Boeing’s T-7A Red Hawk and accompanying Ground Based Training System (GBTS) are expected to further revolutionize Air Force pilot training. Marty Kauchak got an up-close look in St. Louis.

Forward-leaning technologies and industrial processes are being integrated into the T-7A aircraft and GBTS to provide significant returns on investment for the USAF customer.

Boeing is on contract for the delivery to the Air Force of 351 T-7As and 46 training devices and their lifecycle support. 

On June 16, Saab announced the delivery of the final aft section of the last Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) training aircraft to Boeing for joining to the forward fuselage. Built on digital models, the two sections were joined together in less than 30 minutes. 

The power of using the digital domain for this aircraft process was commented on by Greg Hyslop, Chief Engineer and Executive Vice President for Boeing Engineering, Test and Technology, who said this process, heretofore, would have taken days. 

While Saab shipped this content from the company’s Sweden-based facilities, all T-7A production is shifting to Saab’s new production facility in Lafayette, Indiana. 

Steve Schmidt, Boeing’s T-7A Chief Test Pilot, told MS&T at Boeing facilities in St. Louis, Missouri that the Red Hawk is built from a “clean sheet” design and his team remains “knee deep” in EMD activities. 

Randy Jackson, Boeing program spokesperson, added context to the program status, noting the T-7A team is “50% complete with EMD testing.” Some of the key activities remaining on the test schedule include completing the high angle-of-attack program, departure/control testing and other events. The industry team is also completing integration of the live, virtual, constructive (LVC) suite, radar and other content. No dates were assigned to remaining T-7A program EMD milestones. 

Schmidt further emphasized the software on the T-7A aircraft is the same as in the GBTS, allowing these training audiences to be “joined at the hip.”


Aspiring USAF pilots will train in seven parts of the Advanced Pilot Training System (APTS), including the T-7A and the GBTS components: weapon system trainer; ground egress trainer; operational flight trainer (OFT); part-task trainer; ejection seat trainer; and unit training device. 

Dan Gillian, Vice President US Government Services at Boeing Global Services, also emphasized the importance of the digital thread in the APTS, which permits common software and other components to help reduce system latency, reduce workload for software development teams and provide other ROIs. 

The broader T-7A system will also help the US DoD to move ever closer to achieving its long-gestating vision of a department-wide LVC. Gillian concluded, “Boeing will be delivering Integrated LVC on Day 1.”

The T-7A training system is one of several US Air Force Training and Education Command efforts to move pilot training beyond the 2022-era. Boeing executives said they are monitoring other concurrent Air Force activities in this learning sector, including Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5. The T-7A contract’s current fixed-price and other constraints prevent Boeing from moving beyond simply observing these parallel Air Force efforts.

Dan Draeger, Chief Boeing TACAIR Test Pilot, pointed out other advanced, representative GBTS capabilities by way of a tour of the OFT. Of note, the OFT is a fixed-base device. Yet, the device delivers its high level of training, in part, by way of a cockpit seat that imparts shaking and other cues, and the pilot wearing his or her G-suit, to provide buffeting and other aspects of motion experienced in flight. 

Of added significance, the OFT provides an 8K visual display resolution by way of JVC projectors. By comparison, visual display resolution of current military OFTs, or other devices, are typically 4K. As many MS&T readers will recall, in general, an 8K visual display system rating provides more pixels, more details, higher color and other improvements, and helps the pilot in the training device move closer to perceive 20/20 visual acuity.

JVC is one of many T-7A APTS equipment suppliers. Boeing executives noted system devices will include “Boeing simulators, Boeing Instructor Operating Stations and other company-branded content.” 

The OFT further complements Boeing’s Constant Visual System concept that further seeks to allow pilots to train like they fly.

On the Horizon

Boeing has received unspecified international interest from a number of nations about the T-7A system.

The US Air Force is completing T-7A-related infrastructure construction with its miliary construction funding.

The Air Force also continues to develop its strategy and program for T-7A maintenance training. 

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