T-38 Talon: Aircraft profile

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The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record.

T-38 Talon: An air to air right side view of a 12th Flying Training Wing T-38 Talon aircraft with its landing gear extended, sporting a test paint scheme.T-38 Talon: An air to air right side view of a 12th Flying Training Wing T-38 Talon aircraft with its landing gear extended, sporting a test paint scheme.

Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also use the T-38A in various roles.

Features

The T-38 has swept wings, a streamlined fuselage and tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. Two independent hydraulic systems power the ailerons, rudder and other flight control surfaces. Critical aircraft components are waist high and can be easily reached by maintenance crews.

T-38 Talon: A US Air Force (USAF) T-38 Talon aircraft assigned to the 80th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), Air Education and Training Command (AETC) takes off at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas (TX), to mark the 20th anniversary of the European (EURO) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) School.T-38 Talon: A US Air Force (USAF) T-38 Talon aircraft assigned to the 80th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), Air Education and Training Command (AETC) takes off at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas (TX), to mark the 20th anniversary of the European (EURO) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) School.

The T-38C incorporates a "glass cockpit" with integrated avionics displays, head-up display and an electronic "no drop bomb" scoring system. The AT-38B has a gun sight and practice bomb dispenser.

The T-38 needs as little as 2,300 feet (695.2 meters) of runway to take off and can climb from sea level to nearly 30,000 feet (9,068 meters) in one minute. T-38s modified by the propulsion modernization program have approximately 19 percent more thrust, reducing takeoff distance by 9 percent.

The instructor and student sit in tandem on rocket-powered ejection seats in a pressurized, air-conditioned cockpit.

T-38 Talon: An air-to-air right front view of a T-38 Talon aircraft, left, and an F/A-18 Hornet.T-38 Talon: An air-to-air right front view of a T-38 Talon aircraft, left, and an F/A-18 Hornet.

Background

Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38C to prepare pilots for front-line fighter and bomber aircraft such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor.

The Talon first flew in 1959. More than 1,100 were delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972 when production ended. As the T-38 fleet has aged, specific airframe, engine and system components have been modified or replaced. Pacer Classic is the name given to a sustainment program that integrates essential modifications, and includes major structural replacements into one process.

AETC began receiving T-38C models in 2001 as part of the Avionics Upgrade Program. T-38C models will also undergo a propulsion modernization program which replaces major engine components to enhance reliability and maintainability, and an engine inlet/injector modification to increase available takeoff thrust. These upgrades and modifications, with the Pacer Classic program, should extend the service life of T-38s to 2020.

Advanced JSUPT students fly the T-38C in aerobatics, formation, night, instrument and cross-country navigation training.

Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Air Force Materiel Command uses the T-38 to test experimental equipment such as electrical and weapon systems.

Pilots from most North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries train in the T-38 at Sheppard AFB, Texas, through the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses T-38 aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observers and chase planes on programs such as the space shuttle.

T-38 Talon: An air-to-air right side view of, from top to bottom, a TA-7 Corsair II aircraft, a TA-4 Skyhawk aircraft, a T-2 Buckeye aircraft and a T-38 Talon aircraft in flight near the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.T-38 Talon: An air-to-air right side view of, from top to bottom, a TA-7 Corsair II aircraft, a TA-4 Skyhawk aircraft, a T-2 Buckeye aircraft and a T-38 Talon aircraft in flight near the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Advanced jet pilot trainer

Builder: Northrop Corp.

Power Plant: Two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with afterburners

Thrust: 2,050 pounds dry thrust; 2,900 with afterburners

Thrust (with PMP): 2,200 pounds dry thrust; 3,300 with afterburners

Length: 46 feet, 4 inches (14 meters)

Height: 12 feet, 10 inches (3.8 meters)

Wingspan: 25 feet, 3 inches (7.6 meters)

Speed: 812 mph (Mach 1.08 at sea level)

Ceiling: Above 55,000 feet (16,764 meters)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 12,093 pounds (5,485 kilograms)

Range: 1,093 miles

Armament: T-38A/C: none; AT-38B: provisions for practice bomb dispenser

Unit Cost: $756,000 (1961 constant dollars)

Crew: Two, student and instructor

Date Deployed: March 1961

Inventory: Active force, 546; ANG, 0; Reserve 0

Source: USAF

T-38 Talon: A back seat view from a T-38 Talon aircraft as it banks to the left along with another Talon in formation. Both aircraft are from the 560th Flying Training Squadron.T-38 Talon: A back seat view from a T-38 Talon aircraft as it banks to the left along with another Talon in formation. Both aircraft are from the 560th Flying Training Squadron.

Detailed background:

Source: wikipedia.org

The Northrop T-38 Talon is an American supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first, and most produced supersonic trainer. It remains in service as of 2008 in air forces throughout the world including the United States Air Force (USAF), which remains its largest user.

The basic airframe was used for the light combat aircraft F-5 Freedom Fighter family. In addition to USAF pilots, T-38s are also used by NASA astronauts, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (other T-38s were previously used as USN aggressor aircraft), other NATO pilots under a joint training program, and some under civilian ownership.

Design and development

The T-38 was designed in the mid 1950s as the trainer variant of a lightweight fighter project (the N-156 project) by the Northrop Corporation (today part of Northrop Grumman). Although the United States Air Force had no need for a small fighter at the time, it became interested in the trainer as a replacement for the T-33 Shooting Star it was then using in this role. The first of three prototypes (designated YT-38) flew on March 10, 1959. The type was quickly adopted and the first production examples were delivered in 1961, officially entering service on March 17 that year, complementing the T-37 primary jet trainer. When production ended in 1972, 1,187 T-38s had been built. Since its introduction, it is estimated that some 50,000 military pilots have trained on this aircraft. The USAF remains one of the few armed flying forces using dedicated supersonic final trainers, as most such as the US Navy use high subsonic trainers.

T-38 Talon: An air to air right side view of a 12th Flying Training Wing T-38 Talon aircraft sporting a test paint scheme.T-38 Talon: An air to air right side view of a 12th Flying Training Wing T-38 Talon aircraft sporting a test paint scheme.

The T-38 is of conventional configuration, with a small, low, long-chord wing, a single vertical stabilizer, and tricycle undercarriage. The aircraft seats a student pilot and instructor in tandem, and has intakes for its two turbojet engines at the wing roots. Its nimble performance has earned it the nickname white rocket—in 1962, T-38s set four climb records.

The F-5B and F (which also derive from the N-156) can be distinguished from the T-38 by the wings; the wing of the T-38 meets the fuselage straight and ends square, while the F-5 possesses leading edge extensions near the wing roots and wingtip launch rails for air to air missiles. Under the paint, the T-38 wing is constructed of honeycomb material whereas the wing of the F-5 family is constructed of conventional skin over underlying support structure.

Most T-38s built were of the T-38A variant, but the USAF also had a small number of aircraft that had been converted for weapons training. These aircraft (designated AT-38B) had been fitted with a gunsight and could carry a gunpod, rockets, or bombs on a centerline pylon. In 2003, 562 T-38s were still operational with the USAF and are currently undergoing structural and avionics programs (T-38C) to extend their service life to 2020. Improvements include the addition of a HUD, GPS, INS (Inertial Navigation System), and TCAS as well as PMP (a propulsion modification designed to improve low-altitude engine performance by significantly increasing thrust). Many USAF variants (T-38A and AT-38B) are being converted to the T-38C standard.

T-38 Talon: Air-to-air right side view of an USAF T-38 Talon aircraft from 560th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph AFB, TX as his wingman banks to the left.T-38 Talon: Air-to-air right side view of an USAF T-38 Talon aircraft from 560th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph AFB, TX as his wingman banks to the left.

The fighter version of the N-156 was eventually selected for the US Military Assistance Program (MAP) and produced as the F-5 Freedom Fighter. Many of these have since reverted to a weapons training role as various air forces have introduced newer types into service. The F-5G was later developed into the single-engine F-20 Tigershark.

Operational history

The United States Air Force Strategic Air Command had T-38 Talons in service from 1981 through 1991. These planes were used to enhance the career development of bomber co-pilots through the "Accelerated Copilot Enrichment (ACE) Program". They were later used as proficiency aircraft for all B-52 and B-1 pilots, as well as SR-71, U-2, KC-135, and KC-10 pilots.

Besides the USAF, other T-38 operators include the German Luftwaffe, the Portuguese Air Force, the Republic of China Air Force, the Turkish Air Force and the US Navy. It is also flown by NASA and Boeing, who use the type as a chase plane. There is a very small number of them in private civilian hands.

NASA also uses the plane as a jet trainer for its astronauts; its fleet is housed primarily at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. NASA's T-38's have been in some notable fatal accidents in the 1960s, resulting in the deaths of astronauts Theodore Freeman, Elliott See, and Charles Bassett. These crashes were due to adverse conditions and not due to problems with the jet.

In the wake of the January 28, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the then-President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy traveled to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on January 31, 1986, to speak at a memorial service honoring the astronauts. It was attended by 6,000 NASA employees and 4,000 guests, as well as by the families of the crew. During the carefully planned ceremony, an Air Force band led the singing of "God Bless America" as NASA T-38 Talons flew directly over the scene, in the traditional missing-man formation. All activities were broadcast live by the national television networks.

In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, the Thunderbirds aerobatic display team of the U.S. Air Force adopted the T-38 Talon, which used far less fuel than the F-4 Phantom, in 1974. (The Blue Angels downsized to the A-4 Skyhawk at roughly the same time). After the infamous "Diamond Crash" incident that killed four of the team's six demonstration pilots, the Talon was replaced in this role by the front-line F-16A Fighting Falcon in 1983.

Two fatal crashes, one on 23 April 2008 at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi and the second on 1 May 2008 at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, resulted in four fatalities, causing the Air Force to temporarily ground the aircraft.

Variants

* N-156T : Northrop company designation.
* YT-38 : Prototype, two built, later re-designated YT-38A
* T-38A : Two-seat advanced training aircraft, production model, 1139 built.
* T-38A(N) : Two-seat astronaut training version for NASA.
* AT-38A : A small number of T-38As were converted into weapons training aircraft.
* DT-38A : A number of US Navy T-38As were converted into drone directors.
* NT-38A : A small number of T-38As were converted into research and test aircraft.
* QT-38A : Unmanned target drone aircraft.
* AT-38B : Two-seat weapons training aircraft.
* T-38C : A T-38A with structural and avionics upgrades.

More photos: T-38 Talon photo gallery


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