The U.S. Air Force will call its new trainer jet the T-7A Red Hawk, in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first squadron of Black pilots who flew combat missions during World War II.
The jet was known previously as the T-X, but on Monday, Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan, alongside retired Col. Charles McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, announced the renamed jet, military.com reports.
“The name, Red Hawk, honors the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said during the annual Air, Space and Cyber conference.
“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 Forces’ first African-American fighter squadron,” he added.
As TheGrio previously noted, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military aviators in the US service corps and predated the formation of the United States Air Force. They trained at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama.
The group included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff who went through a US Army Air Corps training program to bring African-Americans into the war effort, according to Tuskegee Airmen Inc., a group devoted to the history of the airmen.
Back in December, Wilfred DeFour, one of the few living members of the Tuskegee Airmen was found dead at home in Harlem at the age of 100. Another Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. Robert Friend, died in June at the age of 99.
McGee is a decorated P-51 Mustang fighter pilot; who flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He has received multiple Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Merit over the course of his 30-year career, according to his biography, per military.com.
“In fact, as a lieutenant during World War II, Colonel McGee was stationed with the 302nd Fighter Squadron as one of the original Tuskegee Airmen,” Donovan said. “Flying his P-51 Mustang — named ‘Kitten,’ after his wife — Col. McGee kept American bombers safe and engaged enemy fighters in the skies over Germany as part of the greatest generation.”
The T-7A will have red vertical canted tails, similar to those of the Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C aircraft.
“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller. And that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”