T-7A Red Hawk endures month-long climatic testing at Eglin AFB

The USAF has marked a significant milestone in the operational development of its new advanced jet trainer, the T-7A Red Hawk, after a Boeing-operated test aircraft (21-7003) completed a month-long extreme weather trial inside the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Florida, on February 23.

During the trial, the T-7A testbed endured real temperatures ranging from 110°F to -25°F, as well as heavy humidity conditions. The aim of these tests, which were carried out within the McKinley Climatic Laboratory’s 55,000ft² test chamber, was to verify the Red Hawk’s sustainability in any operational environment. “We need to know the T-7A can operate in the environmental conditions it will encounter at pilot training bases around the country,” said Dr Troy Hoeger, the chief development tester for the T-7A with the US Air Force Lifecycle Management Center (AFLCMC).

A Boeing-operated T-7A Red Hawk test aircraft sits under bright lights used to create heat inside the McKinley Climatic Laboratory's test chamber at Eglin AFB in Florida, on January 22.
A Boeing-operated T-7A Red Hawk test aircraft sits under bright lights used to create heat inside the McKinley Climatic Laboratory's test chamber at Eglin AFB in Florida, on January 22. USAF/Samuel King Jr

Once the lab technicians had created the extreme environments, T-7A aircrew from Boeing and the USAF performed system operations and engine runs to evaluate the Red Hawk’s reactions in those scenarios. According to the USAF, a significant amount of this month-long test schedule was dedicated to preparing the chamber for the extreme conditions. “Technicians worked continuously to go from a superheated 100°F desert condition to a below freezing icebox in only a few days,” the service said.

After the T-7A completes its climatic test campaign, the aircraft will return to Boeing to ensure the aircraft’s technical orders are safe and accurate for the operators and maintainers that will interact with it. The type will undergo continued testing before it eventually enters operational service and begins to replace the USAF’s ageing fleet of T-38A/C Talon jet trainers.