The T-7 Red Hawk, the new Air Force training aircraft, completed its maiden flight last Wednesday in St. Louis, Missouri, beginning the final phase of its pre-production development.
The Rise of the T-7 Red Hawk: Substitute for the T-38 Talon
With its launch, the Red Hawk is positioned to replace the T-38 Talon, which has been in service for six decades and will serve as the primary platform for training American and other allied pilots to fly fighters and bombers.
The inaugural flight lasted one hour, taking off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. During the flight, Major Bryce Turner and Steve Schmidt tested the aircraft’s maneuverability and evaluated secondary systems such as auxiliary power.
Both pilots experienced positive and negative g-forces from the aircraft, similar to what a pilot would experience during advanced aerial maneuvers, and practiced at high altitudes.
T-7 Red Hawk: a quantum leap in pilot training
As the first US Air Force trainer designed in the 21st century, the T-7 Red Hawk incorporates a digital cockpit, realistic simulators and upgradable software to meet the threats of the modern world.
The airframe that took to the skies on the first flight is one of five prototypes to be delivered to the Air Force before receiving fully completed jets. The Air Force has plans to acquire 351 Red Hawks starting in December 2025 under a contract valued at $9.2 billion signed in 2018.
The T-7 Red Hawk production has been delayed due to problems with the exhaust system and ejection seat. As a result, operational aircraft could begin to be built in 2025, with a delay of two years compared to what was originally planned.
Part of these challenges stems from the attempt to make the plane accessible to pilots of all races and genders, which has required redesigning aspects of the airframe originally intended for men.
Moving Toward Equality: The T-7 Red Hawk Accessible To All
Efforts to redesign the airframe have focused on ensuring that pilots with different body sizes and shapes can operate and eject safely. Recent tests have shown that T-7 pilots could face significant risks without these modifications.
In response to these findings, further testing was carried out to assess necessary modifications to the T-7 Red Hawk design. These efforts have led to improvements to the ejection seat and cabin space, with the goal of accommodating a broader range of body sizes.
The first stage of these tests focused on the ejection seat and ensuring its safety and functionality for smaller pilots. Modifications included adapting harnesses, seat belts, and other components to ensure safe and effective ejection. Preliminary results from these tests have been promising, although further analysis is needed to verify their effectiveness in a variety of emergency situations.
The second stage of testing has focused on adapting the cabin space to accommodate pilots of different sizes comfortably. This has included adjustments to control layout, visibility and legroom. Although this task is complex, project engineers are optimistic about making the T-7 Red Hawk more accessible to all pilots.