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Raytheon won’t try to build jet; project was to be in Meridian

Raytheon Co. said Wednesday that it and a partner are backing out of competition to build a U.S. Air Force training jet.
The announcement came months after Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon and an Italian company, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, said they intended to build 350 of the T-100 jets at an assembly plant near Meridian.

Gov. Phil Bryant and other Mississippi officials had said the project could create 450 jobs.

Raytheon and Leonardo issued a joint statement saying the companies would not pursue contracts for what the Air Force calls the T-X trainer project.

“In February 2016, Raytheon and Leonardo announced their intent to team on the T-X pursuit. While we remain confident that the T-100 is a strong solution, our companies were unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the U.S. Air Force,” Raytheon spokesman B.J. Boling said in the statement Wednesday.

Bryant told The Clarion-Ledger (http://on.thec-l.com/2ktVIiZ ) the companies’ decision was based on “circumstances beyond the state’s control.” He had touted the project in his Jan. 25 State of the State speech.

The Air Force released requirements for the T-X trainer project last March, and Raytheon announced in October that it and Leonardo would manufacture the jets in eastern Mississippi if they were chosen for the contract.

In December, Raytheon held a ceremony in Meridian to celebrate its intention to build jets there. Speakers included Raytheon President of Space and Airborne Systems Rick Yuse, Bryant and Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

However, in October, a defense industry analyst with the Teal Group in suburban Washington, D.C., Richard Aboulafia, told The Meridian Star (http://bit.ly/2k4AOdE ) that Raytheon’s proposal to build the system in Mississippi was a longshot because Raytheon did not design its own planes.

“Raytheon’s bid has the weakest chance of winning the bid,” Aboulafia said. “Raytheon just doesn’t have the capability of designing its own planes and that’s why they’ve partnered with Leonardo.”

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