It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the T-7A Red Hawk and it’s the name of the Air Force’s next-generation training jet,  the Air Force’s top civilian announced Monday, Defense News reported.

The name pays tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators who flew during World War II as part of the Army Air Corps, the precursor to the US. Air Force. The Tuskegee Airmen were known as “Red Tails” due to the red paint applied to the tails of their aircraft, the report said.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan announced the new designation during a keynote speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference, accompanied by retired Col. Charles McGee, a P-51 Mustang pilot and one of the members of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew more than 400 combat missions during World War II.

After unveiling a red-tailed mockup of the T-7A, Donovan noted that the Red Hawk would be a “staple of a new generation of aircraft” for the Air Force.

In addition to the Tuskegee Airmen, “the name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Force’s first African American fighter squadron,” he said.

Last year, Boeing won the US$9.2 billion contract for the T-7 program — formerly known as T-X — after submitting a bid that shaved about US$10 billion off the Air Force’s initial estimates, the report said.

The Air Force is preparing to receive new trainer jets to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s, some of which date to the mid-1960s.

While analysts had predicted a Boeing win after it unveiled two production-quality T-X aircraft in 2016, at one point it had seemed unlikely that the company’s clean sheet design would prevail against Lockheed Martin and the Leonardo DRS, who had offered modified versions of existing trainers.

Last year, Boeing won the US$9.2 billion contract for the T-7 program — formerly known as T-X — after submitting a bid that shaved about US$10 billion off the Air Force’s initial estimates. Boeing.

Boeing attributed the low cost of its T-X designs to its use of digital engineering. Paul Niewald, the company’s chief engineer for the T-X program, told reporters in May that technique reduced the manual labor needed to produce and manufacture the aircraft by 80%.

It also created such precise digital models for its trainer that the sections of the jet could be locked together without using shims to fill in the gaps, he said.

Will Roper, the service’s acquisition executive, also sees T-7’s use of digital engineering as a model for the Air Force’s future fighter program, also known as Next Generation Air Dominance, the report said.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to buy up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators, although the current plan is to buy 351 T-7 aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment.

Under the initial US$813 million award, Boeing will deliver five T-7 aircraft and seven simulators, with the first sims arriving at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023.

Initial operating capability will follow in fiscal year 2024 when the first squadron and its associated simulators are all available for training. Full operational capability is projected for 2034.

Elbit Systems of America confirmed it will supply Boeing a number of products – including cockpit displays, datalinks, and embedded training capabilities for the T-7A Red Hawk. Boeing.