T-7A Red Hawk

T-7A Red Hawk

Boeing T-X aircraft, officially called the T-7A Red Hawk, is a new advanced pilot training system being offered by Boeing in partnership with Saab for the T-X advanced pilot training programme of the US Air Force (USAF). The T-X aircraft is intended to replace the ageing T-38 trainer fleet of the USAF.

Prime contractor Boeing entered a joint development agreement with Saab, the risk-sharing partner for the project, to develop an all-new aircraft design for the T-X programme in December 2013.

The first two production-ready T-X aircraft were unveiled by Boeing and Saab in St Louis in September 2016. The first aircraft completed its maiden flight in December 2016, while the second made its first flight in April 2017.

The US Air Force selected the Boeing T-X aircraft over its counterparts in September 2018, awarding a $9.1bn contract to Boeing for the delivery of 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment in October 2018.

Boeing awarded a $117.6m contract to Saab to carry out the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) of the trainer aircraft in October 2018. The first engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) flight test of the T-X aircraft took place in July 2019, while the 100th flight was performed in August the same year.

“Boeing entered a joint development agreement with Saab to develop an all-new aircraft design for the T-X programme in December 2013.”

The T-X aircraft was officially named T-7A Red Hawk by the US Air Force in September 2019. Boeing selected Orbit Communication Systems’ audio management system (AMS) for the trainer in May 2020. The Orion™ AMS solution will be integrated into the T-7A Red Hawk training system.

T-X programme details

The USAF unveiled the T-X programme requirements in March 2015, which was followed by the release of a draft request for proposals in July. The USAF plans to replace the 431 T-38s with the new T-X aircraft. The initial operational capability (IOC) of the new fleet is projected for 2024.

Northrop Grumman-BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin-Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI), and Raytheon-Leonardo are competing with the Boeing and Saab partnership for the T-X programme.

Raytheon / Leonardo is offering M-346-based T-100 Integrated Training System (ITS) for the programme, while Lockheed Martin is offering T-50A aircraft, a variant of the KAI T-50.

Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are jointly developing a new aircraft for the T-X competition.

Boeing T-X Trainer design details

Boeing T-X has a clean-sheet design, with an airframe that comprises a single engine, twin tails, advanced cockpit stadium seating, and embedded training instrumentation. The aircraft is delivered to customers as a complete advanced pilot training system including state-of-the-art, ground-based training aids.

In terms of appearance, experience and performance, the T-X matches the fighter aircraft. The twin-tail design resembles the design of current and future fighters and guarantees better stability, superior control, inbuilt speed break functionality, and safer in-flight refuelling.

Its maintenance-friendly design supports long-term functionality and allows for the integration of the latest technology and equipment.

The aircraft serves as a more affordable and flexible platform when compared with the existing aircraft in its class. The system also supports technological evolutions to meet the requirements of future training needs.

Featuring a comprehensive, advanced pilot training solution, the T-X trainer aircraft offers highly realistic simulation, computer-based training modules, and adaptive training. It also provides a complete suite of instructor tools to support a wide range of training needs.

The Boeing T-X design ensures that the maintenance crew can easily access critical items.

It is also compatible with the common USAF ground equipment and uses established component providers to cut down supply chain complexity.

Cockpit and avionics of the trainer aircraft

A modern, fighter-like cockpit, equipped with flexible avionics, is integrated into the trainer. The cockpit features a modular large area touchscreen display, better visibility, upfront controller display, offering a range of training options for both instructors and students.

The stadium seating layout of the aircraft houses an instructor and a student. The seating arrangement offers an ideal position for instructor and visibility for flight instructions to perform basic traffic pattern operations and advanced visual air combat training.

The JPATS 1-7-compliant seating also accommodates a range of individuals of different body sizes.

The cockpit is equipped with fly-by-wire flight controls ensuring excellent handling at all speeds, flight parameters, and high angle-of-attack.

Boeing T-X engine

The T-X aircraft is powered by a GE F404 engine, offering higher power, improved fuel efficiency, and superior mission capability.

A trainer crew turned off the GE F404 engine mid-air at an altitude of 20,000ft, flew for 48 seconds, and then restarted it to test the reliability of the engine, in February 2020.


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