The front and aft fuselage sections of the first Boeing/Saab T-7A RED HAWK airframe were joined in under 30 minutes – a testament to the digital heritage of the US Air Force’s first ‘eSeries’ aircraft and to the benefits of model-based engineering and 3D design, Boeing announced on 13 May.

The digital splice was completed in 95% less time than traditional splices and with substantial quality improvements.

The aft fuselage, designed and built by Saab in Sweden, was shipped the 7,200km to St Louis and lined up precisely the forward fuselage by Boeing mechanics. 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 aircraft: the total number of T-7As to be built for the USAF currently stands at 351.

This moment marks a key stage in the evolution of the T-7A RED HAWK,” commented Chuck Dabundo, VP/Program Manager of Boeing T-7 programmes. “Employing digitally advanced manufacturing and build techniques developed by Boeing over the past two decades, we are bringing this trainer to future pilots sooner than ever before possible and with greater quality.”

What we’re seeing in this new evolution of digitally designed, engineered and manufactured aircraft is a 50% improvement in overall production quality and as much as a 98% reduction in drilling defects,” added Andrew Stark, Boeing T-7A RED HAWK Production Director. “It’s a new way of producing airplanes with improved quality throughout the whole journey.”

The T-7A fuselage halves being mated by Boeing mechanics in St Louis. (Photo: Boeing/Saab)

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