Saab has started assembly of the first aft-fuselage section of the T-7A Red Hawk for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the US Air Force's (USAF's) T-X trainer aircraft replacement programme.
The Swedish manufacturer said on 21 January that it had begun building the first section from just aft of the cockpit to the rear of the trainer aircraft that it has developed as a partner to the T-X prime contractor, Boeing.
"In little over a year since we signed the EMD contract, we are starting production of our part of the T-7A jet," Saab said in a statement.
With two production representative jets (PRJs) already built and flying, the EMD contract awarded in September 2018 was for five more aircraft for flight trials, plus one fuselage for static and one fuselage for fatigue testing.
Saab is now building these seven EMD aft-fuselage units at its plant in Linköping, Sweden, ahead of transfer to Boeing's St. Louis facility in Missouri for aircraft final assembly. As noted by Saab, the work currently being carried out in Linköping will be transferred to West Lafayette in Indiana, where sections for about 60 aircraft will be turned out per year.
Previously, Saab has declined to say when the first EMD aircraft will fly, noting that "this is very sensitive information for the USAF".
Besides Boeing and Saab, other industry suppliers so far disclosed comprise General Electric, Triumph Group, Collins Aerospace, L3 Technologies, and Elbit Systems.
The USAF has a programme-of-record of 351 Red Hawk aircraft to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon that has been in service since the 1960s. With the first aircraft set to be delivered to Randolph Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, in 2023, initial operational capability (IOC) is scheduled for 2024. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A, including those at Columbus AFB, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.
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