Beginning in 2003, the USAF Air Education and Training Command (AETC) is determining the requirements for selecting a replacement for the T-38 Talon advanced trainer. Approximately 350 aircraft are planned to be purchased to replace the T-38, but additional aircraft may be ordered for other uses, which could bring the total purchase to over 1,000. Originally scheduled to enter service in 2020, it was later delayed to fiscal years 2023-2024 to allow funding for other programs deemed more urgent. The USAF releases the T-X program requirements on March 20, 2015 and a formal request for proposals on December 30, 2016.
The seven competitors submitted are existing aircraft or new designs: the Leonardo/Raytheon T-100, KAI/Lockheed Martin T-50 Golden Eagle, Sierra Nevada Corp/TAI Freedom, Stavatti Javelin, Textron AirLand Scorpion, Northrop Grumman/BAE Systems Hawk T2/128, and Boeing/SAAB T-X.
On August 22, 2016, Boeing publicly revealed the first images of the T-X, a single-engine, twin-engine aircraft. As for the prototype, it was presented the following September 13. This aircraft is equipped with a two-seat tandem cockpit, with both occupants sitting on ejection seats. The wings in median-high position are prolonged towards the front by apexes of rather large size under which are located the air inlets which feed the General Electric F404 engine. The tail fins, leaning outward, are located between the wings and the horizontal stabilizer, as on the F/A-18. The tricycle landing gear retracts into the fuselage. If selected, underwing and fuselage carry points will likely be installed to allow for gunnery training or ground attack missions.
The first flight is made on December 20, 2016. The second prototype takes to the air on April 24, 2017. June 26 of the same year. Boeing presents the results recorded during the flight tests, two days before the planned deadline. In September 2017, Boeing and SAAB clarify that if qualified, the T-Xs will be more than 90% built in the USA, including components from the Swedish manufacturer such as the center and rear fuselage.
On September 27, 2018, the USAF selected the Boeing-SAAB T-X to train its pilots. This order is expected to eventually equal 350 aircraft for an estimated value of nearly $9.2 billion. Boeing will have to distribute the orders to its suppliers, including Sweden’s Saab, which would correspond to nearly 17,000 jobs in 34 states.
In September 2019, the aircraft is officially designated T-7A Red Hawk, after the group of African-American airmen Tuskegee Airmen who distinguished themselves during World War II and whose planes were recognizable by their red-painted tail fins.
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