A new era in aircraft design and build has begun as the first U.S. portion of the T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer has officially entered the Boeing jet’s state-of-the-art production line. The T-7A Red Hawk employed the digital engineering and design of the Boeing T-X aircraft that went from firm concept to first flight in just 36 months. The training jet, designated the eT-7A Red Hawk by the U.S. Air Force because of its digital heritage, was fully designed using 3D model-based definition and data management systems developed at Boeing during the last two decades. The Boeing T-7A Red Hawk Advanced also incorporates leading-edge ground-based live and virtual simulators to give students and instructors a “real as it gets” experience.
“This is a historic moment for the program and industry,” said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president of T-7 Programs. “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.”
“The future of air dominance lies in the ability to move quickly, take smart risks and partner in new ways to get the job done,” said Shelley Lavender, Boeing senior vice president of Strike, Surveillance and Mobility. “By creating aircraft and systems along a digital thread, we can accelerate build times and increase quality and affordability for our customers in a way that has never been done before.”
The Boeing/Saab T-7 Red Hawk, originally known as the Boeing T-X, is an American/Swedish advanced jet trainer developed by Boeing in partnership with Saab. It was selected on 27 September 2018 by the United States Air Force (USAF) as the winner of the T-X program to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon. In September 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a $9.2 billion contract to supply 351 advanced trainer aircraft and 46 associated ground-based training simulators. On 16 September 2019, the USAF officially named the aircraft the “T-7A Red Hawk” as a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, who painted their airplanes’ tails red, and to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, one of the aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.
Boeing revealed its aircraft to the public on 13 September 2016. The first T-X aircraft flew on 20 December 2016. Saab is teamed with Boeing on the trainer and provides the aft fuselage of the jet. In cooperation with its Swedish aerospace partner, Saab, Boeing’s submission to the competition was the Boeing T-X, a single-engine advanced jet trainer with a twin tail, tandem seating, and retractable tricycle landing gear. A total of 351 aircraft and 46 simulators, maintenance training and support are to be supplied at a program cost of US$9.2 billion. The submitted aircraft and demonstration models featured a General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan engine. Boeing intends to offer an armed version of the T-7 as replacement for aging Northrop F-5 and Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet fleets around the world.