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Popular Choice: The GE F404-powered Boeing T-7A Trainer Named to “Best of What’s New” List

December 09, 2019 | by Rich Gorham
The GE F404-powered Boeing T-7A trainer has been named to Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” list. The T-7A is an all-new advanced pilot training system Boeing designed for the U.S. Air Force.

Popular Science screened thousands of technologies – from companies, universities and government agencies – to determine its top 100 and describes the list as “the most pivotal, influential and just plain awesome innovations” of the year. Using model-based engineering, the T-7A program accounted for a 75 percent increase in first-time engineering quality.

“This team rallied around the idea of ‘breaking the norm,’ using 3-D modeling and other new production techniques that are being noticed by the entire aerospace industry and by our customers,” said Chuck Dabundo, vice president and program manager for Boeing T-7 programs.

And GE Aviation is doing its part as well. The Lynn Engineering team is working tirelessly to provide qualification documents, support flight testing, and demonstrate flawless integration of the F404-103 into the flight-test vehicle of the T-7A Red Hawk. The F404-103 is incorporating single-engine features and a modern FADEC.

In 2018 the U.S. Air Force announced an agreement with Boeing to purchase more than 350 single-engine T-7A trainer jets, all of them powered by the F404. “We’re very excited about supporting Boeing and the U.S. Air Force with our F404 engines and helping train fighter pilots for generations to come,” said Al DiLibero, GE Aviation’s general manager of Medium Combat & Trainer Engines.

The deal represents something of a generational change for GE. The F404s are replacing another GE engine, the J85, which was used on the previous generation of T-38 trainers. The Boeing contract now passes the torch to the F404 and could extend the life of the F404 for another decade.

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein shortly after the selection of the new trainer. “We need the T-X (T-7A) to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft.”

And GE Aviation and the F404 remain dedicated to promoting this combat superiority. With its versatility and low cost, the relatively light F404 (11,000 pounds of thrust, 17,000 with afterburner) is suitable for agile fighters, and designed to be easily maintained. Its six modules — fan, compressor, combustor, high-pressure turbine, low-pressure turbine and afterburner —are designed for convenient maintenance especially on an aircraft carrier, allowing engineers to quickly swap out a module for a spare.

(Some content and photos courtesy of Boeing)

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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.