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Boeing Prepares for T-7A Red Hawk Jet Trainer Low-Rate Production Kickoff.

| Defense News Aerospace 2024

On April 29, 2024, the aerospace giant Boeing is preparing as part of the T-7A Red Hawk program to transition to initial low-rate production, with commencement slated for mid-2024. This decision enhances the program's momentum and marks a significant milestone in pilot training transformation.
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Boeing T-7A Red Hawk Jet Trainer (Picture source: US DoD)

As flight tests and system evaluations continue to validate the T-7A Red Hawk's performance and safety, Boeing is now shifting focus toward the production phase. The company is committed to ensuring that each aircraft produced meets the strictest standards in innovation, quality, and safety. As a reminder, the aircraft's flight test campaign is conducted by the T-7A Integrated Test Force, part of the Airpower Foundations Combined Test Force in conjunction with the 416th Flight Test Squadron. The Integrated Test Force represents a partnership between the USAF and T-7A manufacturer, Boeing.

Recently, the Boeing T-7A Red Hawk achieved three pivotal milestones, further solidifying its role as an advanced pilot trainer for the U.S. Air Force. These milestones include rigorous climate chamber testing at Eglin Air Force Base, aimed at evaluating the aircraft's performance in extreme environmental conditions ranging from -25°F to 110°F. This test scrutinized the operation of various systems, including propulsion, hydraulic, fuel, electrical, secondary power, environmental control, and overall operations. Additionally, a dynamic sled test at Holloman Air Force Base focused on design enhancements of the ACES 5 ejection seat and canopy fracturing system to mitigate injury risks during emergency evacuations. Lastly, the development of new software flight control law enabled the aircraft to complete more than ten flights, reaching a 25-degree angle of attack and demonstrating precise tracking at high angles of attack, crucial for pilot training. These tests signify significant progress in the T-7A Red Hawk program's development, affirming its potential to revolutionize pilot training.

The T-7 Red Hawk made its maiden flight on December 20, 2016. On September 27, 2018, it secured a contract from the USAF to supply at least 351 training aircraft. The aircraft was officially christened Red Hawk on September 16, 2019. As of September 2023, two Boeing-owned prototypes have completed approximately 500 test flights.

Designed to simulate the flight experience of fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22 and F-35, the T-7 Red Hawk features a glass cockpit, stepped seating, and integrated training features. The aircraft is expected to play a pivotal role in the USAF's pilot training program modernization efforts.

The first of five T-7A Red Hawks for engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) destined for the USAF made its maiden flight on June 28, 2023, and was accepted into the USAF on September 14, 2023.

The Saab Group is responsible for the development and production of the fuselage section. Initially, the units are produced in Linköping, Sweden, but the production of Saab's components is expected to move to a new U.S. site in West Lafayette, Indiana, by 2020. Final assembly takes place at Boeing's facility in St. Louis, Missouri.

Equipped with a glass cockpit, stepped seating, and integrated training features, the T-7A also boasts a modular design aimed at simplifying maintenance. The aircraft is powered by a General Electric F404 engine.

The USAF plans to acquire a total of 351 T-7A Red Hawks to replace its existing fleet of 504 T-38 Talon trainer aircraft. The next two T-7As are expected to be delivered by the end of 2023. The aircraft will undergo a series of tests to evaluate its performance and handling characteristics.

As a historical nod, the name "Red Hawk" honors the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II.

Defense News February 2024

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