Boeing announced on February 23 that it has commenced production of the first T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer for the US Air Force (USAF) at its facility in St Louis, Missouri.
The company revealed that it had reached this major milestone in a press release, which highlighted that the moment marked the start of the US-based production of the digitally-designed advanced jet trainer. Designated the eT-7A Red Hawk by the USAF during its development phase, the platform is the first in the air arm’s ‘eSeries’ family of digitally-designed aircraft.
Developed in partnership with Saab – which produces the aircraft’s aft fuselage – the Red Hawk was originally known as the Boeing T-X. Its entire design was completed by using 3D model-based definition and data management systems that had been developed by Boeing over the last two decades. By following the digital engineering and design process used for the T-X, the Red Hawk was able to go from a firm concept to its first flight in just 36 months.
Chuck Dabundo, vice president of T-7 Programs at Boeing, said: “This is a historic moment for the programme and industry. The build process leverages full-size determinant assembly, which allows technicians to build the aircraft with minimal tooling and drilling during the assembly process. The digital process accounts for a 75% increase in first-time quality.”
In September 2018, the USAF selected the Boeing-Saab team’s solution to replace its 60-year-old Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer fleet under the T-X programme. The selection came with a massive US$9.2bn contract, which covered the production and delivery of 351 Red Hawks and 46 ground-based training simulators to the USAF.
Boeing adds that – as an advanced pilot training system – the Red Hawk will exploit the use of ground-based live and virtual simulators to give student and instructor pilots a training experience that is “as real as it gets.” The firm announced that it had launched production of the first T-7A simulators in December 2020.
The USAF anticipates that it will accept its first T-7A Red Hawk aircraft and associated simulators at Randolph Air Force Base (a part of Joint Base San Antonio), Texas, in 2023. Production of all 351 aircraft will take place at Boeing’s facility in St Louis and is scheduled for completion by 2034.