T-7A Red Hawk / T-X Advanced Trainer Replacement
The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II. The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron. The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently painted their Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.
A $9.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing 27 September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons. The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels. The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.
The US Air Force released the final request for proposals [RFP] for the T-38 trainer replacement program 30 Decembe 2016. The USAF was expected to award the contract in 2017, to reach initial operational capability [IOC] by the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2024. The Advanced Pilot Training (T-X) program will provide student pilots in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) advanced phase and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) with the skills and competencies required to transition into 4th- and 5th-generation fighter aircraft.
The T-X Advanced Trainer Replacement is closely watched for several reasons. First, with a projected 350 T-X aircraft at 7 AETC training locations, and associated ground training systems, this is will be a major defense acquisition program. Overall investment costs (e.g. integration, test, and procurement) are projected to be over $10 billion. Second, these numbers are small relative to the total potential world wide market. By the year 2015 there were nearly 15,000 fighters in service around the world. Generously assuming a 30 year operating life, this suggested an annual replacement market of about 500 aircraft annually. While a few operators will look up-market to the F-35 or J-31, many low end operators will be attracted to a 5-ton / Mach 0.8 turboprop aircraft. But most operators will be looking for a rather less expensive replacement in the region of a 9-ton / Mach 1.5 jet aircraft.
The Advanced Trainer Replacement, T-X, will replace the USAF T-38 aircraft and associated Ground Based Training System (GBTS) currently used in the fighter / bomber advanced Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) track as well as in the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) program. The T-38 was first introduced in 1961 and as of 2010 was projected to begin phase out by 2017. This was a new start in FY2011. FY2011 plans include completion of Material Solution Analysis, Milestone A, and initiation of competitive prototyping activities. Budget Activity Justification. This project is in Budget Activity 5, System Development and Demonstration (SDD), because it primarily involves the missionization of essentially non-developmental aircraft, equipment, and components.
Advanced Pilot Training (APT) Family of Systems (FoS) program, commonly referred to as "T-X", is the yet un-named/un-numbered aircraft and accompanying ground system that will meet USAF advanced pilot training needs for the next several decades. Pilot candidates destined for fighter and bomber assignments will train in T-X from the time they complete basic pilot training in the T-6 Texan II, until they begin to fly their assigned aircraft, such as the B-1, F-15E, F-22, or F-35. Currently, this advanced pilot training is conducted with the T-38C Talon. Additionally, new pilots destined for the F-22 fly the F-16D (the two-seat model) in preparation for Initial F-22 training. The T-38 capability gaps consist mainly of advanced systems training, aerial refueling, and sustained Gs. With T-X, the Air Force will no longer need to push those skill sets to later training programs, nor need the F-16D training "bridge" to the F-22.
AETC had a baseline of 283 Primary Aircraft Inventory (PAI) with a UTE of 27. HAF estimates for total flying hours vary through IOC. An additional 67 aircraft will be used for Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI) and attrition aircraft. The Air Force planned to award a contract for 350 T-Xs to replace the 431 AETC T-38s in the fall of 2017, with initial operational capability by the end of 2023. The service will accept proposals for currently fielded and clean-sheet designs to meet the Air Force's undergraduate pilot and introduction to fighter fundamentals training needs.
A full RFP release was expected in 2017, which would lead into a one-year competitive downselect and a four-year development phase, for initial operational capability in 2023. Developmental Test & Evaluation (DT&E) will be conducted at multiple locations. The USAF envisions test aircraft to be delivered to Edwards AFB CA to conduct and complete DT&E prior to delivery to the using command for IOT&E. Test aircraft will be required to be in a production representative configuration prior to IOT&E at a user-specified location, currently anticipated to be Randolph AFB. Additionally, it is anticipated that DT&E of the GBTS Aircrew Training Devices (including simulators) could take place at a contractor facility prior to delivery to the IOT&E location where final installation and acceptance testing would take place prior to IOT&E events.
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