The First Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer arrived at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California, it was announced on 8 November 2023, to begin a developmental flight test campaign in the next phase of testing, aimed at replacing the 1960’s era Northrop T-38 Talon. 

The T-7A is set to replace the T-38 aircraft, which has been in service since the 1960s. It will offer enhanced pilot training capabilities for aviators who are learning to fly both tactical and bomber aircraft.

This jet was the first production representative aircraft from the assembly line, and was delivered – following stops at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico., and Luke AFB, Arizona – by a joint team of Air Force and Boeing aircrew on 15 September

“This is a pivotal moment for the T-7 program,” said Evelyn Moore, vice president and program manager, T-7 programs. “Bringing the T-7A Red Hawk to the heart of the U.S. Air Force’s test community at Edwards for dynamic flight testing will prove the jet’s performance as an agile and safe trainer for future pilots.”

In 2018, the Air Force granted Boeing a contract valued at $9.2bn for the procurement of 351 T-7A advanced trainers, along with 46 simulators and associated support. 

“This arrival marks an exciting transition into the next phase of developmental flight” noted Maj. Jonathan Aronoff, T-7A test pilot. “The T-7A gives immense capability updates that will allow the Air Force to train the next generation of combat aviators. Success of first delivery is truly a testament to the joint USAF-industry team we have in place,” added Aronoff. 

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Once Air Force test pilots have gained a thorough understanding of the aircraft, they will gradually explore the flight envelope, beginning with flutter testing. Two additional Red Hawks will be joining the testing programme to further evaluate a range of flight attributes and systems, as part of our comprehensive testing process.

The T-7A team has been effectively utilising digital transformation through Distributed Test Operations since 2019 to enable a smooth networked capability between Boeing’s facilities in St. Louis and mission control rooms at Edwards. The T-7A Integrated Test Force is a part of the Airpower Foundations Combined Test Force at Edwards, working with the 416th Flight Test Squadron.

The test pilots have been preparing for their missions by practising through simulation. They will quickly commence flying up to three times a day, starting with APT-2 for envelope expansion testing before progressing to mission systems. The T-7A ITF will leverage a combination of Air Force and contractor-owned aircraft to efficiently introduce advanced capabilities for training the next generation of warfighters.

“Like most test programs, we’ll have discovery and we’ll overcome it quickly,” said Col. Kirt Cassell, division chief, U.S. Air Force, T-7A Red Hawk program. “This is the right team to go after any challenges we find.”

The Boeing T-7A Red hawk completed its first flight for the US Air Force in June this year. The name “Red Hawk” is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and their iconic red-tailed aircraft from World War II.