The U.S. Air Force expects the first T-X jets to have initial operational capability by 2024 with the programme to reach full operational capability in 2034, replacing an ageing fleet of T-38 planes which are nearly 50 years old.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Christopher Cushing)