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​Lockheed Martin's entrant for the Air Force's next-generation fighter trainer the T-50A begins flight operations in Greenville, S.C., on Dec. 1, 2016. Lockheed Martin photo.

​Lockheed Martin’s entrant for the T-X program has been flying regularly around its new facility in South Carolina as the company tries to press the T-50A as a reliable aircraft for future Air Force training. The newest of the two T-50As built by Lockheed, the T-X2, has flown eight sorties for about eight flight hours of total flying time at a range near Greenville, S.C., test pilot Mark Ward said Tuesday. These include a basic functional check flight, and a series of sorties meant to show off the plane to visitors and to check out a training range at the Snowbird military operations area. Lockheed’s entry is based on the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle, and first flew in South Carolina last month. Lockheed has said the T-50 will have 80 percent commonality with the F-16’s design, and 70 percent commonality of parts. Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon are all in the running to build the next trainer for the Air Force, with a contract award expected next year and initial operating capability expected in 2024. The Air Force wants 350 of the aircraft and a high-fidelity simulator system, all bought and operated for $1 billion per year over 20 years.