Parts of US Air Force aircraft to be built in West Lafayette

Image by Tommy Olsson from Pixabay

The United States Air Force is in need of a new fighter jet trainer for its up-and-coming pilots and the military branch has asked Saab to take part in building the new aircraft.

You may typically think of the Swedish company as a car maker. Though the automobile arm of the company has been defunct for several years now, the company still has a thriving aerospace arm that will be opening a brand new manufacturing facility at Discovery Park on the Purdue University campus.

That facility will be making the middle section of the new T-7 Red Hawk, a small fighter jet trainer that is set to replace the T-38 as the trainer of choice for the U.S. Air Force.

“Purdue is a leading innovator as well as has the top engineering schools in aerospace and engineering,” said General Manager Robert Ulibarri to Inside Indiana Business. “By having that talent base readily accessible to us it really promotes a culture of growth, innovation, and project design.”

The facility will be a critical part in building the new jet, which the Air Force says is in desperate need as the T-38 has been around since before the Vietnam War.

“(The T-7) is replacing an aging fleet,” Ulibarri said. “The T-38 was first flown in 1959 and has been the trainer of choice for tens of years since then, but it’s reached its end of life. So, the maintenance costs are extremely high and they’re also not as reliable and the T-7A fills that need.”

Production on the aircraft is set to begin later this year with over 130 new workers expected to be on hand to start building the new jets.

Ulibarri said that the jets will also come with a unique feature that will pay homage to a special group of pilots from the past. The jets will have their tails painted red to commemorate the Tuskeegee Airmen from World War II. Known as the Red Tails, they were an all African-American squad of fighter pilots.

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