The front fuselage of the first Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer was joined with its aft section in less than 30 minutes.
The T-7A is the U.S. Air Force’s first “eSeries” aircraft and witness to the benefits of model-based engineering and 3D design. The digital splice was completed in 95% less time than traditional splices and with substantial quality improvements.
The aft fuselage was designed and built by Saab in Linköping, Sweden, under a joint development agreement with Boeing. After making the journey of more than 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) to St. Louis, the aft section was lined up perfectly to the forward fuselage by Boeing aircraft mechanics.
The aircraft, which will be used for static test, is the first engineering and manufacturing development test asset to be spliced. It will be followed by five engineering and manufacturing development jets as part of 351 T-7A Red Hawk trainers to be produced for the U.S. Air Force.
“What we’re seeing in this new evolution of digitally designed, engineered and manufactured aircraft is a 50% improvement in overall production quality and as much as a 98% reduction in drilling defects,” said Andrew Stark, Boeing T-7A Red Hawk production director. “It’s a new way of producing airplanes with improved quality throughout the whole journey.”
In September 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a $9.2 billion contract to supply 351 advanced trainer aircraft and 46 associated ground-based training simulators. Saab is teamed with Boeing on the trainer and provides the aft fuselage of the jet.
T-7A Red Hawk
The T-7A Red Hawk introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.
“The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities,” Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan had said in September 2019.
The T-7A’s design includes provisions for growth as requirements evolve for additional missions such as an aggressor, light attack / fighter variant.
The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.
The jet will include stadium seating, an advanced cockpit and digital fly-by-wire flight controls. It employs a General Electric F404 engine and has a wingspan of 30.60 feet, a length of 46.93 feet and a height of 13.55 feet.