US Air Force begins climatic testing of T-7 Red Hawk jet trainer

The US Air Force has announced the commencement of climatic chamber testing for its new advanced supersonic training aircraft, the T-7 Red Hawk, at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB in Florida. This critical phase validates the aircraft's ability to operate under extreme environmental conditions, ranging from -25 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (-31.7 to 43.4 degrees Celsius).

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US Air Force begins climatic testing of T 7 Red Hawk at Eglin Air Force Base   The first T-7A Red Hawk arrives at Edwards Air Force Base. (Picture source: US DoD)

Dr. Troy Hoeger, the Chief Developmental Tester for the T-7A at the US Air Force, emphasized the importance of these tests in ensuring the aircraft's resilience across various environments, including "on the ground in the Texas heat and in high-altitude flight."

Developed under a $9.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in 2018, the T-7 Red Hawk is set to replace the fleet of 504 T-38C training aircraft, which have been in service for nearly six decades. With a plan to expand the fleet to 351 units, and an option for Boeing to deliver up to 475 jets and 120 simulators, the T-7 represents a significant advancement in aerial training technology.

The innovative features of the T-7 Red Hawk include stadium seating, an embedded training configuration, and a glass touchscreen cockpit, promising a transformation in the training of future pilots.

The McKinley Climatic Laboratory, which has hosted numerous US Air Force aircraft since World War II, plays a key role in validating aircraft performance in real-world conditions. The T-7 Red Hawk is currently undergoing extensive testing of its fuel, engine, hydraulic, electrical, secondary power, and environmental control systems.

The first of five Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) T-7A Red Hawks intended for the USAF made its maiden flight on June 28, 2023, and was accepted into the USAF on September 14, 2023. These aircraft will undergo flight testing alongside the two prototypes.

The Saab Group is responsible for the development and production of the fuselage section. Initially produced in Linköping, Sweden, the manufacturing of Saab's components is expected to move to a new U.S. site in West Lafayette, Indiana, by 2020. Final assembly takes place at Boeing's facility in St. Louis, Missouri.

The T-7A is equipped with a glass cockpit, stepped seating, and integrated training features. It also boasts a modular design aimed at simplifying maintenance. The aircraft is powered by a General Electric F404 engine.

Designed to simulate the flight experience of fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22 and F-35, the T-7 Red Hawk features a glass cockpit, stepped seating, and built-in training features. The aircraft is seen as a key component of the USAF's efforts to modernize its pilot training program.