T-X Becomes T-7A Red Hawk

 - September 17, 2019, 3:30 AM
The first of a planned 351 Red Hawks is scheduled to enter service at Randolph in 2023. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

Boeing's T-X design will be designated T-7A in Air Force service, and will bear the name Red Hawk, said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on September 16.

The T-7 designation is a logical follow-on from the T-6 Texan II in the trainer category, while the name has been chosen to honor the Tuskegee Airmen—the African Americans who trained during World War II in Tuskegee, Alabama, and notably went on to form the 332d Fighter Group that saw action in the Mediterranean theater flying P-40s, P-39s, P-47s, and P-51s. A bomber group with B-25s was also formed but did not see combat.

Donovan was accompanied on stage during the announcement by Colonel Charles McGee, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and a veteran of more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” said Donovan. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.” That unit currently flies the T-1A Jayhawk in the multi-engine training role at Randolph AFB, Texas.

T-7A scale model
A quarter-scale model of the T-7A was unveiled after Donovan announced the trainer’s name and designation. (photo: U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force selected the T-7 in September 2018 to replace its aging Northrop T-38C Talons, of which some are 57 years old. The $9.2 billion program covers 351 aircraft and 46 simulators. The Red Hawk is optimized for training pilots for fifth-generation fighters, and is much more maneuverable than its predecessor while retaining high-performance capabilities. Its low-speed, high-angle of attack handling approximates that of the latest fighter types. In terms of systems, the aircraft offers the ability to train in realistic scenarios using datalinks, radars, smart weapons, and defensive aids, the functions of which can be replicated virtually while in the air.

“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A, the distance is much, much smaller. And that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better that much faster, at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”

T-7As are scheduled to enter service with the 12th Flying Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas, where the first aircraft and simulators are expected in 2023. In due course, all of the remaining undergraduate training bases currently flying the T-38C—Columbus AFB, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma—will convert to the T-7A.