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​T-X trainers will replace the Air Force's legacy T-38s like this one shown here at Sheppard AFB, Texas, Aug. 21, 2013. Air Force photo by Danny Webb

Although the Air Force has hinted it would only look at proven, off-the-shelf trainers for its upcoming T-X competition, a clean-sheet design hasn't been ruled out, said Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the Air Force's military deputy for acquisition, on Wednesday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Pawlikowski said she wants to “keep the trade space completely open” and will consider a new design if it offers the optimum combination of performance and cost. She said it’s likely that any off-the-shelf design would require “some development work” to optimize it for the Air Force's use, so the cost difference may not be as large as one might expect, but a new design would also have to be available in the needed timeframe. Just as important will be how well the aircraft can transition pilots to fifth generation combat aircraft like the F-22 and F-35, and how much of the syllabus can be accomplished with an associated simulator, said Pawlikowski. The Air Force's acquisition shop is working with Air Education and Training Command "on the cost/capability curves" and "we are still tweaking the requirements," she added.