Saab began production on the Air Force’s forthcoming T-7A Red Hawk trainer jet earlier this month, the company said Jan. 21.

The Swedish-based company started assembly production of its portion of the new trainer on Jan. 10, and has produced seven aft fuselage units in Linköping, Sweden, which will then be sent to prime contractor Boeing’s [BA] facility in St. Louis.

Boeing and Saab won a joint bid worth up to $9.4 billion to develop the Air Force’s next-generation end-to-end trainer system in 2018, and the T-7A is expected to replace the service’s aging T-38 Talon fleet. Once the $813 million engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase is complete, Saab will transfer its manufacturing to a new facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, promoting U.S.-based production for the Red Hawk.

The Air Force plans to begin accepting the first T-7A platforms and simulators in 2023, officials have previously said. Initial operating capability is expected by 2024 and full operational capability is currently scheduled for 2034. The service has expressed a need for 351 new aircraft and 46 simulators.

Boeing said in a Tuesday statement that it is “is excited about Saab’s announcement that production on the aft section of the T-7A has started.”

“Here in the U.S., our supplier base is actively manufacturing parts for the advanced T-7A trainer, and we expect to start assembly of the full aircraft later this year,” said Larry Chambers, a Boeing spokesman, in an email to Defense Daily. Boeing and Saab have plans to produce up to 60 aircraft annually, Boeing officials previously told Defense Daily (Defense Daily, Nov. 19, 2019).