The arrival marks the formal start of the Air Force’s developmental flight test campaign for the new trainer aircraft.
After struggling with multiple delays, the T-7A Red Hawk finally landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Nov.8, 2023. The aircraft, known as APT-2, is the first production representative jet off the assembly line and was piloted by a joint U.S. Air Force and Boeing aircrew during a journey which included stops at Vance AFB, Oklaoma, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico and Luke AFB, Arizona, supported by one of Boeing’s Challenger 600 jets.
“The ferry to Edwards marks a major milestone for the T-7 Program as we enter Developmental Flight Test to find out just what this aircraft can do,” said Col. Kirt Cassell, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center T-7 Program Manager. “I’ve challenged the collective team to keep up the momentum and teamwork as we still have a long way to go.”
Red Hawk leaves its nest!
👋 Farewell to the first T-7A #RedHawk ready for its new home at @EdwardsAFB to start Phase III testing with the @USAirForce. Once Air Force test pilots are familiar with the aircraft, they will expand the flight envelope. pic.twitter.com/ygMOTTBFrm
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) November 9, 2023
This milestone formally commences the Air Force’s developmental flight test campaign for the aircraft, aimed at fielding a replacement pilot training capability for the 1960’s-era Northrop T-38 Talon, which is quickly reaching the end of its service life after 60 years. The Air Force accepted the first of five T-7A Red Hawk Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) aircraft from Boeing in September.
“This arrival marks an exciting transition into the next phase of developmental flight” noted Maj. 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”.
NEWS: Another #aerospace milestone! The first @BoeingDefense T-7A Red Hawk has landed at Edwards, moves immediately into next phase of testing. Congratulations to the 416th FLTS! @HQ_AFMC @AFTestCenter @usairforce #AFMC https://t.co/fZRwMqFRjG pic.twitter.com/kMYYe8A6n0
— Edwards Air Force Base (@EdwardsAFB) November 9, 2023
The collaboration in the cockpit represents the construct of the T-7A Integrated Test Force, which will see Air Force and Boeing team members working shoulder-to-shoulder to rapidly test and certify the aircraft. This first aircraft is instrumented specifically for flight test and evaluation, as the testing program will include flying qualities, structural loads, and flutter to determine if the aircraft complies with both contractual and military aircraft specifications.
Test pilots have been busy rehearsing missions in the simulator and will quickly begin to fly up to three times daily, says the Air Force, utilizing APT-2 for envelope expansion testing before moving into mission systems. The T-7A ITF will utilize a mix of both Air Force and contractor-owned aircraft (T1 and T2 prototypes are still flying) to swiftly achieve an Initial Operational Capability, currently planned for 2024.
All five EMD aircraft are expected to be delivered by the end of the year, with the second also flying to Edwards AFB and the third going to Eglin AFB, Florida, for climate testing at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory. The destination of the other two has not yet been disclosed.
In the meanwhile, during this week’s International Fighter Conference in Madrid, Spain, an Air Force official said the service is actively considering an armed variant of the Red Hawk, dubbed F-7, which could potentially replace older F-16s. While the Air Force discussed about the future capabilities of the T-7, an armed variant was not considered so far as the focus is to quickly field the new trainer before the T-38 becomes impossible to sustain.