The Air Force has been flying fifth generation advanced fighter jets for 11 years now, but believe it or not, it’s still training pilots for planes like the F-35 and F-22 with aircraft designed more than a half century ago.
Plans are in the works to build a new advanced fighter jet trainer, and this month, Lockheed Martin flew its candidate for the first time.
It’s called the T-50A.
If Lockheed has its way, the T-50A will replace Northrop’s T-38 Talon, which first flew in 1959 — when Dwight Eisenhower was President and “Twilight Zone” was a top TV show.
The premise is this: If you’re going to put a pilot in a $100 million jet with high-performance flight characteristics and super sophisticated targeting displays and data links, why not train the pilot in something similar?
The T-50A will offer an advanced fifth-generation cockpit and in-flight refueling capability, Lockheed said.
But Lockheed has some competition.
Northrop Grumman and a partnership between Boeing Phantom Works and Saab also plan to submit aircraft candidates for the $12 billion Air Force contract.
Their proposals would build the planes from all-new designs, while the T-50A is based on analready existing jet used by South Korea.
Boeing hasn’t revealed much about its design — which reportedly is expected to make its first flight this year. An early artist’s rendering showed a plane with a “long nose and forward cockpit,” according to Flightglobal.