Boeing and the United States Air Force have completed the inaugural flight of the service’s first T-7A Red Hawk, marking the start of the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the program.
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As part of the test flight which lasted a little over an hour, US Air Force Major Bryce Turner, 416th Test Squadron, and Steve Schmidt, Boeing T-7 chief test pilot, validated key aspects of the aircraft and demonstrated the power and agility of the Air Force’s first advanced trainer to be digitally designed, built, and tested.
The T-7A’s vibrant red tails are a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American US military aviators who flew red-tailed fighters during World War II.
Major Turner said, “The stable performance of the aircraft and its advanced cockpit and systems are game changers for US Air Force student pilots and instructors alike. We’ve come a long way in training since my family role models flew.”
The T-7A is designed to enhance warfighter training through:
- Improved pilot readiness: The all-new advanced pilot training system uses high resolution ground-based training systems and simulators to deliver robust and realistic integrated live, virtual, and constructive training capabilities.
- Safety: Model-based engineering enabled testing throughout the aircraft’s design and build to help ensure safety before the first flight. The T-7A’s cockpit egress system is the safest of any trainer.
- Flexibility for any mission: With open architecture software and digital fly-by-wire controls, the T-7A supports training for a wide variety of fighter and bomber pilots and can evolve as technologies, threats, and training needs change.
Evelyn Moore, vice-president and program manager, Boeing T-7 Programs, said, “This first flight with the Air Force represents our team’s commitment to delivering a new level of safety and training for fighter and bomber pilots. We remain focused on engineering ways to better prepare warfighters for changing mission demands and emerging threats.”
Colonel Kirt Cassell, US Air Force T-7A Red Hawk program manager, reinforced the importance of this program and its rapid delivery, saying, “This is an exciting time for the entire team. The Red Hawk’s digital design integrating advanced training capabilities will drastically improve pilot training for the next generation of fighter and bomber pilots.”
The T-7A moved from firm concept to flight testing in 36 months. A combination of model-based engineering, 3D design, and advanced manufacturing increased first-time quality by 75 per cent and reduced assembly hours by 80 per cent.
In 2018, the Air Force awarded Boeing a US$9.2 billion contract for 351 T-7A advanced trainers, 46 simulators, and support. The T-7A will replace the Air Force’s ageing T-38 aircraft.