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T-54A Multi-Engine Training System (METS): Textron’s Breakthrough Aircraft for US Navy’s Advanced Training Program

Textron Aviation plans to deliver the T-54A Multi-Engine Training System (METS) aircraft to the US Navy in early 2024. Textron views the program as low-risk because it constructed and demonstrated an aircraft resembling the final product during the contract proposal process. According to Janes, an influential defense industry news site, the T-54A will integrate various commercial adaptations into Textron’s existing Beechcraft King Air 260 commercial turboprop. These adaptations include an angle of attack indicator, a digital audio control system for pilot-observer communication, extra seating for VIPs, and a real-time monitoring system for maintenance crews.

On January 25, 2023, the US Navy announced that it had awarded Textron Aviation a firm-fixed-price contract to develop the T-54A multi-engine training system (METS) aircraft. The T-54A, equipped with a pressurized cockpit featuring side-by-side seating and a jump seat, will replace the T-44 Pegasus aircraft. The sundown of the T-44C will commence six months after the initial delivery of the METS. The contract’s total value, including base and optional components, amounts to $677.2 million for the procurement of up to 64 aircraft. It also encompasses support equipment, spare parts, and initial training. Deliveries of the aircraft are scheduled from calendar year 2024 to 2026.

This contract award will provide new aircraft for training Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard pilots in flying non-centerline thrust aircraft such as the V-22 Osprey, E-2D Hawkeye, C-130 Hercules, and P-8 Poseidon. The T-54A will offer advanced instrument and asymmetric engine handling training to student naval aviators selected for multi-engine fleet communities. The base contract, amounting to $113.1 million, covers 10 aircraft.

The METS program is overseen by PMA-273 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. PMA-273 is responsible for developing and supervising diverse and carrier-capable naval flight training systems, enabling student pilots and undergraduate military flight officers to acquire mission-critical aviation skills required for present and future missions of the US Navy.

The Beechcraft King Air, produced by Beechcraft (a Textron Aviation brand), is a series of American utility aircraft. It comprises various twin-turboprop models categorized into two families. The King Airs, known as the Model 90 and 100 series developed in the 1960s, and the later T-tail Super King Airs, represented by the Model 200 and 300 series. The US military has employed King Air 90s in different roles, primarily for VIP and liaison transport, with designations such as the VC-6A, the T-44 Pegasus, and the U-21 Ute. The King Air 260 METS aircraft will be delivered from Textron Aviation’s King Air production line in Wichita, Kansas, fully compliant and configured for METS missions.

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