US Air Force looking for a new Advanced Tactical Trainer aircraft

On October 12, the US Air Force posted a request for information (RFI) for a new Advanced Tactical Trainer. The RFI concerns at least 100 aircraft.

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US Air Force looking for a new Advanced Tactical Trainer aircraft 01 T-7A Red Hawk trainer is to replace the current T-38 fleet. The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills  (Picture source: Boeing)

The purpose of this request for information is to determine the feasibility, estimated costs, and schedule to develop an advanced tactical training aircraft. This aircraft would
support three training tasks:

1) provide Initial Tactical Training

2) provide Adversary Air support,

3) serve as a tactical fighter surrogate of existing and future United States Air Force (USAF) frontline fighters.

The aircraft needs to simulate and/or replicate current and future fighter aircraft systems by providing the training environment and relevant experience to build transferable tactical skills, systems management skills, and decision making skills required for weapon system employment actions. These actions will be influenced by: environmental  nformation, avionic displays, sensor data, weapon cueing, and maneuver elements.


The following list (not all-inclusive) of Advanced Tactical Trainer initial capabilities to be considered for feasibility, estimated cost, and schedule for at least 100 aircraft and for subsequent increment lots of 50 aircraft to include:

a. Fighter type aircraft with two seats plus an option for single seat variant providing alternate options for use of rear cockpit space.

b. Desired level aircraft speed of at least .9 Indicated Mach Number (IMN) / 450-500 knots indicated airspeed at 10,000 feet (mean sea level) with aircraft structural limit min 1.2 IMN.

c. Desired service ceiling of at least 45,000 feet mean sea level.

d. Desired structural limits of at least 7.5 G with a sustained capability of 6 G at 10,000 ft MSL

e. Desired fuel / range / endurance for an Average Sortie Duration (ASD) of at least 90 minutes to include 30 minutes of tactical maneuvering.

i. Profile 1: Basic Fighter Maneuvers (BFM) mission profile (T/O – 100 mile transit @ 20k, 2 x 180º G-awareness turns, 4 x BFM sets of 720º AB turns, climbs from 5k to 15k ft between sets, RTB 100 NM with the Visual Flight Rule (VFR) fuel reserves.

ii. Profile 2: Air-to-air mission profile (T/O – 150 mile transit @ 26k, 2 x 180º Gawareness turns, 30 min tactical maneuvering at 0.9 IMN and altitudes 15-35k ft, RTB 150 NM w/ VFR fuel reserves).

iii. Profile 3: Air-to-Ground mission profile (T/O – 100 mile transit @ 26k, 2 x 180º Gawareness turns, 30 min tactical maneuvering at 450 Knots Indicated Airspeed (KIAS) and altitudes 500’-25k ft, RTB 100 NM w/ VFR fuel reserves).

f. Secure, open architecture large area displays with an additional input port to enable the capability to display additional inputs (separate from and parallel to the aircraft Operational Flight Program [OFP]), to replicate frontline aircraft displays and enable simulated displays of aircraft combat systems, simulated inputs and real or simulated weapons.

i. The programmable and portable capability will be separate from aircraft OFP, the Government desires access to a non-proprietary interface to replicate and adjust frontline aircraft displays of offensive and defensive combat systems, and weapons performance parameters.

g. A universal stick and throttle connection to enable reconfiguration of the flight controls to mimic Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) of frontline USAF Mission Design Series (MDS) fighter aircraft

i. The Government desires access to a non-proprietary interface to replicate and adjust programmable HOTAS buttons to replicate the Mission Design Series (MDS)  functions and aircraft displays.

h. Secure transmissions and reception for radio communications, navigation, and training data links via SATURN, Tactical Combat Training System, 2nd Generation pod (TCTS II) + RedNet / MIDS.

i. Secure embedded, programmable, flight cockpit, digital simulation and training capability

ii. Required communication/navigation systems: color moving map, 2 x UHF/VHF capable radios, Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS–B) in/out, VHF
Omnidirectional Radio Range/Tactical Air Navigation (VOR/TCN), Air Navigation (RNAV) 1 & 2 and be Required Navigation Performance (RNP) .3, 1, & 2 capable. 

iii. Secure actual or simulation capabilities to provide Identification compatible with AF MDS.

i. Aircraft is structured/capable/configurable to carry:

i. Combat Air Training Missile (CATM) and a TCTS II or an Air Combat
Maneuvering Instrumentation pod (ACMI).

ii. A single wing station, on each wing, is able to carry

1. an external fuel tank or

2. an Electronic Attack (EA) or Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) pod while providing power and ability to control pod from the cockpit or

3. Other, future pods/sensors via MIL-standard connections for power/cockpit

j. The ability to record secure data on classified storage devices and/or secure download of all flight data and performance information; to include, Global Positioning System (GPS) location, systems displays and switch actions, to synchronize the information with other aircraft for sortie reconstruction and debrief. (Government retains rights to all data recorded).

i. Ability to compare, assess, validate and grade the flight performance actions or responses to a set standard.

ii. Ability to store and share digital information to archive, assess training performance, measure proficiency and progress and for historic training record keeping from accession to retirement.


The Government is also interested in the feasibility, estimated cost, and schedule for additional capabilities to be considered as potential options for future Fighter Training:

a. Low Cost Helmet-Mounted Display that displays relevant flight information. Display configurable to mirror frontline MDS.

b. Aircraft generators sufficient to power wing stations, antennas and avionics stations with sufficient growth capacity to support follow-on incorporation of Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM), Infra-Red (IR) sensor, and radar or threat emulator capabilities.

c. Automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto-GCAS).

d. Autopilot with altitude and heading hold, option to auto-sequence to steer points

e. Precision Landing Mode capability. f. An ejection seat capability for zero altitude, zero airspeed (Zero-Zero Ejection seat)

g. Aircraft capable of rolling over Barrier Arresting Kit (BAK-12) field arresting gear during takeoff and landing roll.

h. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option to provide rear cockpit plus pre-configured shell to add portable avionics or fuel and/or engineering analysis and cost to remove rear crew station and replace with permanent additional fuel/avionics bay volume.

i. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option for a universal engine bay design to enable form/fit/function to use engines from multiple vendors.

j. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option for an Air-to-Air Refuel capability from a boom receptacle.

k. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option for Infrared Search and Track (IRST) or datalink cued Infra-red sensor– Internal (for development of future Adversary Variant)

l. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option for radar or data-link cued threat emulator

m. Digital Engineering analysis for cost of option for additional space available for avionic systems and antennas to provide training Electronic Attack (for development of future Adversary Variant)

n. Smart Chair:

i. An advanced smart chair of the aircraft cockpit and HOTAS, to provide a virtual reality (VR) for ground based practice of all flying capabilities with artificial intelligence (AI) provided capability for assessment and demo capability; for use within all Squadron secure or unsecure facilities/space.

ii. An advanced VR smart chair with capability to upload previous flight performance information to review and identify points for rehearsal or assessment.