Boeing Unveils First Air Force T-7A Red Hawk

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The first T-7A Red Hawk advanced military trainer has rolled out of Boeing’s production facility in St. Louis, Missouri, the company announced on Thursday. The aircraft is part of a $9.2 billion contract that includes 351 new combat training jets intended to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of aging T-38s. According to Boeing, the first T-7A will remain at the St. Louis facility for ground and flight testing prior to delivery, which is expected to take place next year.

“We’re excited and honored to deliver this digitally advanced, next-generation trainer to the U.S. Air Force,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Ted Colbert. “This aircraft is a tangible example of how Boeing, its suppliers and partners are leading the digital engineering revolution. T-7A will prepare pilots for future missions for decades to come.”

The T-7A was developed in partnership with Saab and features red-tailed livery in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. Flown for the first time in 2016 as the T-X, the model was fully digitally designed using Boeing’s 3D model-based definition and data management systems. As previously reported by AVweb, Red Hawk production began in February 2021.

Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Hard to replace the T-38. Been around about 60 years already, looks just as sharp, modern, fast as ever. My last base was Vance in the mid ’60s. T-38 pilot taining. I was impressed at how the T-38 kept the low time pilots flying safely. Of course, the flight training program was outstanding also. T-38s, one of the USAF best purchases ever.

    • The T-38 is a good airplane, but it is NOT easy to fly, particularly during the landing phase. In the final turn to landing, the wing is in a constant aerodynamic buffet, something you are trained avoid in most airplanes, especially when close to the ground. The buffet is a precursor to a full aerodynamic stall. In the T-38, students are taught the feeling of mice dancing on the wing is good, horses is too much, and elephants means you are about to loose control of the jet. The high landing speeds (approx 160 knots on final with full flaps and around 180 knots no flap) means that things happen fast for students, often too fast. Many T-38 accidents have occurred in the landing phase. I flew it when every Air Force pilot had to get through the T-38 in training. It weeded out a lot of students who couldn’t think, and fly, and talk on the radio at T-38 speeds. Those who remained were good pilots. But was it because the T-38 was a great training platform, or just a high hurdle to overcome?

  2. And I don’t think you can praise the USAF UPT T-37/T-38 program of that era enough. It did produce the finest and did so without compromise. It graduated 200 hour pilots skilled and disciplined. Those that were able to cross that high hurdle were the best. My previous base, Clark, PI, we had 100s, 102s, B-57s, 105s either based there or in and out constantly. In 18 months, I saw 6 accidents just on base. I got to see my fair share of ejections. I then arrived at Vance. I though oh no, brand new pilots that in under 200 hours are out flying a T-38 solo, I’m going to see airplanes falling out of the sky left and right. Wrong. In two years we had only one accident and that was a dual night cross country that somehow flew into terrain out in the dark western skies of Okla. A friend, retired Col, ’65 graduate of Vance, said the program was the hardest thing he ever had to accomplish. Great praise for what the USAF was accomplishing, and hopefully still are.

      • Actually, and you may already be aware of this, in the mid ’60s, the USAF did do exactly that…buy C172s. They were a totally stock C172s purchased off the shelf but with no back seat. They, for the USAF were call a T41. The Army bought very modified ones with bigger engines. The USAF used these C172s for the first 35 hours of flight training for the UPT program new pilots. The program was operated by civilian instructors. Surprisingly enough, these C172 actually weeded out some folks who just from the beginning were not cut out to be pilots. I was at Vance. Our T-41 program was located over at the local municipal airport with a fleet of about 20 aircraft. The program required flying discipline like they were flying a jet. I always thought that at the end of the 35 hours, those successful pilots could have probably passed a civilian commercial rating already. Was another good idea and money saver.

        • Very true, but to become a combat pilot they still had to go onward to a supersonic trainer and in some respects start training all over again. The Air Force made the determination that overall the “extra” step wasn’t advantageous in reaching the objective.

          Anyway, my actual point was that $26 million in todays dollars doesn’t sound at all outrageous for an advanced “mini fighter” when the C-172 if hovering around a half-million.

  3. I don’t claim to know anything about jets and trainers, but I love that they painted the tails red in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, and that the video paid great tribute to such a brave (in so many ways) and accomplished group of men. IMHO, there’s not enough we can do to honor them and their contribution to our history.