First Air Force Pilot Flies T-7A Red Hawk

The T-7A training jet for fighter and bomber pilots is set to replace the 1960s-era T-38 trainer.

The grandson of one of the first African American jet pilots became the first Air Force test pilot to fly the service’s new T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer.

The jet, with its iconic red-tail livery, honors the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first Black aviation unit to serve in the U.S. military. 

Maj. Bryce “Triple” Turner. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

Maj. Bryce Turner, a test pilot from the 416th Flight Test Squadron based at Edwards Air Force Base, California, took off on the historic flight from the Boeing aircraft delivery center in St. Louis Wednesday shortly before noon, according to the Air Force.

“As a third-generation Air Force fighter pilot, Turner follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Alexander Parker Turner, one of the first African American jet pilots in 1956, and his father, Col. (Ret.) Bryan Turner, the first African American F-22 pilot,” the Air Force said. “His callsign, affectionately known as ‘Triple’, reflects these three generations of airmen.”

The T-7A was designed to train Air Force fighter and bomber pilots and replace the 1960s-era T-38 trainer.

The first T-7A rolled off the assembly line for ground and flight testing in St. Louis last year,  marking 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.

The Red Hawk is the first Air Force aircraft to be wholly designed digitally, which trimmed development to 36 months, the service said.

The digital strategy increased first-time engineering quality by 75 percent and reduced assembly hours by 80 percent, according to Boeing.


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