The new plane is a co-production of Boeing (USA) and Saab (Sweden)

T-7A Red Hawk, the new USAF trainer and the reason why it wears its red tail

If there are no delays, in 2025 the United States Air Force (USAF) could introduce a new advanced jet training aircraft.

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The United States has been using the Northrop T-38 Talon for this purpose for many years. This aircraft entered service in 1961 and several generations of pilots from the United States and other countries that have training agreements have been trained on it. with the US Air Force. To replace the T-38, the USAF launched the T-X Program, and finally on September 27, 2018 it was announced that the chosen model was the T-7 Red Hawk, a jet built jointly by the American company Boeing and by the Swedish company Saab.

The second prototype of the Boeing-Saab T-7 Red Hawk (Photo: Boeing).

Like its predecessor, the T-7 Red Hawk is an unarmed training aircraft, although there has already been talk about the possibility of making a combat version capable of carrying weapons and which would be called F- 7. The T-7 measures 14.3 meters in length and 9.32 meters in wingspan and is a two-seat aircraft. It is equipped with a General Electric F404-GE-103 turbofan engine and can reach a speed of 1,300 km/h (Mach 1.05), with an operational ceiling of 15,240 meters.

The first production T-7A, crewed by USAF test pilot Major Jonathan "Gremlin" Aronoff and Boeing test pilot Steve "Bull" Schmidt, flying over the Mojave Desert on November 8, 2023, before landing at Edwards AFB, California (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

The T-7 follows in the footsteps of other advanced trainers currently on the market, such as the Italian Leonardo M-346 Master and the South Korean KAI T-50 Golden Eagle. The Red Hawk has digital avionics and has an open mission systems architecture, so it can adapt to different types of aircraft in which its future pilots will have to fly: fighters, attack aircraft , bombers, etc. The USAF will receive 351 aircraft and 46 T-7 simulators.

The first T-7A has been assigned to the USAF 416th Flight Test Squadron. Here we see it at Vance AFB, Ohio, on November 7, 2023 (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

Two prototypes have been made of this aircraft, the N381TX and N382TX. These first two prototypes were aircraft with civil registration and owned by Boeing, but they were painted in gray colors, with the same current scheme as the T-38 Talon. It was like a preview of what would be the definitive appearance of these new planes once they entered service.

The first production T-7A Red Hawk on one of its test flights at the Boeing facility in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 22, 2023 (Photo:

However, the first production T-7A, which was delivered to the USAF on September 21, 2023, had its tail painted entirely in red, an appearance that until now no aircraft would have shown. the USAF T-38 fleet. Painting the plane like this was not a mere whim, but there was a historical reason behind it, which was announced in September 2019 by Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan. That red color is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, as the 445 men who were part of the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Force during World War II are known.

The first production T-7A flying over Edwards AFB on November 8, 2023 (Photo: U.S. Air Force).

The Tuskegee Airmen were all black and had the tails of their planes painted red. They applied this color to their Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters, initially, and later to their North American P-51 Mustang, its Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and its Bell P-39 Airacobra. That unit became famous for its success escorting Allied bombers, for which it gained great renown during that war, obtaining, among other decorations, a Legion of Merit, a Silver Star, 8 Purple Hearts , 14 Bronze Stars and 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. In fact, the name Red Hawk itself is a tribute to those aviators and their first fighter, the P-40 Warhawk.

You can see here the video published in April 2022 by Boeing about the T-7A Red Hawk, during the presentation of the new aircraft, in which it mentions the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen:


Main photo: U.S. Air Force.

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