Digital engineering of the Boeing [BA] and Saab T-7A Red Hawk led to the joining of the training aircraft’s front and aft fuselages in less than half an hour this week at Boeing’s St. Louis plant, Boeing said on May 13.

Saab builds the aft fuselage at its plant in Linköping, Sweden, under a joint development agreement with Boeing.

“The digital splice was completed in 95 percent less time than traditional splices and with substantial quality improvements,” Boeing said. “The aircraft, which will be used for static test, is the first engineering and manufacturing development test asset to be spliced. It will be followed by five engineering and manufacturing development jets.”

Last September, the U.S. Air Force designated the Red Hawk as the service’s first “eSeries” aircraft and first digitally engineered system (Defense Daily, Sept. 14, 2020).

Andrew Stark, Boeing T-7A Red Hawk production director, said in a statement that the digital design, engineering and manufacturing of the aircraft means a “50 percent improvement in overall production quality and as much as a 98 percent reduction in drilling defects.”

Boeing said in February that it had begun production of the trainer.

In September 2018, Boeing and Saab won a potential $9.4 billion Air Force contract for 46 simulators and 351 aircraft, which are expected to replace the service’s aging T-38 Talon fleet. Boeing has said that the award was the culmination of five to six years of work by the company.