By Ellen Mitchell, The Hill
March 30, 2017 -- Leonardo DRS will build the Air Force’s new training aircraft in Alabama, should the company win the contract later this year, the state’s governor announced Thursday.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said Leonardo DRS will build its T-100 aircraft at a new manufacturing facility at Moton Field in Tuskegee — about 40 miles east of Montgomery, the state capital — should the Air Force select the aircraft for its T-X program.
The new facility will create 750 “high-wage, full-time jobs over a 10-year ramp-up period, beginning in 2019,” and $200 million to $250 million will be spent on the project, according to Bentley’s statement.
Leonardo will lease the new facility, funded through a public-private partnership, while the T-100 is in production. Alabama workers “will perform structural sub-assembly, integration, final assembly, and conduct research and testing at the site,” the statement said.
“Building the T-100 aircraft in Alabama will create American jobs while providing the Air Force with the world’s best trainer,” Leonardo DRS CEO William Lynn said in the statement. “Future American military pilots can learn on the world’s most operationally proven, low-cost, low-risk integrated training system developed by a skilled U.S. workforce.”
Italian defense firm Leonardo previously announced it had partnered with Raytheon to offer the T-100, a version of the firm’s Aermacchi M-346.
But the partnership fell apart last autumn, dashing plans for a final assembly facility in Meridian, Miss.
Raytheon would have built the facility — estimated to create 450 jobs — to complete construction of the aircraft.
Leonardo announced in February it would partner with its U.S. subsidiary Leonardo DRS.
Leonardo’s M-346 has already been sold to Italy, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Poland.
Bentley’s announcement comes the same day as the Air Force deadline for T-X bids.
There are currently four competitors vying for the contract: Leonardo DRS, a team of Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries offering the T-50A, a Boeing-Saab team and a wildcard, Sierra Nevada Corp. paired with Turkish Aerospace Industries.