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Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack


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Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack


In March 2024, Angle of Attack Simulations released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.


The first T-X aircraft flew on 20 December 2016 via the T-X program. The Boeing-Saab team then submitted their entry after the Air Force opened the T-X program to bids in December 2016. In September 2018, Air Force officials announced that Boeing's design would be its new advanced jet trainer, under an up-to-US$9.2 billion (~$10.6 billion in 2022) program and would purchase 351 aircraft, 46 simulators, maintenance training and support. This contract has options for up to 475 airplanes in total.


The aircraft entered series production in February 2021. In April 2021, Saab Group delivered one aft section of T-7A aircraft to the Boeing St. Louis plant. In July 2021, Saab had delivered the second aft section to the Boeing St. Louis plant. Boeing will splice Saab's aft section with the front section, fins, wings and tail assembly to become a complete test aircraft for use in the EMD's (Engineering and Manufacturing Development ) flight test program. The first production T-7 was rolled out on 28 April 2022, and the first flight of the T-7A production aircraft was conducted from St. Louis Lambert International Airport in June 2023, by Major Bryce Turner, a test pilot with the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Steve Schmidt, Boeing’s chief T-7 test pilot. On 21 September 2023, the first Red Hawk was shipped to the US Air Force.


By November 2023, the USAF was now actively considering the possibility of turning the T-7 into an armed combat aircraft. Conceptually dubbed the F-7, such a jet could provide roughly the same capability as a fourth-generation fighter which could maintain force numbers as F-16s aircraft are retired, and could also replace older Northrop F-5 and Dornier Alpha Jet platforms on the export market. The single production Red Hawk was deployed at Edwards Air Force Base for advanced testing for this role.


X-PlaneReviews covered the release of the AOA T-7A Red Hawk in an X-Plane 11 review: First Impression Review : T-7A Red Hawk by AOA Simulations


It was an interesting review. Remember that the aircraft at the time was still really at it's experimental stage and AOA only had limited information on the aircraft performance and design capabilities, overall it was a very good representation of the new era trainer and it's features.

Here is the X-Plane 12 upgrade to the aircraft, a new release version, as the number is noted at v1.0, the same as the original X-Plane 11 release version. The T-7A is again released as three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and the T-7N Navy version.


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The T-7A has a thorough modern design and feel to the aircraft, fully carbon composite in construction, as it looks to the future, and not to the past in aircraft design. The X-Plane look and feel is quite different from the bland X-Plane 11 look, with now more depth and better shadows...  however look closely and the poor resolution skin is still there with very blurry text and logos, a real shame as AOA had a chance to update with X-Plane 12 in these areas to give the aircraft detail more depth, add in 4K, even 8K textures and bring out the quality to a higher standard.


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That said AOA aircraft (the Raptor) was the same, are brilliant at a distance, but become lo-res in detail at a close up inspection. But the Hawk here is definitely, if a massive improvement over the XP11 version with the X-Plane 12 PBR and lighting effects now active...


The gear and inboard bays are the same as well. Well done but starchy white, yes this is a pre-production aircraft and clean, that said it is really well done in the excellent complex detail and design.


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Ditto the engine inlets, too modeled, still too noticeably bright (distracting) from the external.


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The rear exhaust is again well done, better here than with X-Plane 11, even though the textures are the same, same with the twin-vertical rudders, with the same modeled (not textured) joints.


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Canopy and glass is still as good, very nice with depth and nice curves and reflections, a requirement with a trainer aircraft. So in the transition, in modeling and texture terms the T-7A is in reality the same, but thankfully X-Plane 12 does add in a bit of flare because of it's superior lighting. and dynamics, after three years the X-Plane 12 version is far superior.


The "T" is in "Trainer", so you have a twin-seat aircraft, with the rear for the instructor/observer. Both flight instrument and controls are exactly the same, so you can fly the T-7A from the front or rear (an option here).


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Compared to say the F-104 Starfighter, it is highly minimalistic in the cockpit, very little switch gear and everything is on the one large and two smaller instrument displays...


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Left side panel gives you Lights, Engines, Electrical and the chunky throttle. Right side has DOORS (Canopy, IFR, BWS), IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) or Transponder, right is also the Joystick controller. The internal mirrors now can be hidden with a click, not in the usual earlier menu option. Notable is the laptop AviTab, it can be rotated from Portrait to Landscape positions, but not hidden.


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There are two main instrument panels, the selection "Up-Front" Display (UFD) and the lower wide "Panoramic cockpit" Display. There is a third Engine/Fuel display that is positioned right, with both switchable numbers and percentage displays... 


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The "Panoramic cockpit" display covers eight different choices,  with three displays with the NAV/MAP central and two switchable screens left and right. But you can use the top 1 2 3 4 pre-set buttons to change the display.


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Left button options include; Aircraft Configuration, ADI (Attitude Direction Indicator), Flight Controls and RWS (Target mode). Right buttons include; MAP, HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), SYS (Systems) and NAV. The NAV/MAP range is selected by pressing the ZOOM-IN and ZOOM-OUT selections, and the Pop-Out is the XP G1000 panel display.


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Note on the ground On the ground, aircraft configuration is shown and a start-up checklist is provided in the left column. Once airborne only the applicable information is then displayed. Overall the "Panoramic cockpit" display is the same as the X-Plane 11 version.


The "Up Front" top display is however different in X-Plane 12. In reality the UFD has been simplified, gone is the complex grid layout, to a more easier accessed display...  press the NESW logo to change the UFD to a "Compass" Page.


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Outer knobs adjust (left); HDG (Heading), SPD (Speed), TST (Test), HUD (on/off). Right knobs include; ALT (Altitude) VVI (Vertical Velocity Indicator) RDR (terrain follow altitude) and screen Brightness. Lower options include NAV tuning and bottom COM tuning.


There are 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options that can be inserted (active) by pressing the D->. You can add in your own GPS frequency, but it is a messy and tricky process with a text editor, it would have been nice to have had an easy way to add in the function.


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Selecting VOR or GPS selection is oddly via the SRC, not the GPS, so it is hard to find. Also selecting the headphones on the COM, you can go into "Silent" mode on the radio.


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TST (Test) mode is very good, and TAC/VOR toggle: NAV1 is a combination VOR or TACAN radio.


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There is a backup ADI (Artificial Horizion), with a barometric pressure set knob. If the HUD power is OFF then airspeed, altitude, and heading are presented in the backup ADI.

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There is also a click spot “cheat” for the IFR door toggle in the upper right corner of the display. (IFR - In Flight Refueling)



The Menu system is the same X-Plane Banner placement, but the menu selection is very different, with now only two selections with; "Ground Equip" (Equipment) and "Options". Previously there were 10 options, but that has been reduced down to only these two.


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Ground Equipment, (Static Elements), selecting ground equipment will give you flags, pitot cover, large side stairs and engine intake covers... Newly added for XP12 are chocks (finally) and a rear exhaust outlet cover (very nice).


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Options: For the "Options" there is now a new Pop-Up dialog box with ten selections. First three selections are the "Auto" control of Flaps, Gear and Speed Brake systems, off is Manual control. Then Canopy Reflections on/off and Baro/Temperature switch.


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Left column has; TX Nose Probe, Navy Version with twin-nose wheels, tailhook and refueling probe...  The External Power doesn't give you a physical GPU externally, just the internal power supply, it also oddly kills the Static Elements? "Quick Start" will set the T-7A ready to fly with the engine running, and the "Back Seat" set you in the rear instructor seat, not the forward seat.


Overall the Ground Equip and Options selection is now far better coordinated and certainly easier to use than in the earlier XP11 layout.


Liveries are the not same three as before with... US Air Force T-7A (Default) and  TX - Prototype still present, but the US Navy Arctic Camo has been dropped to be replaced by the T-7N Navy Hawk. There are also a load of additional liveries available here: T-7 Red Hawk


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Flying the T-7A XP12

The Red Hawk is a trainer aircraft in a sequence of levels to acquire a full Jet Fighter certificate under the JPATS or Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. Entry level is Student on the T-6A Texan ll aircraft (propeller), that then moves to the T-1A Jayhawk in SUPT roles, then the T-38C Talon is used in the advanced pilot training role, but the T-5A category (APT T-X Program) is for the advance training to fourth and fifth generation aircraft (i.e. computer based) and multiple system based technology capability.


The first thing you notice in the cockpit of the T-7A is on how so very minimalistic everything is, I will note that a lot of this new technology capability is also built into the pilot's helmet that can not be replicated here in X-Plane (well not yet anyway). AOA do however show you how to set up your joystick with XP commands that does certain actions, and the XP A.I. (AI Aircraft) is also similarly set up for hostility operations and refueling. The GpsFPLInput plugin by Gtagentman is also recommended to be installed as well.


First there are a couple of settings in the T-7A to understand before takeoff. First is the "NWS" or Nosewheel steering, it's a tricky one to get right...


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I lost a bit of time with this one? First of all if it shows NWS in the HUD, the steering (via Nosewheel Tiller yaw) won't work? to get it to be active you have too have set (keyboard or Joystick button) the command "Nosewheel steer toggle" to activate the steering, it shows by the HUD icon changing to T-7A (or T-7N -Navy), then you can steer the Red Hawk. I will note that I also lost a considerable amount of time because the steering still didn't work with the NWS steering set correctly, even the developer couldn't work it out....  the cause was actually Laminar? I found that when X-Plane 12 loads, it loads with the "Landing gear" lever in the up position? And yes I have complained to Laminar to fix it!  but that was the cause of the non-steering this time...   put the lever in the correct down position and you will have steering.


Second is the BWS or "Brake With Stick", which will use the Joystick to control the braking, pull back slightly to release the brakes, the use of the stick on the takeoff or landing roll, then push forward to brake, a neutral stick then releases the brakes. But it's tricky to use, and you feel initially the aircraft is locked down. To deactivate, then switch it off via the BWS switch far right on the "DOORS" panel. My advice is to turn off all these "Auto" helpers in the BWS, Flaps, Gear and Speed Brakes, and fly the T-7A manually, then turn them back on individually to see how they work, everything turned on together can be confusing to a novice, when the aircraft is doing all the actions for you, they are very good, no doubt, but also control the aircraft in an systematic way.


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Taxiing is a little tricky if you go too fast, the Hawk will wriggle under the stick, so keep the knots down, otherwise it is a nice ride.


Full Throttle and the "afterburner" igniter kicks in, and you power off down the runway, speed at full thrust is colossal.


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Rotation was around 250 knts, high, but no flaps here, and the Hawk just powers into the air. Gear retraction is excellent, and very realistic. Note I set the flaps at 4% next time, and that was about perfect for a (shorter) run takeoff.


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I have to quickly reduce the throttle, if not would break the sound barrier at a low level... the speed numbers are just twirling up so quick.


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Now in a (fast) cruise I fly by St Louis City...  time to feel out the aircraft. First of all the X-Plane 12 version feels very different than the XP11 release. Yes those fine touchy movements with stick are still required, but the machine feels far, far more refined, as a lot of the earlier feel was very touchy, certainly in the pitch. I'll hold my hand up and say I wasn't in liking the earlier feel, the aircraft I loved, the control I wasn't that fussy about...  but this is now a revelation, this is FANTASTIC.


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Although a trainer aircraft, it still has to perform to a standard, a high standard if you are going to mirror a fifth generation fighter. And so the Hawk does. Back on the throttle and you climb...  33,500 ft/min (170.2 m/s) or 10, 211 m/min to a ceiling of 50,000ft...  WOW!


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There is a bit of a trick here, keep increasing the Vertical Speed (V/S) until you match the increasing/decreasing speed and until they both slow and then hold steady together, it is a fabulous ride. Your at an altitude of 30,000ft in no time. Maximum projected speed is Mach 1.05, with a general cruise speed of 526 kn (605 mph, 974 km/h), and a range of around 990 nmi (1,140 mi, 1,830 km).


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Turning is unusual in the T-7A. The aircraft has no ailerons, as the tail elevator does the all work here. So if you turn into a bank, then the turn is slow and wide... no matter the bank angle? To get the turn tighter you need some rudder control to twist the Hawk into the direction you want to go...


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...  a touch of back-stick is also required to stop the nose dipping downwards. So it is a more physical machine to fly than before.


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Then there is the "Roll 2 See” or R2C feature. This is activated by the left side instrument switch...  and the function is shown in the menu left bar


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Basically you now move with the aircraft (or roll with it)...  left, right, up or down. At first it can be a bit discerning as you lose your perspective control, but it works well, certainly in following low terrain or deep in a canyon which is highly recommended. Again another to be switched off until you are familiar with the aircraft, and best experienced in flight, unless you are used to using the R2C system.


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It's the same with "Target Track mode" that is displayed on the icon bar. The Target Track takes command of the pilot point of view
camera in order to point the camera at a selected AI plane (the target) and then follow it. Then keeping it in view at all times until you change the view to either 2D or the usual 3D. To activate the TRK mode, you need to be in the 3D cockpit view. The R2C rocker switch is switched ON, you have “Weapon select” and “Target select” completed, then  “Weapon select up” once to enter “Track Mode”, then click “Target select up” once or more to your preferred target. Tricky to get right! but clever when it works.


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Track-IR and VR headsets do work well, but they do require complete control of the pilot POV camera.


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Ground Collision Avoidance System protects the airplane and the pilot by estimating time to ground impact and restoring level flight using the auto pilot. As the aircraft approaches the ground two converging arrows appear in the HUD along with a time to impact. When the arrow meet in the center then the system will enter a recovery mode (FLY UP) to avoid ground impact....  sounds like fun... not!


Notable is the IFR (In Flight Refueling) the switch is on the DOORS panel, and recesses the IFR panel top of the T-7A.


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As noted you can set any of the 54 pre-set GPS (VOR 2) options or place coordination of say a AFB or City. When selected (GPS) the aircraft will then track to those coordinates, very good it is...  but what if where you want to go is not in that set list (for me St Louis KSTL). Like mentioned it is not easy to add in a new pre-set location, and the ones in there can over-ride the GPS system...  so a system is required by AOA to allow you add in a new GPS coordinate into the system easily is definitely required? I found it frustrating, even useless to use, unless you only fly out of a USA AFB.


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Because of the dynamic views features, you do find some view tools restricted even in 3D use, so you are sort of locked into the seat, and you can look up, down and side to side, but you can't move around like forwards or backwards...  so the lighting images are restricted here. It is basic anyway, the instrument lighting is good, but locked with no adjustment except for the UFD with a knob on the panel. The only adjustment is the "Overhead Light" on the ELECTRICAL panel, one for front and one for the rear. The canopy reflections are excellent and can also be turned off if to distracting.


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Externally the Red Hawk is basic, there are no "Formation" lights? or even a red beacon light. The T-7A's landing lights are on the undercarriage, so they only work when the gear is down...  here the lighting has been tuned to XP12, and very nice it looks.


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As mentioned, I wasn't that in liking the T-7A earlier, we just didn't gel as a partnership. Maybe it was the total automation of the aircraft? This time around for X-Plane 12 I have turned most of the automation off, odd yes, but I found the aircraft came alive in my hands when it did, maybe it was because I felt I was in control, and not the aircraft. It is an interesting point.


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I only left the "Speedbrake" Auto switched on, but found you still could not drop the flaps (manually) until you had dropped the gear down.


Approach is around 175 knts with full flap 56%. The flaps marker will flash, then only go solid when you are at the full flap position.


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This time around I found the Red Hawk so much more docile on the approach, rather than with those earlier wild erratic movements. I could sit there elevated in my position and fine tune the approach with ease, its a trainer aircraft, this is what it should be like for the novice airman.


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Throttle control is very nice, and you can easily adjust your height approach by slight forward and rear movements of the lever, just a smudge below 150 knts and you have the perfect slight nose up angle finals.


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More nose up going into a high flare, reduces the speed to 130 knts, you feel like an Eagle feathering the tips of your wings ready to land.


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Touch was around 128 knts, it felt faster, as the auto Speedbrakes kicked into action.


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Lovely, nice...  perfect landing, what more do you want. Notable is that I had to reset the NWS to T-7A to get my steering working again before tuning off the runway, otherwise I was very impressed with the XP12 Red Hawk.


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In March 2024, Angle of Attack released for the X-Plane 11 Simulator the T-7A Red Hawk. The Boeing/SAAB T-7A Red Hawk is the US Air Force’s newest fast jet training aircraft. It was designed to replace the more than 50 year old Northrup T-38 Talon, and to better prepare new military pilots for the future advanced aircraft they will fly later.


This X-Plane 12 is a totally new release, on the X-Plane 11 version. As in reality it is mostly a complete rework of the aircraft. Admittedly the XP11 version was at the time lacking in any real world data on the aircraft, not even the performance had been published, and those aspects have been now fixed here. This is now a far, far more refined simulation. The T-7A comes in three versions; TX prototype, T-7A advanced trainer and T-7N Navy version.


The modeling is actually very good, but more different at a distance in quality,. The Lo-Res closeup like the XP11 version is still there to a point here, but this time around in X-Plane 12 the PBR and lighting effects really bring out the quality and realism and give the aircraft far more depth in the air.


Features are excellent and very modern, R2C “Roll to See” POV camera, "Target Track" which points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera, AGCA - Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability and Track-IR and VR compatibility are all great features, notable are the "Auto" tools for Flaps, Gear, brakes and Speedbrakes are advanced features as on the real aircraft. Great Static Elements and probe are also nice menu additions, in that also the menu has been simplified but now more effective. So also changed is the old "Up-Front" Display from the complicated grid display, overall all are great improvements. Instrumentation and weapons are an all military style glass system, clever and well replicated here. There are some compromises with your view movements with the speciality view tools used in the features here, so forward and rear movements are restricted. Restricted GPS auto track is also limited with no edit or add position access.


The biggest maturity with X-Plane 12 however is in the flight dynamics and handing for the T-7A. This is a more benign but more controllable machine, gone are sharp pitches and the sudden jerks of the Autopilot actions. The T-7A is more smooth and now handles like a trainer aircraft should, I wasn't completely convinced on the Red Hawk's earlier dynamics, but this new improved XP12 version is a revelation in this current form, and I really simply love it now, but it still requires time to learn the systems and tune into all the aspects of this aircraft.


You get both the new X-Plane 12 and updated X-Plane 11 version T-7A with the package, currently there are no upgrade deals.


So overall the new X-Plane 12 version of the T-7A Red Hawk is a massive step forward, it looks, feels, and handles far, far better in it's new environment, so the trainer of the future is here now, and it comes with a big YES from me.



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The  T-7A Red Hawk XP12 by AOA Simulations is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store:

T-7A Red Hawk XP12

Priced at US$36.00

Advanced Features
  • SASL 3.16.1 based plug-in system
  • “Roll to See” dynamic pilot POV camera option (non-VR mode) points pilot camera based on pitch, roll and G forces
  • "Target Track" points, locks and follows AI planes with pilot camera
  • Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System
  • Fly from forward or aft cockpits as student or instructor
  • "Virtual" ground and In-Flight Refueling capability
  • Track-IR and VR compatible
  • AviTab tablet integration (Download AviTab plugin separately) 
Cockpit based on preliminary assessment of prototype T-X screen shots
  • Head Up Display
  • Up Front 32 points touch screen control and display panel
  • Large format glass panel with embedded G1000 color moving map
  • Multiple sub panel page options
  • Dedicated engine data display



X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11  (both versions included)

4 GB VRAM Video Card Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 429 MB
Current version: XP12 1.0 (September 29th 2023) 
This aircraft is noted as a new version, to date there are no upgrade deals from the X-Plane 11 version, but that may change.



Installation and documents:  download for the T-7A Red Hawk is 429Mb and the aircraft is deposited in the "Fighters" X-Plane folder.


Full Installation is 521MBb


AviTab Plugin is required for this aircraft


Documents supplied are:

  • 2019 CRS report T-7A Red Hawk program.pdf
  • Get Me Flying, NOW!.pdf
  • Printable Checklists
  • Red Hawk bases.png
  • Route around Europe.png
  • T-7A User Guide.pdf
  • Training Flights


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Documentation consists of a Quick Look overview, User guide, and the official CRS T-7A report... also provided is a Speed Chart (png), Checklists, and Red Hawk Bases and Route around Europe (png) and a "Get me Flying NOW!" tutorial


Designed by  Fabrice Kauffmann and David Austin of AOA Simulations



Update Review by Stephen Dutton

21st December 2023

Copyright©2023: X-Plane Reviews


Review System Specifications: 

Windows  - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD

Software:   - Windows 11 Pro - X-Plane 12.08rc3 (This is a Release Candidate review).

Plugins: Traffic Global - JustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99 : Global SFD plugin US$30.00

Scenery or Aircraft

- KSTL - St. Louis Lambert International Airport by StarSim-KSTL (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$22.00


(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) All Rights Reserved


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  • Stephen changed the title to Aircraft Review : T-7A Red Hawk X-Plane 12 by Angle of Attack

Very nice review Stephen! Fair and comprehensive!


It sounds like you were able to spend some time getting familiar with the T-7A. Glad that you liked some of the new features and the new flight model!


Please note that the X-Plane 12 version of the T-7A was listed as a free upgrade for all current X-Plane 11 customers when David Austin made the announcement on the .org on September 29. 🙂 

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