The NORTHROP T-38 TALON is a two-seat, twin-engined supersonic jet trainer . It was the world's first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2017 in several air forces.
United States Air Force
As of 2017, the T-38 has been in service for over 50 years with its
original operator, the
* 1 Design and development
* 2 Operational history
* 2.1 Military
* 3 Variants * 4 Operators * 5 Former operators * 6 Aircraft on display * 7 Specifications (T-38A) * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 External links
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
In 1952 Northrop began work on a fighter project, the Fang , with shoulder-mounted delta wing and a single engine. The proposed General Electric J79 engine, weighing nearly two tons, meant the resulting aircraft would be large and expensive. Then in 1953, representatives from General Electric Aviation 's newly created Small Aircraft Engine Department showed Northrop a relatively tiny engine (around 400 lb installed wt) capable of 2,500 lb of thrust, and Northrop VP-Engineering Edgar Schmued saw the possibility of reversing the trend toward the large fighters. Schmued and chief engineer Welko Gasich decided on a small twin-engine "hot-rod" fighter, the N-156. Northrop began its N-156 project in 1954, aiming for a small supersonic fighter jet capable of operating from the US Navy's escort carriers . However, when the Navy chose not to pursue equipping its fleets in that fashion, Northrop continued the N-156 design using in-house funding, recasting it as a lightweight fighter (dubbed N-156F) and aimed at the export market.
In the mid-1950s the USAF issued a General Operating Requirement for a supersonic trainer, planning to retire its 1940s-era Lockheed T-33s . Northrop officials decided to adapt the N-156 to this competition. The only other candidate was the two-seat version of the North American F-100 Super Sabre . Although the F-100 was not considered the ideal candidate for a training aircraft (it is not capable of recovering from a spin), NAA was still considered the favorite in the competition due to that company's favored-contractor status with the Air Force. However, Northrop officials convincingly presented life-cycle cost comparisons which could not be ignored, and they were awarded the contract, receiving an order for three prototypes. The first (designated YT-38) flew on 10 March 1959. The type was quickly adopted and the first production examples were delivered in 1961, officially entering service on 17 March that year, complementing the T-37 primary jet trainer. When production ended in 1972, 1,187 T-38s had been built (plus two N-156T prototypes). 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.
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 the T-38 set absolute time-to-climb records for 3,000, 6,000, 9,000 and 12,000 meters, beating the records for those altitudes set by the F-104 in December 1958. (The F-4 beat the T-38's records less than a month later.)
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 has leading edge extensions near the wing roots and wingtip launch rails for air-to-air missiles . The wings of both the T-38 and the F-5 family use conventional skin over spar-rib structure.
Most T-38s built were of the T-38A variant, but the USAF also had a
small number of aircraft converted for weapons training (designated
AT-38B), which were fitted with a gunsight and could carry a gunpod,
rockets, or bombs on a centerline pylon. In 2015, 504 T-38s were still
operational with the USAF, with many more in operation around the
world. Most of the USAF variant aircraft (T-38A and AT-38B) have been
converted to the T-38C through an avionics upgrade program.
Improvements include the addition of a HUD ,
The fighter version of the N-156 was eventually selected for the US Military Assistance Program 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 an advanced single-engined variant later renamed the F-20 Tigershark .
Strategic Air Command (SAC) had T-38s in service from 1978
until SAC's 1991 inactivation. These aircraft were used to enhance the
career development of bomber copilots through the "Accelerated Copilot
Enrichment Program." They were later used as proficiency aircraft for
all B-52 , B-1 , Lockheed SR-71 , U-2 ,
Boeing KC-135 , and KC-10
pilots. SAC's successors, the
Air Combat Command
Air Training Command 's (ATC) successor, the Air Education and
Training Command (AETC), uses the T-38C to prepare pilots for the
F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle , the F-16 Fighting Falcon , B-52
Stratofortress , B-1B Lancer ,
Besides the USAF, USN and NASA, other T-38 operators included the
German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the
Portuguese Air Force
More than 210 aircraft losses and ejections have been documented over the lifetime of the T-38.
NASA's T-38s were involved in four separate fatal accidents in the 1960s and 1970s, and several non-fatal incidents.
* 1964 Oct 31: Astronaut
Theodore Freeman was killed as a result of
a bird strike.
* 1966 February 28 (1966
In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo , from 1974 to 1983, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerobatic display team adopted the T-38 Talon, which used far less fuel than the F-4 Phantom . The Blue Angels downsized to the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk at roughly the same time. After the infamous 1982 " Diamond Crash " incident that killed four of the Thunderbirds' six demonstration pilots, the T-38 was replaced in this role by the front line F-16A Fighting Falcon .
Two fatal crashes in 2008, on 23 April at
Columbus Air Force Base
The USAF has launched the T-X Program , to replace the T-38. Aviation
Week "the service is conducting an analysis of alternatives" with
results "not expected to be ready until the Fiscal 2013 budget ". In
subsequent years, the Air Force indicated it would launch a
competition for the T-38's replacement. Likely bidders include: A
There are seven privately owned T-38s in the U.S.
* N-156T: Northrop company designation.
* YT-38: Prototypes, two built with YJ85-GE-1 engines, later
designated YT-38A and four pre-production aircraft with YJ-85-GE-5
engines, later designated T-38A.
* T-38A: Two-seat advanced training aircraft, production model,
* T-38A(N): Two-seat astronaut training version for NASA. See T-38N
* AT-38A: A small number of T-38As were converted into weapons
* DT-38A: A number of US Navy T-38As were converted into drone
* GT-38A: Permanently grounded aircraft, often due to flight or
ground mishap, converted into ground procedural trainers or aircraft
* NT-38A: A small number of T-38As were converted into research and
* QT-38A: Unmanned target drone aircraft.
* AT-38B: Two-seat weapons training aircraft.
* T-38C: A T-38A with structural and avionics upgrades.
* T-38M: Modernized
Turkish Air Force
Turkish Air Force
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE has 508 T-38 trainers in service as of September 2012. AIR COMBAT COMMAND
2d Fighter Training Squadron AIR EDUCATION AND TRAINING COMMAND
* 340th Flying Training Group – Randolph AFB
* 413th Flight Test Group – Randolph AFB
415th Flight Test Flight AIR FORCE GLOBAL STRIKE COMMAND
394th Combat Training Squadron AIR FORCE MATERIEL COMMAND
UNITED STATES NAVY has ten aircraft in use as November 2008. NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION
Portuguese Air Force
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Republic of Korea
* Republic of Korea Air Force leased thirty T-38A from the US in April 1999. All units were returned to the US by 2009 after near completion of production of T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer.
AIRCRAFT ON DISPLAY
A T-38 Talon on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum T-38A
* 58-1196 –
* 60-0592 – Dyess Linear Air Park,
Dyess AFB ,
* 60-0576 – On base display,
Holloman AFB ,
* 65-10329 /
Data from USAF factsheet
* CREW: two: student and instructor * LENGTH: 46 ft 4.5 in (14.14 m) * WINGSPAN : 25 ft 3 in (7.7 m) * HEIGHT: 12 ft 10.5 in (3.92 m) * WING AREA: 170 ft² (15.79 m²) * EMPTY WEIGHT : 7,200 lb (3,270 kg) * LOADED WEIGHT: 11,820 lb (5,360 kg) * MAX. TAKEOFF WEIGHT : 12,093 lb (5,485 kg)
* POWERPLANT : 2 × General Electric J85 -5A (J85-5R after PMP modification) afterburning turbojets
* DRY THRUST: 2,050 lb (9.1 kN) each * THRUST WITH AFTERBURNER : 2,900 lbf (12.9 kN) each
* MAXIMUM SPEED : Mach 1.3 (858 mph, 1,381 km/h) * RANGE : 1,140 mi (1,835 km) * SERVICE CEILING : 50,000 ft (15,240 m) * RATE OF CLIMB : 33,600 ft/min (170.7 m/s) () * WING LOADING : 69.53 lb/ft² (339.4 kg/m²) * THRUST/WEIGHT : 0.65
* List of active
* ^ Johnsen 2006, pp. 5–6
* ^ Eden 2004, p. 344
* ^ Due to its elongated fuselage - the pilot's operating handbook
for the two-seat version contains an instruction to avoid spins.
* ^ "Northrop marks 50th anniversary of T-38 Talon first flight."
defencetalk.com, 14 April 2009. Retrieved: 21 August 2011.
* ^ A B C D E F "T-38 TALON Fact Sheet". U.S. Air Force. 2 May
2008. Archived from the original on 1 August 2013.
* ^ TO 1T-38A-4, USAF T-38 Tech Order
* ^ Butler, Amy (6 April 2015). "T-X Competition Fierce Despite GD,
Aviation Week & Space Technology . Archived from the
original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
* ^ A B C D E "Aircraft – Make / Model Results: Northrop T-38."
FAA Registry. Retrieved 21 August 2011
* ^ Creech, Gray. "T-38 Supersonic Trainer Jet Gets New Home."
NASA. Retrieved 21 August 2011
* ^ Northrop T-38 Losses and Ejections
* ^ "Crash Kills Astronaut." Richland, WA – Tri City Herald, 1
* ^ "Goose Hit Jet, Killing Astronaut." The Miami News, 17 November
* ^ "2 Astronauts Die In Plane Crash." The Tuscaloosa News, 28
* ^ "See – Bassett Backup Crew Gets Gemini." Daytona Beach, FL
– Morning Journal newspaper, 1 March 1966
* ^ "Williams Wanted To Be First On The Moon." St. Petersburg, FL
-Evening Independent newspaper, 6 October 1967
* ^ "Board Pinpoints Astronaut\'s Death." Sarasota, FL –
Herald-Tribune newspaper, 7 June 1968
* ^ "Two Civilian Test Pilots Die In Crash." Spartanburg, SC –
Herald-Journal newspaper, 21 January 1972
* ^ "Planes Grounded After Crashes,"
The New York Times