T-7A Red Hawk: didn’t just combine two cultures, it created an entirely new one
The T-7A Red Hawk is a giant leap forward in advanced pilot training for the U.S. Air Force. The T-7A aircraft represents a bold undertaking in innovative design. Saab and Boeing have jointly designed and developed an all-new aircraft that represents a new norm in how to design and build next generation aircraft.
T-7A represents a remarkable engineering achievement and through digital engineering and advanced manufacturing it is a complete revolution in the way trainer aircraft are developed. The Saab and Boeing collaboration is the major factor in this success, with the teams engineers able to work across global time zones.
“In the collaboration with Boeing, we didn’t just combine cultures; we created an entirely new one. T-7A was the start of a completely new way of working and our teaming with Boeing has been the catalyst for a truly remarkable trainer aircraft,” said Lars Sjöberg, Head of Business Unit T-7, Saab.
"T-7A was the start of a completely new way of working and our teaming with Boeing has been the catalyst for a truly remarkable trainer aircraft."
T-7A strengthens the readiness of the pilot
The T-7A is the most advanced trainer aircraft in the world because of the technologies that went into it. Through production simulation and the digital supply chain, the T-7A was purpose-built to reduce costs, safely accelerate the delivery timeline, and ensure resource efficiency, all without compromising performance.
"When U.S. Air Force pilots begin training in the T-7A,it strengthens the readiness of pilots and marks a shift in the industry standard for aircraft production."
Saab and Boeing have proven that through a relentless focus on efficiency in both production and maintenance, it is possible to improve reliability to reduce maintenance for T7-A. What this means for the customer is greater availability of the aircraft, and more time in the air for the pilot. By allowing the pilots are able to train as much as possible, both on the ground and in the air, the T-7A Red Hawk will allow them to master the fundamentals and become better pilots and more accomplished aviators for future missions.
“When U.S. Air Force pilots begin training in the T-7A, the aircraft becomes so much more than a collection of parts—it strengthens the readiness of pilots and marks a shift in the industry standard for aircraft production,” said Lars.
Digital design is key in the partnership behind T-7A
Digital design was key to increasing the speed of T-7A development and evolving the overall accuracy, visibility, and communication required throughout production.
"The digital design approach gives a level of control and precision that is going to become the benchmark of the industry."
The digital design allows the engineers to develop the aircraft quickly and without the need for it to ever leave a computer. The digital design can be shared with all the different types of engineers who work to produce an aircraft. The ability to share it amongst different teams aids problem solving and ensures that all the considerations beyond just the performance in the air, such as how to efficiently make the aircraft or maintain it, are seamlessly integrated into the design. This means the benefits are felt long after the plane has left the design stage to production and into service.
“When you have the expertise to design this way, you can actually create a revolutionary production method for development of a reliable aircraft that is delivered at scale and on budget. The digital design approach gives a level of control and precision that is going to become the benchmark of the industry,” said Lars.
The story behind the single engine configuration
Saab has 60+ years’ experience of development of aircraft including single engine fighters. When teaming with Boeing on the Red Hawk, we were able to bring our agile and innovative ethos to the T-7A’s flight plan which enabled this revolutionary trainer to go from design to first flight in just 36 months.
“When our teaming with Boeing began, we were both interested in building a highly manoeuvrable aircraft that could meet the exacting needs of the USAF. We wanted to achieve that same level of manoeuvrability – with a single-engine aft configuration. It’s the structural foundation for an airframe that’s small, agile and inherently stable and so the single engine is central to the T-7A design. It is designed for pilot training well into the future,” said Lars.
“We’ve brought every ounce of our aircraft heritage and all our aeronautics know-how to the T-7."
Bringing every ounce of Saab’s heritage into T-7A
Saab’s knowledge and competence has strengthened the entire process from clean sheet design to production. More than 1000 Saab employees have been involved in the work.
"From the beginning Saab took three giant steps in one leap"
“We’ve brought every ounce of our aircraft heritage and all our aeronautics know-how to the T-7. But it’s the way that we’ve applied it that makes the T-7 so special,” explained Tomas Karlsson, Business Developer T-7, Saab.
Saab has gained many new insights with respect to international program management through this huge collaborative project with Boeing.
"From the beginning Saab took three giant steps in one leap: joining a unique team with Boeing, developing a clean-sheet state-of-the-art product, and re-entering a sector with a new end user, the U.S. Air Force,” said Tomas.
“I continue to be amazed by the work of our people at Saab and on the T-7A program. We not only do our job but we are also expected and trusted to find ways to improve processes and products. By redefining engineering and industry boundaries, we continue to find opportunities for improvement and innovation. This is testament to the feeling of responsibility we share for T-7A development and production of the aft fuselage section for the U.S. Air Force,” concluded Lars.
Deliveries to Boeing where the first T-7A test aircraft will be built
The program is currently in the EMD phase (Engineering and Manufacturing Development), before it will move to the series production of the T-7A aircraft in 2022. The EMD phase includes engineering, verification and validation activities, test aircraft build, flight test support and preparation for series production.
Saab is responsible for the development and production of the fully installed aft section for T-7A. The seven afts produced at Saab in Linköping will be part of the EMD test aircraft, while the afts produced in West Lafayette, Indiana are for the production series aircraft, which will be used for pilot training by the U.S. Air Force.
Milestones within T-X and T-7A Red Hawk
May. 05, 2022
APT5, the fifth and last fully installed aft fuselage in the EMD phase was delivered from Linköping, Sweden to St. Louis, USA.
Apr. 28, 2022
The first out of five aircraft in the EMD phase was rolled out during a ceremony in Boeing's facilities in St. Louis
Apr. 15, 2021
Saab delivers it first EMD static aft airframe section to be used for ground testing during the EMD-phase
Jul. 24, 2021
Saab has shipped its second aft airframe section for use in the T-7A Red Hawk flight test program for the United States Air Force.
Sep. 10, 2021
Saab has shipped its third aft airframe section for use in the T-7A Red Hawk flight test program for the United States Air Force.
Oct. 13, 2021
Saab announced the grand opening of its new facility located in West Lafayette, Indiana. It will start by being the site for production of Saab’s aft airframe section for the T-7A Red Hawk trainer program.
Nov. 4, 2021
Saab shipped the Fatigue Test Article (FTA) airframe to Boeing for use in the fatigue tests.
Jan. 10, 2020
Saab started assembly production of its section of the T-7A aircraft
Dec. 6, 2020
Saab moves the first production unit from the assembly into final installation
May. 8, 2019
Saab announces a new site for advanced manufacturing and production in West Lafayette, Indiana, United States of America.
Sep. 16, 2019
U.S. Air Force announces the official service name of the aircraft as the T-7A Red Hawk
Oct. 24, 2019
T-7A Awarded Aviation Week’s “Game Changer Award”
Oct. 18, 2018
Saab Receives Order from Boeing for the Advanced Pilot Training Aircraft T-X
Sep. 27, 2018
U.S. Air Force Selects Saab and Boeing T-X Trainer
Apr. 24, 2017
Second T-X Aircraft Takes Flight
Apr. 27, 2017
Both T-X aircraft take to the skies, together in flight
Sep. 18, 2017
Saab Offers U.S. Based Production Capability for T-X Trainer Aircraft
Sep. 13, 2016
Boeing and Saab Reveals First Two PRJ Aircraft for U.S Air Force T-X Competition
Dec. 20, 2016
T-X Completes First Flight
Dec. 5, 2013
Boeing and Saab Sign Joint Development Agreement on T-X Family of Systems Training Competition
Did you know?
It took 3 years from a white paper to first flight.
- U.S. Air Force will train more than 1000 fighter and bomber pilots per year in T-7A.
- T-7A is planned to be in operation in U.S. Air Force 2024.
- Around 350 T-7A Red Hawk aircraft will be delivered to U.S. Air Force.