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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.

The United States Air Force
United States Air Force
(USAF) operates the most T-38s. In addition to training USAF pilots, the T-38 is used by NASA
NASA
. The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School is the principal US Navy operator (other T-38s were previously used as USN aggressor aircraft until replaced by the similar Northrop F-5 Tiger II ). Pilots of other NATO
NATO
nations fly the T-38 in joint training programs with USAF pilots.

As of 2017, the T-38 has been in service for over 50 years with its original operator, the United States
United States
Air Force.

CONTENTS

* 1 Design and development

* 2 Operational history

* 2.1 Military * 2.2 NASA
NASA
* 2.3 Accidents * 2.4 Replacement * 2.5 Civil

* 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 , GPS
GPS
, INS (Inertial Navigation System ), and TCAS . Most jets have also received PMP (a propulsion modification to improve low-altitude engine thrust). Approximately a third of the fleet (those that experience more severe usage) are currently undergoing structural replacements and upgrades, as well as receiving new wings, to extend their service life to 2029.

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 .

OPERATIONAL HISTORY

MILITARY

The USAF 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 Combat Command
(ACC) and the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), continue to retain T-38s as proficiency aircraft for U-2 pilots and B-2 pilots, respectively.

The 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 , B-2 Spirit
B-2 Spirit
, A-10 Thunderbolt , F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II
. The AETC received T-38Cs in 2001 as part of the Avionics Upgrade Program. The T-38Cs owned by the AETC have undergone propulsion modernization 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 past 2020. The T-38 has an availability goal of 75% which it maintained in 2011, however in 2015 availability is 60%.

Besides the USAF, USN and NASA, other T-38 operators included the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Portuguese Air Force
Portuguese Air Force
, the Republic of China Air Force , and the Turkish Air Force
Turkish Air Force
.

NASA

NASA
NASA
operates a fleet of thirty-two T-38 aircraft and uses the aircraft as a jet trainer for its astronauts, as well as a chase plane . Its fleet is housed primarily at Ellington Field in Houston
Houston
, Texas. NASA's internal projections show the number of operational jet trainers falling to 16 by 2015. The agency spends $25–30 million annually to fly and maintain the T-38s.

During the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
era it was established NASA
NASA
tradition for astronauts to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
in T-38 Talons.

ACCIDENTS

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 NASA
NASA
T-38 crash ): Astronauts Elliot See and Charles Bassett were killed when they struck a building in fog. * 1967 October 5: Astronaut Clifton "C.C." Williams was killed in a crash due to an aileron jam. * 1972 Jan 20: NASA
NASA
pilots Stuart M. Present and Mark C. Heath were killed when they crashed during an instrument approach in fog.

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
Columbus Air Force Base
in Mississippi
Mississippi
and on 1 May at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls , Texas
Texas
, resulted in four fatalities, causing the Air Force to temporarily ground the aircraft. On 21 May 2009, a T-38 crashed just north of Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert .

REPLACEMENT

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 partnership of BAE Systems
BAE Systems
and Rolls Royce, offering the Hawk trainer , equipped with Rolls' Adour Mk951 engine offering 6,500 lb of thrust and FADEC
FADEC
; Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries , offering the T-50 ; and Raytheon
Raytheon
and Alenia Aermacchi offering the T-100, an aircraft whose design originated with the M-346 .

CIVIL

There are seven privately owned T-38s in the U.S. Boeing
Boeing
owns two T-38s, which it uses as chase planes . Thornton Corporation owns two T-38s and three F-5s and the National Test Pilot School owns one T-38. In addition, ILOAJP HOLDING and Wayne L. Siltanen own one each.

VARIANTS

* 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, 1,139 built. * T-38A(N): Two-seat astronaut training version for NASA. See T-38N below. * 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. * GT-38A: Permanently grounded aircraft, often due to flight or ground mishap, converted into ground procedural trainers or aircraft maintenance trainers. * 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. * T-38M: Modernized Turkish Air Force
Turkish Air Force
T-38As with full glass cockpit and avionics, upgraded by Turkish Aerospace Industries under the project codename "ARI" (Turkish : Arı, for Bee
Bee
). * T-38N: Former USAF T-38As bailed to NASA
NASA
and T-38As directly assigned to NASA
NASA
that received an Avionics Upgrade Program (AUP), modernizing communications and navigation systems, replacing outdated avionics, and adding a weather radar, flight management system, altitude alert systems, and modern controls and displays. * N-205: "Space trainer" variant proposed in May 1958, with triple rocket engines for vertical launch. Capable of Mach 3.2 on its way to an altitude of 200,000 feet (61,000 m). * ST-38 or N-205B: Revised proposal in April 1963 for the new Aerospace Research Pilot School, with a rolling takeoff, top speed of Mach 3.3 and a ceiling of 285,000 feet (87,000 m), high enough to qualify its pilots for astronaut wings . * T-38 VTOL Proposed vertical takeoff variant with four lift nozzles behind the pilot.

OPERATORS

Germany
Germany

* German Air Force obtained 46 T-38A in 1968, now upgraded to T-38C. All aircraft are stationed at Sheppard AFB, Texas
Texas
and are painted in US markings.

Turkey
Turkey

* Turkish Air Force
Turkish Air Force
has 33 T-38M in service.

United States
United States

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE has 508 T-38 trainers in service as of September 2012. AIR COMBAT COMMAND

* 9th Reconnaissance Wing Beale AFB , California
California

1st Reconnaissance Squadron
1st Reconnaissance Squadron

* 325th Fighter Wing - Tyndall AFB , Florida
Florida

2d Fighter Training Squadron AIR EDUCATION AND TRAINING COMMAND

* 12th Flying Training Wing Randolph AFB , Texas
Texas

435th Flying Training Squadron 560th Flying Training Squadron

* 14th Flying Training Wing
14th Flying Training Wing
Columbus AFB , Mississippi
Mississippi

49th Flying Training Squadron 50th Flying Training Squadron

* 47th Flying Training Wing Laughlin AFB , Texas

87th Flying Training Squadron

* 71st Flying Training Wing Vance AFB , Oklahoma
Oklahoma

25th Flying Training Squadron

* 80th Flying Training Wing Sheppard AFB , Texas

88th Flying Training Squadron 90th Flying Training Squadron 469th Flying Training Squadron AIR FORCE RESERVE COMMAND

* 340th Flying Training Group – Randolph AFB

43d Flying Training Squadron (Columbus AFB) 96th Flying Training Squadron (Laughlin AFB) 97th Flying Training Squadron (Sheppard AFB)

* 413th Flight Test Group – Randolph AFB

415th Flight Test Flight AIR FORCE GLOBAL STRIKE COMMAND

* 509th Bomb Wing
509th Bomb Wing
Whiteman AFB , Missouri
Missouri

394th Combat Training Squadron AIR FORCE MATERIEL COMMAND

* 96th Test Wing Eglin AFB , Florida
Florida

586th Flight Test Squadron ( Holloman AFB , New Mexico
New Mexico
)

* 412th Test Wing
412th Test Wing
Edwards AFB , California
California

445th Flight Test Squadron
445th Flight Test Squadron

UNITED STATES NAVY has ten aircraft in use as November 2008. NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION

* United States
United States
Naval Test Pilot School – Naval Air Station Patuxent River , Maryland
Maryland

NASA
NASA
has approximately 32 aircraft bailed from USAF.

FORMER OPERATORS

Portugal
Portugal

* Portuguese Air Force
Portuguese Air Force
received 12 aircraft in 1977. Initially operated by 201 Sqn. "Falcões" (Falcons) at Air Base No. 5 , in 1980 they were transferred to 103 Sqn. "Caracóis" (Snails) being stationed in Air Base No. 11 . They were retired in 1993.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

* Republic of China Air Force

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 – California
California
Science Center , in Los Angeles, California * 59-1601 – On base display, Air University area, Maxwell AFB , Alabama * 59-1602 – On base display, United States Air Force
United States Air Force
Academy , in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs, Colorado
. Painted as "Thunderbird 1" * 59-1604 – National Naval Aviation Museum , NAS Pensacola , Florida; former USAF aircraft bailed to USN and utilized by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River , Maryland. * 59-1605 – On base display, USAF History and Traditions Museum, Lackland AFB , Texas
Texas
* 60-0549 – Prairie Aviation Museum, in Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington, Illinois
* 60-0558 – American Legion Post 233 in Edinburgh, Indiana * 60-0570 – Edward F. Beale Museum, Beale AFB , California
California
* 60-0573 - On display, Degner Regional Airport , Owatonna, Minnesota (with 60-0589 and 61-0828) * 60-0574 – On base display, Laughlin AFB , Texas
Texas
* 60-0589 - On display, Degner Regional Airport , Owatonna, Minnesota (with 60-0573 and 61-0828) * 61-0817 – Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Welcome Station, adjacent to Tinker AFB , Oklahoma
Oklahoma
. * 61-0828 - On display, Degner Regional Airport , Owatonna, Minnesota (with 60-0573 and 60-0589) * 61-0829 - Gallup Municipal Airport, Gallup , New Mexico
New Mexico
* 61-0838 – On base display, in front of Randolph Inn Visiting Officers Quarters (VOQ), Randolph AFB , Texas
Texas
* 61-0854 – Pima Air and Space Museum , adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
, on display in the markings of the 479th Tactical Training Wing at Holloman AFB, NM , circa 1982. * 61-0858 – Sheppard AFB Air Park, Sheppard AFB , Texas
Texas
* 61-0902 – Science Spectrum in Lubbock, Texas
Texas
. * 61-0926 - Salina Oklahoma, lawn of American Legion post #240 * 63-8125 – Sheppard AFB Air Park, Sheppard AFB * 63-8224 – Evergreen Aviation painted in NASA
NASA
colors, suspended from the ceiling in the Air and Space Exhibit Hall. * 65-10405 – On base display, Columbus AFB , Mississippi
Mississippi
* 65-10426 – On base display, Vance AFB , Oklahoma
Oklahoma
* 66-8381 / NASA
NASA
901 (N901NA) – Assigned directly to NASA
NASA
as the second NASA
NASA
T-38 to be designated as ' NASA
NASA
901' and 'N901NA'; on display at Aviation Heritage Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Bowling Green, Kentucky

GT-38A

* 60-0592 – Dyess Linear Air Park, Dyess AFB , Texas
Texas
* 60-0593 – March Field Air Museum at March ARB (former March AFB ) in Riverside, California
California
, on display in Thunderbirds markings. * 61-0824 – Hill Aerospace Museum adjacent to Hill AFB , Utah
Utah
.

YT-38A

* 58-1192 – South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth AFB , South Dakota
South Dakota
.

AT-38B

* 60-0576 – On base display, Holloman AFB , New Mexico
New Mexico
. * 65-10441 – National Museum of the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
. This aircraft was retired in 1991, came to the museum in 1999, and was placed on display in 2004.

T-38N

* 65-10329 / NASA
NASA
969 (N969NA) – On display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, NASA
NASA
/John F. Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
, Merritt Island, Florida
Florida
* 66-8381 / NASA
NASA
901 (N901NA) – Assigned directly to NASA
NASA
as the second NASA
NASA
T-38 to be designated as NASA
NASA
901 and N901NA; on display at Aviation Heritage Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky

SPECIFICATIONS (T-38A)

Data from USAF factsheet

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

* 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

PERFORMANCE

* 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

SEE ALSO

* United States Air Force
United States Air Force
portal

Related development

* Northrop F-5 * Northrop F-20 Tigershark * T-X program

Related lists

* List of active United States
United States
military aircraft * List of spaceflight-related accidents and incidents

REFERENCES

Notes

* ^ 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, Alenia Split". 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 * ^ http://www.universetoday.com/83456/discoverys-final-crew-arrives-at-nasas-kennedy-space-center/ * ^ Northrop T-38 Losses and Ejections * ^ "Crash Kills Astronaut." Richland, WA – Tri City Herald, 1 November 1964 * ^ "Goose Hit Jet, Killing Astronaut." The Miami News, 17 November 1964 * ^ "2 Astronauts Die In Plane Crash." The Tuscaloosa News, 28 February 1966 * ^ "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
The New York Times
, 2 May 2008, p. 14 * ^ "T-38 crash claims life of Edwards\' pilot". U.S. Air Force. 22 May 2009. Archived from the original on 22 July 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2011. * ^ "USAF Braces For Fiscal Bombardment." AW & ST, 20 September 2010 * ^ Power play, The World column, AW & ST, 16 September 2013, p. 12 * ^ A B Andrade 1979, p. 167 * ^ "Modifications & Modernization T-38 Avionics Modernization Program." Turkish International Cooperation and Export Activities. Retrieved 21 August 2011 * ^ airliners.net * ^ "Northrop Space Trainer". The Aeroplane, 3 April 1959, p. 393 * ^ Article from Utrechts Nieuwsblad , 12 November 1959 * ^ https://www.hvkk.tsk.tr/en-us/Turkish_Air_Force/Todays_Air_Force/Aircraft_in_the_Inventory * ^ "The Air Force in Facts and Figures." Air Force Magazine, May 2012 * ^ "Directory: World Air Forces." Flight International , 11–17 November 2008 * ^ California
California
Science Center. Retrieved 16 June 2015 * ^ warbird information exchange * ^ NAM, Pensacola FL * ^ aero-web * ^ "T-38 Talon/60-0549." Prairie Aviation Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ "GT-38A Talon 60-0558 in Edinburgh." Talon in Edinburgh * ^ aero-web * ^ aero-web * ^ "T-38 Talon/61-0817." Warbird Registry. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ Google Maps 35.5155497,-108.7794413,276 * ^ Warbird Information Exchange * ^ "T-38 Talon/61-0854." Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ A B http://www.aero-web.org/museums/tx/safbap.htm * ^ "T-38 Talon/61-0902." Warbird Registry. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ http://salinachamber.publishpath.com/local-things-to-see-places-to-go * ^ "T-38 Talon/63-8224." Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ airliners.net * ^ aero-web * ^ aero-web * ^ Aviation Heritage Park * ^ Bowling Green Daily News * ^ aero-web * ^ "T-38 Talon/60-0593." March Field Air Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ "T-38 Talon/61-0824." Hill Aerospace Museum. Retrieved 12 April 2013 * ^ "T-38 Talon/58-1192." South Dakota