Saab delivers first T-7A airframe section to Boeing

Saab has shipped its first aft airframe section for the T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer to Boeing, marking a key milestone in the platform’s engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) programme.

The first aft airframe section for the T-7A to be produced by the Swedish firm began its journey from its Linköping site in Sweden’s Östergötland province to Boeing’s production facility in St Louis, Missouri, on April 15.

Following its arrival in the US, this airframe section will be spliced to the forward fuselage of the Red Hawk, before the aircraft’s wings, fins and tail assemblies are installed. The company adds that “this airframe will be used for structural testing on the ground during the EMD phase of the programme.”

T-7A first Saab-produced aft airframe section [Saab]
The first aft airframe section for the T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer has been produced by Saab. The firm shipped the segment to the Boeing's production facility in St Louis, Missouri, on April 15, 2021. Saab

Jonas Hjelm, senior vice president and head of Saab’s Aeronautics business area, said: “The T-7A Red Hawk represents a remarkable engineering feat of aircraft development; all achieved through excellent collaboration with Boeing and the use of digital engineering and advanced manufacturing. It has been extremely rewarding to pioneer this accelerated development timeline and to deliver the resulting accuracy, visibility, and communication into production.”

Upon completion of the EMD production phase, Saab’s brand-new facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, will take over the manufacturing efforts of future aft airframe sections for the T-7A. The platform was selected by the US Air Force (USAF) in September 2018 to replace its fleet of 60-year-old Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainers under the T-X programme.

The selection of the Boeing-Saab team’s solution came with a massive US$9.2bn contract, which covers the production and delivery of 351 T-7A Red Hawks, along with 46 ground-based training simulators for the USAF. The air arm is scheduled to accept its first T-7As and associated simulators in 2023, with Randolph Air Force Base (a part of Joint Base San Antonio), Texas, being the first operational location for the advanced jet trainer.

Boeing announced that production of the first ground-based simulators for the T-7A had begun in December 2020. On February 23, 2021, the firm revealed that it had commenced production of the first Red Hawk for the USAF. The air arm will receive its first T-7As in 2023, with the final aircraft due to be handed over to the service by the end of 2034.