Boeing and the US Air Force (USAF) completed the inaugural flight of the service’s first T-7A Red Hawk on Jun. 28, 2023, marking the start of the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the program.
During the 1 hour and 3 minute flight, USAF Maj. 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 aircraft is one of five EMD aircraft that will be delivered to the Air Force Air Education and Training Command for further testing.
“The stable performance of the aircraft and its advanced cockpit and systems are game changers for U.S. Air Force student pilots and instructors alike,” said Turner, whose grandfather and father were both USAF fighter pilots, in a Boeing news release. “We’ve come a long way in training since my family role models flew.”
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.
The T-7A will 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.
“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,” said Evelyn Moore, vice president and program manager, Boeing T-7 Programs. “We remain focused on engineering ways to better prepare warfighters for changing mission demands and emerging threats.”
“This is an exciting time for the entire team,” said Col. Kirt Cassell, USAF T-7A Red Hawk program manager. “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% and reduced assembly hours by 80%.
Designed using a digital thread, the T-7A aligns with the US Air Force’s Digital Century Series strategy by enabling the integration of new concepts and capabilities faster and more affordably through virtual testing. Then-Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett announced in September 2020 that Boeing’s Red Hawk trainer jet would be the first plane to earn an “e” designation, as the eT-7A, signifying it was designed and tested using digital engineering. The advanced trainer will provide future fighter and bomber pilots with fundamental and tactical training for 5th generation aircraft.
In 2018, the Air Force awarded Boeing a $9.2 billion contract for 351 T-7A advanced trainers, 46 simulators and support. The T-7A will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 aircraft.
Photo credit: Boeing
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