Meridian may become the new home for an advanced aircraft training program called the T-100. Local, state, and federal elected officials made the announcement yesterday at Key Field.
“We’re looking at manufacturing the training of the future for the next 50 to 60 years for the Air Force. The T-100 is going to be the most advanced, integrative system to train pilots for the United States Air Force in the world,” said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
The program will include aircraft and technology that simulates real combat.
“It looks like you’re either flying in formation or flying against enemy aircraft or any threat that the air force would like to simulate. It’s really a very effective way of teaching pilots what they will need to know when they move up being actual fighters themselves,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.
Raytheon, who developed the program, and elected officials will spend the next year working through proposals to get the T-100 to Meridian. The Air Force will make the final decision come 2018.
The T-100 is expected to be more than just an air pilot training program, but a pathway towards economic development.
“You’ll see clusters of new engineering going on here. Our research universities are involved in this. This is a disruptive technology and opportunity for Mississippi in a very good way,” said Bryant.
Meridian is being considered as the housing ground for the T-100 due to Raytheon’s current radar manufacturing in Forest. Meridian’s workforce capacity and history in aviation are playing a part as well.
“The history of Key Field is still to this day the longest endurance aircraft flight back in the 1930s by the Keys brothers. They flew for 27 straight days without landing. They did the first midair refueling. They actually repaired the engine while in flight. So, Meridian has a history of innovation, and we’re looking to capitalize on that spirit of innovation,” said Yuse.