By John Hill
Boeing and the US Air Force (USAF) completed the first flight of the T-7A Red Hawk training aircraft on 28 June, marking the start of the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the programme.
During the 1 hour and 3 minute flight, USAF Major Bryce Turner and Steve Schmidt, Boeing T-7A 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 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 stable performance of the aircraft and its advanced cockpit and systems are game-changers for USAF student pilots and instructors alike,” Turner stated.
T-7A modern capabilities
The advanced pilot training system uses high reoslution ground-based training systems and simulators to deliver robust and realistic integrated live, virtual and constructive training capabilities. Boeing ensured safety before the first flight with its model-based engineering enabled testing throughout the aircraft’s design and build. The T-7A’s cockpit egress system is the safest of any trainer.
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 is an exicting time for the entire team,” Colnel Kirt Cassell, USAF T-7A Red Hawk programme 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.”
From the Talon to the Red Hawk
To train its pilots, the USAF still uses the T-38 Talon training jet even as new designs evolve. A new system for modern training jets and simulators is in development, but this is nearly a decade behind initial plans.
The USAF has sought to replace the T-38 Talon training jet, which has been in service since 1961. The Air Force stated in 2018 that it will purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 60-year-old fleet of T-38s. That year, the USAF awarded Boeing a contract worth up to $9.2bn for its concept, which will finally replace the Talon.