The Air Force said Friday it is canceling a $3.5-billion program for new T-46 jet trainers for student pilots and will explore presumably cheaper options such as upgrading its aging fleet of T-37 planes.
The T-46 had performed well in test flights, but "schedule delays and manufacturing problems, coupled with lack of affordability, made this decision necessary," the service said in a statement.
The Air Force said Fairchild Republic Co. will be expected to complete its initial contract for 10 T-46 trainers and two test planes, but will not receive a contract for the next batch of 22 planes. The service said it had made no decision on where it would base or how it would use the T-46s it will receive.
The decision comes as a major blow to the Farmingdale, N.Y., company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fairchild Industries Inc. Fairchild Republic employs about 3,500 workers at its Long Island plant.
Fairchild Industries had said it might have to close the Republic plant if the T-46 were scrapped.
William Fulwider, director of public relations at Fairchild Industries in Chantilly, Va., said the company believes there is "strong support in Congress for continuing the program," but it would "carefully assess the impact of this decision . . . before making any further statement."
The Air Force said it had made no decision on what would replace the T-46, although it acknowledged one option was to upgrade the existing fleet of T-37s built by the Cessna Corp. of Wichita, Kan., home state of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
The decision announced Friday had been expected because the Reagan Administration did not request any money for the T-46 in its fiscal 1987 budget.