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An inside look at Lockheed Martin's T-50A fighter jet

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries, has entered its T-50A fighter jet into the U.S. Air Force's Advanced Pilot Training competition.

Commonly known as the T-X Trainer competition, the contest pits major defense companies against one other in a battle for a $16 billion government contract.

CNBC got inside access to the T-50A and took it to the skies. Here's a look.

Defense contract showdown

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

The competition represents one of the biggest defense contracts of the decade — a $16.3 billion program for 350 jet trainers. It's expected to be awarded this year.

Necessary rebuild

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

These types of programs will be a big part of President Donald Trump's plans to "rebuild" the military. The winner of the T-X trainer competition will see their fighter jets replace the T-38 Talons that have flown since the 1960s.

A jet reborn

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed's T-50A is an upgraded version of the T-50 Golden Eagle, which currently trains pilots in South Korea and other countries. If it wins the contract, the company says it could begin production immediately.

Ahead of schedule

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

Mike Griswold, Lockheed Martin's head of T-50A business development, says the company can deliver the aircraft by 2022 — at least two years before the Air Force's schedule. It has already done the basic design, development and test work.

The competition

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

But Lockheed isn't alone. While it's unclear exactly how many companies are submitting proposals, Boeing and Saab, along with Italian contractor Leonardo and its subsidiary DRS Technologies, are in the running. Boeing built a brand new plane just for this contract, spending an estimated $1 billion to $3 billion, according to analysts. Leonardo's T-100 already trains F-35 pilots in Israel and Italy.

What's ahead

Lockheed Martin, along with Korea Aerospace Industries is proposing the T-50A for the Air Force's T-X Trainer competition.
Source: Lockheed Martin

For now, contenders are busy racking up flight hours in a faceoff that could, over the coming months, prove to be a wild ride.