Saab said on July 26 that the company has delivered its second aft airframe section for the U.S. Air Force T-7A Red Hawk trainer program to Boeing‘s [BA] St. Louis plant from Saab’s Linköping site in Sweden.

The shipment came on July 24, Saab said.

“On completion of the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) production phase, Saab’s brand new facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA will undertake Saab’s production of the aft airframe sections for the T-7A program,” according to the company.

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

Boeing said in May that it had mated the front and aft fuselages for the first Red Hawk in April and that digital engineering allows such joining in less than half an hour (Defense Daily, May 13). That first EMD aircraft is to be used for static test.

Boeing is charged with splicing together Saab’s aft section with the front section, wings, fins and tail assembly to complete the plane and allow it to be used in the EMD flight test program. The aft section with hydraulics, fuel and secondary power system is the aircraft’s center structure from behind the cockpit to the end of the aircraft.

Boeing said digital engineering allows digital splicing to finish in 95 percent less time than traditional splices and with substantial quality improvements.

Jonas Hjelm, the head of Saab’s aeronautics business area, said in a July 26 statement that Boeing and Saab are trying “to redefine what a trainer jet is, and to do so through digital engineering.”

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, has said 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.