Boeing T-7A Red Hawk completes cross-country flight to Edwards AFB to continue testing

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | November 9, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 39 seconds.

The first Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), designated APT-2, has successfully completed its 1,400-mile cross-country flight to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., to move forward with the next phase of flight testing.  

The aircraft, which is the first production representative jet off the assembly line, was piloted by both USAF and Boeing crew. According to Boeing, APT-2 made stops at Air Force bases in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona to refuel and provide base employees with an up-close look at the jet trainer.

The first T-7A Red Hawk, piloted by USAF test pilot Maj. Jonathan “Gremlin” Aronoff and Boeing test pilot Steve “Bull” Schmidt, soars over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Nov. 8, prior to arrival. Bryce Bennett/USAF Photo

The T-7A Red Hawk — which was named as a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, commemorating their signature red-tailed planes during the Second World War — is set to replace the USAF’s aging fleet of T-38C Talon aircraft. The Air Force agreed to purchase 351 Red Hawks from Boeing in 2018, along with 46 simulators and support equipment, for a total of $9.2 billion. Initial delivery of the first five production aircraft was originally expected this year, but that target has slipped to 2025 with initial operating capability expected in 2027.

The Red Hawk successfully completed its first flight in June, operated by APT-2, and the aircraft was officially delivered to the USAF on Sept. 14. It remained at Boeing’s St. Louis, Mo., facility to continue flight testing before transitioning to Edwards AFB — where it will begin the next phase of intensive flight testing.

“This is a pivotal moment for the T-7 program,” said Evelyn Moore, VP and program manager for 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.”

The advanced jet trainer is equipped with open architecture software and digital fly-by-wire controls, and can support training for a wide range of fighter and bomber pilots. Boeing says the aircraft’s adaptability enables it to evolve alongside advancing technologies, threats, and training requirements.

Moreover, the T-7A incorporates an all-new advanced pilot training system, which utilizes high-resolution ground-based training systems and simulators — offering realistic live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) training capabilities.

According to Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), both USAF and Boeing team members will work together to test and certify the Red Hawk, as part of the T-7A Integrated Test Force.

Test pilots have been “busy rehearsing missions in the simulator and will quickly begin to fly up to three times daily, utilizing APT-2 for envelope expansion testing before moving into mission systems,” AFMC said.

Boeing confirmed the T-7A’s flight envelope expansion will begin with flutter testing. The OEM also noted that two additional Red Hawks are to follow, and will undergo “a rigorous series of tests” to assess various flight attributes and systems.

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

While the U.S. has committed to the T-7A jet trainer, Canada could follow suit as Boeing and its design and development partner, Saab, have proposed the T-7A for Canada’s Future Fighter Lead-In Training (FFLIT) program, which will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) aging CT-155 Hawk jets currently used for fighter lead-in training (FLIT) to prepare pilots to fly the CF-188 Hornet.

Since Canada is also replacing its aging Hornet fleet with 88 fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets, with first deliveries expected in 2026, the RCAF is in search of a new FLIT aircraft platform. Although Canada has not yet made a final decision regarding the FFLIT program, initial aircraft deliveries are anticipated in the 2029-30 timeframe.

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