Boeing has announced that it stands ready to offer its new T-7A Red Hawk platform – which was developed in partnership with Saab – to Australia, stating that the advanced jet trainer would help “ensure the mission-readiness of the country’s future defence pilots.”
The company revealed its planned move during the first day of the Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport in Greater Geelong, Victoria on February 28. The announcement comes as Australia begins its search to source a replacement for its fleet of British Aerospace (BAe) Hawk Mk.127 LIF jet trainers, which entered Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service in September 2000.
The Australian Department of Defence (DOD) is actively working on a Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) programme to replace the Hawk in RAAF service under Project AIR 6002 – which is valued at up to AU$5bn (US$3.4bn). As per current plans, Australia aims to withdraw its Hawk fleet from operational use in 2026. In early August 2020, the DOD closed its Request for Information (RFI) for proposals related to Project AIR 6002, with three companies having responded to the request with prospective solutions. Boeing was quick to announce it will offer the T-7A and Leonardo confirmed it would offer a solution based on its M-346 Master advanced jet trainer. While it has not stated anything publicly, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is expected to propose a solution based on its T-50 Golden Eagle platform.
Commenting on the firm’s plan to offer the T-7A to Australia, Scott Carpendale – vice president and managing director of Boeing Defence Australia – said: “The T-7 would fit right into the pilot training and aircraft sustainment our team currently provides for the Australian Defence Forces. Because the US and Australia already have a high degree of interoperability due to flying similar aircraft types, an Australian T-7 could lead to new joint training scenarios between the two countries.”
The result of a partnership between Boeing and Saab, the T-7A Red Hawk was selected as part of the USAF’s T-X programme, which sought to select and acquire a replacement for the air arm’s ageing fleet of T-38A/C Talons. In total, the USAF plans to acquire 351 T-7As, with Initial Operational Capability (IOC) expected to be declared in 2024, followed by a Final Operational Capability (FOC) declaration in 2034. The platform’s ‘Red Hawk’ name was selected to pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen – a group of African-American fighter pilots who notably flew aircraft that had their tails painted red during World War Two.
However, Boeing confirmed to AFM at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) on February 23 that none of the T-7A Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) demonstrators had flown yet, and there is speculation that this has been caused by alleged deficiencies with the platform's Collins Aerospace-developed ACES 5 ejection seat, which has also resulted in delays in the delivery of serial production-standard to the USAF.