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The first production-representative Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), known as aircraft APT-2, arrived at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California on 8 November 2023, formally marking the start of the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) developmental flight test campaign for the aircraft.

The T-7A programme is designed to provide the USAF with an Advanced Pilot Training System (APTS) that will replace its fleet of 1960s-era Northrop T-38 Talon AJTs).

“This arrival marks an exciting transition into the next phase of developmental flight,” Major Jonathan Aronoff, T-7A test pilot, was quoted as saying in a USAF press release. “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.”

As APT-2 arrived at Edwards AFB it was piloted by a joint USAF and Boeing aircrew. This reflects the structure of the T-7A Integrated Test Force (ITF), which will see USAF and Boeing team members working shoulder-to-shoulder to rapidly test and certify the aircraft.

The first production-representative T-7A Red Hawk, piloted by Major Jonathan Aronoff, 416th Flight Test Squadron pilot, and Boeing test pilot Steve Schmidt, overflies Edwards AFB on 8 November 2023 prior to landing at the base. The T-7A will replace the 1960s-era T-38 as the USAF’s jet trainer (Photo: USAF)

“The T-7A team has been leveraging digital transformation through distributed test operations since 2019,” the USAF stated. “This method allows seamless networked capability between Boeing’s facilities in St Louis and mission control rooms at Edwards AFB. The T-7A ITF is part of the larger Airpower Foundations Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB, in association with the 416th Flight Test Squadron.

“Test pilots have been busy rehearsing missions in a T-7A simulator and will quickly begin to fly up to three times daily, utilising APT-2 for envelope expansion testing before moving into mission systems,” the USAF added. “The T-7A ITF will utilise a mix of both air force and contractor-owned aircraft to swiftly bring cutting-edge capability to train the next generation of warfighters.”

The USAF awarded Boeing, partnered with Saab, a USD 9.2 Bn (EUR 8.6 Bn) contract for 351 T-7As, 46 simulators and support in 2018.

The first T-7A made its maiden flight on 20 December 2016.