Saab Starts Building T-7A Tail Sections

Saab has begun construction of the first tail sections for Air Force T-7A Red Hawk trainers, the company announced Jan. 21.

Saab will build the first seven tail sections for the advanced jet trainer at its Linkoping, Sweden facility. They will then be shipped to prime contractor Boeing in St. Louis, Mo., for final assembly. After the T-7A engineering and manufacturing development phase of the T-7A program, Saab will produce the tail sections at its new plant in West Lafayette, Ind.

While Boeing is T-7A prime contractor, it designed the jet in partnership with Saab, which was a “risk-sharing partner,” the company said in a press statement. The order for the seven EMD tail sections was placed by Boeing in September, 2018. Production has begun “in little over a year since we signed the EMD contract,” said Jonas Hjelm, head of Saab’s aeronautics business area, an “achievement … possible due to the great collaboration” between the two companies.

The West Lafayette facility is “a crucial part of our growth strategy in the US,”  said Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab Defense and Security USA.

The Air Force plans to build around 400 T-7A jets, which are to gradually replace the T-38 Talon beginning in 2023. The jet is also being eyed for other Air Force missions such as air defense and Aggressor missions. Boeing and Saab plan to market the T-7A internationally, and have said they anticipate a world market for as many as 2,000 advanced jet trainers. The aircraft was officially named the “Red Hawk” at last September’s AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber conference. The name in part honors the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII, whose fighters were adorned with a red tail.