Latest U.S. Air Force Trainer Honors Tuskegee Airmen

Boeing’s T-X emerges as the red-tailed T-7A Red Hawk.

Air Force T-7A Red Hawk
The red-tailed paint scheme of the T-7A Red Hawk was chosen to imitate airplanes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.Boeing

U.S. Air Force top gun candidates will soon have a new toy to play with, an airplane that was previously simply named T-X. Boeing won the contract about a year ago and the U.S. Air Force recently announced the official name and livery of the striking new trainer. The T-7A Red Hawk will be delivered with a sleek gray camouflage scheme topped off with a bright red twin-tail.

If the red-tailed scheme gives you some sort of déjà vu, it should. Red tails were famously flown by the all African American pilot group in World War II–the Tuskegee Airmen. To honor these exceptional aviators, the U.S. Air Force chose the red tail livery for the T-7A Red Hawk. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron,” said acting secretary of the Air Force, Matthew Donovan.

The T-7A will replace the Air Force’s fleet of T-38C Talons, which is now more than half a century old, to help pilots transition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. “The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff, General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”

The T-7A was designed, developed and flight tested by Boeing and SAAB. The airplane was specifically designed for high-G, high angle-of-attack, and night operations, as well as ease of maintenance. While built around a single GE F404 turbofan engine, the airplane generates about three times as much thrust as the twin-engine T-38C.

Boeing’s $9.2 billion contract with the U.S. Air Force includes 351 T-7A airplanes, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment. The first T-7A delivery is expected to go to the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in 2023.