Dubai Airshow 2023: Boeing explores fighter version of T-7
Boeing has confirmed at the Dubai Airshow 2023 that it has been looking into the possibility of the F-7, a fighter version of the T-7 Red Hawk, despite work still being required on the trainer jet’s escape system.
Donn Yates, executive director of air force fighters and trainers at Boeing’s air dominance division, said that due to its open system architecture and low-cost-per-flight hour, designing a light attack fighter based on the T-7 was very much on the table.
Yates told Shephard ‘it makes sense’ to develop a fighter attack version of the T-7 and Boeing ‘has absolutely been looking at that’. He stopped short of saying whether Boeing and the US Air Force (USAF) had engaged in discussions regarding the concept.
Yates’ comments came shortly after a USAF official revealed at the International Fighter Conference in Madrid that the service has been considering the F-7, as first reported by Breaking Defense. The officer said the USAF would prepare a request for information (RFI) to industry. To turn the trainer into a light fighter, it would need to receive additional capabilities and weapon systems.
Yates also told Shephard last May at its St Louis facility, where it tests the T-7, that Boeing has ‘always had that [light attack version] derivative in mind in variants’.
Boeing has said during a press briefing at the show that it would release a new concrete outlook for the T-7 in the first half of next year once a couple of decision points have been worked out.
When questioned about the problems the T-7 programme has been dogged by, the Yates said additional test shots would be conducted using some of the lessons learned during last year's tests.
‘There are some recommendations on that as far as changes that we need to make,’ Yates remarked. ‘We’re going to make those changes, and we’re going to do additional test shots going into 2024. So we still have some work to do on the escape system.’
Yates added that ‘no matter what’, Boeing would honour the commitments of the timeline and deliver the T-7s to the USAF. Without additional details about exact timelines and countries, he added that there would be further announcements on new customers ‘soon’.
Serbia has been identified as the first potential export customers, but Boeing also pitched the Red Hawk to the Asian market during the Singapore Airshow 2020. Yates could not commit to the previously mentioned figure of 2,700 potential aircraft sold by Boeing, but said the T-7 could be flying for a very long time.
‘If we do this right, the T-7 is going to be the last crewed trainer in perpetuity,’ Yates claimed. ‘If you do the math, as long as we have crewed aircraft like B-22 or sixth-generation fighters or anything that’s lurking in the future, you could see T-7 being around for a very long time.’
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