First T-7 aircraft emulating the F-22 and F-35 is expected in USAF

Boeing is set to deliver the inaugural T-7A Red Hawk to the U.S. Air Force next Tuesday. This comes amid several hindrances from safety to software issues. 

T-7A Red Hawk performs like a fighter and is an F-16 challenger
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Delivery schedules and testing for the aircraft were discussed at the Air, Space, and Cyber conference held by the Air and Space Forces Association in National Harbor, Maryland. 

The U.S. Air Force has ordered 351 T-7s to replace their current fleet of 504 aging T-38 Talon trainers. The T-7s are designed to help train pilots on advanced jets like the F-22 and F-35.

T-7’s issues

Significant issues with the T-7’s escape system and flight control software have caused delays in the program. In April, the Air Force had to adjust their schedule and face delays in their mission. Although the goal was to have the T-7 ready by 2024, recent updates suggest it might not be ready until spring 2027. 

During a presentation on Tuesday, Col. Kirt Cassell, who leads the service’s T-7A division, mentioned that the Pentagon is finalizing paperwork to officially approve the Air Force’s trainer, APT 2. Interestingly, this is the model the Air Force used for its first test flight in June.

T-7A Red Hawk performs like a fighter and is an F-16 challenger
Photo credit: Boeing/Saab

Training begins

Boeing is preparing for the arrival of Air Force’s T-7 test pilots at its St. Louis, Missouri facility. The pilots will familiarize themselves with the aircraft before beginning initial flight tests. The initial tests will evaluate the aircraft’s performance and handling capabilities. Boeing plans to release the next pair of trainers in October for additional testing at Air Force bases. 

Work on the fourth and fifth T-7s is almost complete, with delivery expected by the end of 2023 as stated by Evelyn Moore, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for the aircraft, and Cassell. These aircraft will help the program progress from the engineering and manufacturing development phase to the initial operational test phase. 

The first couple of T-7s will be sent to Edwards Air Force Base in California for performance and handling tests. These tests will assess aerodynamic “flutter” and flight load-bearing capacity. The third T-7 is set to go to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for climate testing at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory. The plane will undergo six weeks of testing in diverse temperature and weather conditions to verify its operational capabilities.

T-7A Red Hawk performs like a fighter and is an F-16 challenger
Photo credit: Boeing

First flight

The T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft’s first flight test was conducted by the US Air Force on June 28, as reported by The test was carried out at Boeing’s St. Louis base.  

The aircraft 21-7005, the first of five supplied by Boeing for the T-7A program, is a collaboration between Boeing and Saab. This test flight represents the beginning of the T-7’s technical and manufacturing development phase. It builds on previous successful ground taxi tests of the T-7A. 

Boeing, SAAB: Digitally designed T-7 Red Hawk is in honor of Tuskegee Airmen
Photo: Boeing

The new Red Hawk is expected to replace the older T-38 Talon jet trainers currently used by the US Air Force, due to the maintenance and operational issues associated with aging aircraft.

It performs like a fighter

Boeing recently provided updates on the T-7A or Red Hawk jet project. Major figures, including Maj. Bryce Turner of the T-7 Integrated Test Force and Steve Schmidt, Boeing T-7’s chief test pilot, executed a 63-minute test flight. The jet exhibited excellent performance and stability. 

Digital design played a crucial part in speeding up the T-7A development process. This approach allowed the project to proceed from concept to test flight in just 36 months. The T-7A Red Hawk stands out as an example of the benefits of using digital engineering and design in the aerospace industry. 

Boeing, SAAB: Digitally designed T-7 Red Hawk is in honor of Tuskegee Airmen
Photo: Boeing

The use of digital design techniques led to an 80% reduction in assembly time and improved efficiency. This reduction enables quicker production cycles and higher aircraft output. The Red Hawk’s development, from concept to first flight, took less than three years. This timeline surpasses those of similar vehicles, showcasing the effectiveness of innovative engineering.


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