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Boeing vs. Lockheed Martin: Who Will Win the T-X Advanced Jet Trainer Competition?

Boeing believes that it has an advantage over rival Lockheed Martin in the battle to secure the U.S. Air Force’s T-X advanced jet trainer contract.

While the Lockheed’s T-50A offering is a based on an existing South Korean aircraft that was designed using technology from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Boeing’s concept is custom-designed for the U.S. Air Force’s specific requirements. Because the Boeing T-X was designed specifically for the U.S. Air Force, the company believes it has an edge in the competition.

“I believe what we have is a tailor-made, tailored-designed airplane for the requirement to customers that's for T-X,” Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said at the Sanford C. Bernstein’s Strategic Decision Brokers Conference on June 1.  

“We started with the requirement, a clean sheet design, designed an airplane with new digital technology that is designed for future production and support.”

Moreover, Muilenburg said that he believes that Boeing’s entrant will ultimately cost less than rival aircraft such as the T-50A and the Leonardo T-100.

“I believe that's ultimately going to be a lower cost solution for our customer both in terms of operating cost and delivery,” Muilenburg said. “Our confidence in that is based on the fact that we built two airplanes to that system, they are flying.”

Boeing has built and flown two prototype T-X aircraft—which has given the company confidence that its design and manufacturing plans are sound.

“They performed exceptionally well,” Muilenburg said.

“That's part of the proposal that we have just presented to the Air Force. So that gives us very strong confidence that we can build the airplane and do it affordably.”

Muilenburg asserts that while winning the T-X competition is important, it is not crucial for the company

“Our future in our defense business is not dependent on any one program,” Muilenburg said.

“The T-X is important. We are putting forward a very strong bid. I think it's a great value solution for our customers. And we will see how the competition plays out.”

Muilenburg is probably correct in his assessment. In previous years, both the company’s F-15 and F/A-18 lines were scheduled to shutdown. However, both programs have received a new lease on life in the last couple of years. Thus, Boeing likely has enough work to survive until the Navy and the Air Force launch tenders for their next-generation fighter programs.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.

Image: Lockheed Martin.