US Air Force's advanced T-7A 'Red Hawk' trainer jet completes first flight

Boeing and the US Air Force have announced that the former's planned T-7A "Red Hawk" trainer is now ready for manufacture.
Christopher McFadden
A Boeing "Red Hawk" during the test flight.
A Boeing "Red Hawk" during the test flight.


Boeing has announced that the planned T-7A trainer jet has completed its first test flight for the US Air Force.

This significant milestone now opens the doors to the engineering and manufacturing stage of the aircraft project. According to Boeing, the Air Force tested the aircraft in flight, validating key aspects of the next-generation trainer.

The "Red Hawk" flew for just over an hour

The T-7A "Red Hawk" is a state-of-the-art pilot training system specifically created for the US Air Force. It aims to equip the upcoming generation of fighter and bomber pilots with the necessary skills and knowledge for many years.

The T-7A is developed using a digital thread, which supports the US Air Force's Digital Century Series strategy, allowing for the seamless integration of new ideas and features, with virtual testing providing a faster and more cost-effective approach.

The T-7A aircraft features striking red tails as a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen - the pioneering African American military aviators who flew red-tailed fighters during the Second World War. "The 'Red Hawk' builds off the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, paying tribute to the legends of the past and the heroes of the future," says Boeing.

In a one hour and three-minute flight, US Air Force Maj. Bryce Turner from the 416th Test Squadron and Steve Schmidt, the Boeing T-7 chief test pilot, successfully validated crucial elements of the aircraft. They also showcased the Air Force's first digitally designed, built, and tested advanced trainer's strength and flexibility. This aircraft is one of five EMD models that will undergo additional testing for the Air Force Air Education and Training Command.

“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 US Air Force fighter pilots. “We’ve come a long way in training since my family role models flew,” he added.

“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, of Boeing T-7 Programs. “We remain focused on engineering ways to better prepare warfighters for changing mission demands and emerging threats,” she added.

It will not move to production

“This is an exciting time for the entire team,” said Col. Kirt Cassell, U.S. Air Force 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," he added.

In just 36 months, the T-7A has progressed from a mere concept to undergoing flight testing. Using model-based engineering, 3D design, and advanced manufacturing techniques has led to a remarkable 75 percent increase in first-time quality and an impressive 80 percent reduction in assembly hours.

Boeing was granted a contract worth $9.2 billion by the Air Force in 2018 to provide 351 T-7A advanced trainers, 46 simulators, and support. These new aircraft will replace the outdated T-38 planes currently in use by the Air Force.

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