The USAF’s Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced trainer program has been delayed by more than a year due to technical issues discovered during flight testing.
Originally scheduled to advance to the all-important ‘Milestone-C’ production decision in 2022, this has been delayed to 2023 due to delays with parts supplies, and with the discovery of instability in the aircraft’s roll axis. The latter should be able to be fixed through adjustments to the aircraft’s software-driven control laws, or with aerodynamic tweaks, but the supplier issues may be slower to recover due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A report in AirForce Magazine says the delay has seen a reduction in the funding for the T-7A program in the 2022 budget, and a delay of up to 15 months in achieving Milestone-C. Despite this, the USAF says it remain committed to the T-7A which will replace the nearly 60-year old Northrop T-38 in service.
“Our focus and commitment to the T-7 has not waned,” Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen Charles Q Brown Jr told the House Armed Services Committee on June 16. “We want to make sure the money aligns with where the program is.”
The delay comes just a month after the major fuselage sections of first T-7A were joined at Boeing’s St Louis facility. The aircraft’s aft fuselage is built by Saab in Sweden before being shipped to St Louis, while the forward section is built by Boeing.
“This moment marks a key stage in the evolution of the T-7A Red Hawk,” Boeing T-7 program vice president and program manager, Chuck Dabundo said in a May 13 release. “Employing digitally advanced manufacturing and build techniques developed by Boeing over the past two decades, we are bringing this trainer to future pilots sooner than ever before possible and with greater quality.”
The first aircraft will be used for static testing during the program’s development, and will be followed by five engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) jets. The USAF has a requirement for at least 351 T-7As, and the aircraft is also expected to be offered for the RAAF’s Project AIR 5438 future lead-in fighter training system (LIFTS) requirement.