The U.S. Air Force’s first T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer jet that will replace its aging fleet of T-38C Talon trainers has officially rolled off the assembly line.
Boeing and Saab unveiled the sleek new aircraft Thursday at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is slated to remain while it undergoes ground and flight testing before being delivered to the service.
The aircraft’s unveiling marks the first of 351 aircraft to be built by Boeing and Saab under a $9.2 billion contract that was awarded in 2018. The Red Hawk is set to replace the Air Force’s current fleet of more than 500 T-38s, which has been used to prepare fighter and bomber pilots since 1961.
Tails of red will train overhead❗️— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) April 28, 2022
The first “Red Tail” #T7A Red Hawk coming out of production is making its debut. Carrying tails of red to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, it’ll be the first advanced trainer jet delivered to the @USAirForce. pic.twitter.com/GQe2xFfuPk
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.
The trainers feature an iconic red-tail livery honoring the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American aviation unit to serve in the U.S. military. The aircraft’s name—Red Hawk—is also an homage to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron.
“The Tuskegee Airmen are one of the most celebrated units in our Air Force history, and the T-7A honors the bravery and skill of these trailblazers,” Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., chief of staff of the Air Force, said in a statement. “Like the Airmen they were named and painted to pay homage to, the T-7A Red Hawks break down the barriers of flight. These digitally engineered aircraft will make it possible for a diverse cross section of future fighter and bomber pilots to be trained, and provide an advanced training system and capabilities that will meet the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s national security environment.”
The Red Hawk is the first Air Force aircraft to be wholly designed digitally, which trimmed development to 36 months, the service said.
Digital design and development enabled “the integration of new concepts and capabilities faster and more affordably through virtual testing,” Boeing said.
“The T-7 was designed through model-based systems engineering and 3D tools,” said Col. Kirt Cassell, T-7 program manager. “This enabled quicker assembly and improved quality to deliver a safe and effective training system for Air Education and Training Command.”
The digital strategy increased first-time engineering quality by 75 percent and reduced assembly hours by 80 percent, according to Boeing.
The T-7A program is based at Boeing’s St. Louis facility and production of the aft fuselage section of the aircraft will soon begin at Saab’s new facility in West Lafayette, Indiana.