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Boeing and Saab will announce “in weeks rather than months” that they will team up to offer the JAS 39 Gripen for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X future trainer requirement, according to sources familiar with the deal. Saab is apparently confident that the two companies will be able to undercut the cost of the closest rival contender, the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50.
Other details of the deal are being closely held. The T-X program, aimed at acquiring some 350 trainers to replace the Northrop Grumman T-38, has been on hold due to budget cuts but is expected to restart in the 2015 budget.
The move is a major change to the line-up for the competition, for which Northrop Grumman has teamed with BAE Systems, offering the Hawk, and Alenia has joined forces with General Dynamics to promote the M-346.
Until now, Boeing had stated its intention to offer an all-new aircraft. However, a link with Saab became a possibility when the Swedish government launched development of the new JAS 39E version at the beginning of this year. Although the Swedish plan is formally contingent on Switzerland confirming its order for the fighter (in a referendum that is expected early next year), the Swiss deal has continued to pass milestones on the way to that decision. The JAS 39E is due to enter service in 2018.