The T-38 Talon is a swept wing, twin-engine supersonic jet trainer capable of flying at high altitudes. It completed its first flight in 1959, and between 1961 and 1972, the U.S. Air Force received 1,100 of these impressive aircraft. Though improvements and upgrades for the T-38A, T-38B, and T-38C Talon continue to this day, Northrop Grumman suspended initial production of the jet in 1972. Various versions of the T-38 are expected to remain in U.S. military service until at least 2020.
The T-38 Talon first entered service in March 1961. The U.S. Air Force has trained more than 68,000 pilots using the T-38 and currently has about 800 of the jets in service for training and operational purposes.
The T-38 Talon is a popular aircraft because it’s easy to fly as well as maintain. It is also cheaper to operate than many other jets and has been involved in relatively few accidents. The T-38B and T-38C are modified versions of the T-38A which are used to train pilots to fly fighter jets such as the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle and bombers like the A-10 Warthog and B-1B Lancer. The T-38 is highly adaptable and can be used to train pilots in night flying, instrumentation, aerobatics, formation flying, weapons systems, and cross-country navigation.
The U.S. Air Force has requested that Northrop Grumman make improvements on the T-38 Talon in order to keep the airplane in service for as long as possible. Grumman is also working to improve the T-38’s fuel economy and engine power on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”). NASA uses the T-38 Talon to train their astronauts. The Talons are also used as support aircraft for the space shuttle.
Maximum speed: 812 mph (Mach 1.08 at sea level)
Range: 1,000 miles (870 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 55,000′ plus
Length: 46′ 4.5″
Wingspan: 25′ 3″
Height: 12′ 10.5″
Maximum weight: 12,093 pounds
Engine(s): Two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with 3,850-pound thrust afterburners
Crew: Two, including the student and instructor
Armament: The T-38A and T-38C have none, but the T-38B can carry a practice bomb dispenser
Contractor: Northrop Grumman