Northrop T-38 Talon


Advanced (supersonic) jet trainer (Hochleistungs-Jettrainer)

Northrop T-38 Talon

Northrop T-38 Talon Jettrainer. Foto und Copyright: Northrop Grumman  


Country (Land)

Manufacturer (Hersteller)
Northrop (now Northrop Grumman)

Los Angeles

General (Allgemeine Angaben)
Crew (Besatzung): 2 in tandem, on Martin-Baker US16T-1 ejection seats.

Weapons: None. The AT-38B Talon has provisions for a practice bomb dispenser.

Power plant (Antrieb): 2 x General Electric J85-GE-5
Thrust (Schub): 2 x 9,11 kN (2050 lbs) dry and 2 x 12,89 kN (2900 lbs) with afterburner. After the Propulsion Modernization Program, this rises to 2 x 9,77 kN (2200 lbs) and 14,67 kN (3300 lbs) with afterburner.

Dimensions (Abmessungen)
Length (Länge): 14,12 m
Height (Höhe): 3,92 m
Span (Spannweite): 7,70 m
Wing area (Flügelfläche): 15,8 sq m
Wheel base (Radstand): 5,17 m
Wheel track (Spurweite): 3,28 m

Weights (Massen)
Weight empty (Leermasse): 3450 kg (T-38A)
Max. fuel (max. Kraftstoff): 2205 l (T-38A)
Max. take-off weight (Max. Startmasse): 5485 kg or 5250 kg (early T-38A)

Performance (Flugleistungen)
Max. speed (Höchstgeschwindigkeit): Mach 1.23 at 11000 m
Speed (Fluggeschwindigkeit): 812 mph / Mach 1.08 at sea level
Cruise speed (Marschgeschwindigkeit): 930 km/h at 12190 m
Max. dive speed (max. Geschw. im Sturzflug): 1315 km/h indicated
Max. climb rate (max. Steigrate): 9150 m/min at sea level
Service ceiling (Dienstgipfelhöhe): over 16765 m (55000 ft)
Take-off run (Startrollstrecke): 790 m (T-38A) or 695 m with more power
Take-off distance over 15 m obstacle (Startstrecke über 15-m-Hindernis): 1220 m (T-38A)
Landing from 15 m (Landestrecke über 15 m Hindernis): 1495 m (T-38A)
Landing ground roll (Landerollstrecke): 975 m (T-38A)
Ferry range (Überführungsreichweite): 1760 km with maximum fuel(T-38A)

Costs (Kosten)
The cost of the Avionics Upgrade Programme was given as 750 million US-Dollars in mid-2002. Per aircraft, a price of 600000 Dollars was quoted.
The USAF claims that the Talon has a unit cost of 756000 Dollars (1961 constant Dollars!).

Customers (Kunden)
Between 1961 and January 1972, Northrop built over 1187 T-38s. Operators include:

  • US Air Force. As of May 2008, the US Air Force still had 546 Talons in the active force. In January 2008 the T-38C was in service with:
    • 12th Flying Training Wing (560th FTS), Randolph AFB, Texas. Got its first T-38C on 21 January 2004.
    • 14th Flying Training Wing (50 th FTS), Columbus AFB, Miss.
    • 47th Flying Training Wing (86 th FTS), Laughlin AFB, Texas. Acquired the Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals mission in the spring of 2006.
    • 71st Flying Training Wing (25 th FTS), Vance AFB, Oklahoma
    • 80th Flying Training Wing (90 th FTS), Sheppard AFB, Texas
    • 9 th Reconnaissance Wing (5 th SRTS), Beale AFB, California. Companion trainer to the U-2.
    • 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB. Companion trainer to the B-2.
  • US Navy. The Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River has around five T-38As. In the 1970s, the Navy used Talons in the aggressor role at VF-43 at Oceana and at the Fighter Weapons School at Miramar
  • NASA operates a small fleet of T-38s for pilot proficiency and training for astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Texas since the mid-1960s. Also, the Dryden Flight Research Center in California has T-38s. Up to around 30 T-38s were in service. The original buy in 1964 was 24 aircraft.
  • Germany (Luftwaffe) bought 46 aircraft. By 2006, 39 were still in service. All will be brought up to T-38C standard.
  • Portugal (Forca Aérea Portuguesa) got 12 T-38As from late 1977, which were used in the interceptor role with AIM-9 Sidewinders pending the arrival of the F-16. In service with Esquadra 103 at Beja.
  • Taiwan (Chung-kuo Kung Chuan) was leasing 40 aircraft from the USAF from 1994 to 1997 prior to delivery of F-16s. They were operated by the 828th Tactical fighter Wing at Hualien AB. The RoCAF had previously operateed 28 T-38s in the 1970s when F-5Es were urgently diverted to the Vietnamese air force.
  • Turkey (Turk Hava Kuvvetleri) got 30 former USAF T-38As in 1979. A further batch of 40 follews in 1993, allowing the retirement of the T-33s. Operated with 121 Filo.

Competitors (Konkurrenz)

Remarks (Bemerkungen)
The T-38 was developed in the mid 1950s as the new advanced jet trainer for the US Air Force - a role which it still fulfills.
The T-38C is the latest version of the Talon. Its development was necessary to avoid mainainability and reliability problems with obsolete instruments and electronics. At the same time, the glass cockpit environment eases transition of the students to the latest generation of fighters like the F-22. The contract for the Avionics Upgrade Programme was won by Boeing (McDonnell Douglas), with kit production at St. Louis and modification work at Williams Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona.
Features of the T-38C are:

  • glass cockpit with large colour display (active matrix LCD, 15 x 20 cm), a wide field-of-view head-up display (Elop), up-front control panels and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick)
  • integrated digital avionics with Mil-Std-1553B databus, GPS receiver, ring-laser gyro-inertial navigation system, radar altimeter and TCAS (collision-avoidance system).
  • "no drop bomb" scoring system

Supplementing the T-38C conversion was the purchase of three new types of simulators: the unit training device, which includes a cockpit with a 40-degree field-of-view display, and and instructor operating station; the operational flight trainer; and the weapons-system trainer, which offers IFF pilots more realistic air-to-air training simulation.
Since November 2002, the T-38C models are also underging a propulsion modernization programme to enhance reliability and maintainability while increasing available take-off thrust. 1202 engines are planned to be modified over a ten year period. The work is performed at Randolph AFB by Lear Siegler Services, using kits produced by GE. The kits consist of an improved technology "spooled" compressor rotor and stator assembly, a single-piece cast mainframe, upgrade components for the high-pressure turbine secion, an improved afterburner liner, and a new ignition system. The kit also includes a new exhaust ejector nozzle to achieve higher thrust and lower fuel burn.
In June 2005 Martin-Baker was selected to upgrade the escape system in the supersonic T-38 Talon advanced trainers of the US Air Force, Air Education and Training Command (AETC). The US16T seat is based closely upon the US16LN that Martin-Baker delivered to NASA for their T-38 Talon fleet used for astronaut training.

History (Geschichte)
On 1 March 1995, McDonnell Douglas and Israel Aircraft Industries (Lahav division) announced signature of an MoU to pursue the T-38 Avionics Upgrade Programme. At that time it was expected that a draft RFP could come out in June, the final RFP in September and that contract award could come in February 1996. The modification program was expected to include 425 aircraft.
A draft T-38 RFP was made available to potential offerors on 31 July 1995, and a pre-solicitation conference was held on 16 October.
The Aeronautical Systems Center of the USAF release its request for proposals on 14 December 1995. At that time, a winner selection was expected in the summer of 1996, with production running through September 2004. Nine bidders were expected, among them Chrysler Technologies, Harris, Lockheed Martin, Loral, McDonnell Douglas, Mobile Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell International and Tracor.
Six teams were shortlisted in May 1996. Best and final offers were then expected by 5 June.
On 31 July, after a six-month source selection, the US Air Force awarded three contracts to McDonnell Douglas to develop, manufacture and install improved avionics in the T-38C. The basic contract called for a 36-month EMD with six production options to acquire approximately 425 T-38C aircraft upgrades. An additional 40 German Air Force-owned T-38 may also be modified, it was said. First flight was expected in June 1998, with production modifications to begin in 1999. Lockheed Martin filed a protest with the GAO.
Boeing (which took over McDonnell Douglas) opened the T-38 modification center at Williams Gateway airport at Mesa, Arizona, in November 1997.
The T-38C with new avionics made its firtst flight from Williams Gatewy airport on 8 July 1998. The aircraft, tail number 64-197, lifted off runway 30L at 4:10 p for its one hour, 10 min flight. Boeing test pilot Ed Wilson and Air Force test pilot Capt. John Deems were in the cockpit. First delivery was now set of January 2000.
Northrop Gruimman got a contract to continue designing an improved wing for the T-38 Talon in March 1999. A contract for teh first 55 replacement wings was awarded in August 1999.
Initial operational testing of the T-38C started in the autumn of 1999 at Columbus AFB.
In January 2001, Northrop Grumman initiated production of 55 replacement wings for the T-38 Talon. Deliveries were expected to begin in October 2001. This was an interim step while a completely new wing was designed.
In early 2001, the USAF started operational evaluation of the T-38C at Columbus AFB, Mississippi. After that, a full-rate production decision was expected.
The Air Education and Training Command of the US Air Force began to receive T-38Cs in 2001 as part of the Avionics Upgrade Programme (AUP).
On 9 April 2001, General Electric got a ten-year contract worth 601 million US Dollars to modify 1202 engines for the T-38 trainer.
The 100th T-38C with AUP mods was delivered in 2002.
The 200th T-38C Talon modified under the AUP programme was handed over to the USAF on 2 February 2004.
In June 2005 Martin-Baker was selected to upgrade the escape system in the supersonic T-38 Talon advanced trainers of the US Air Force.
A redesigned wing for the T-38 went into production in 2006. It will be used to retrofit the entire fleet. The new wing is built by Northrop Grumman in its El Segundo aircraft manufacturing facility. It is expected to extend the operational life of T-38s to approximately 2040, the company said in 2007.
The last two aicraft modified under the AUP programme (Avionics Upgrade Programme) arrived at Randolph AFB at the end of August 2007.
In the spring of 2008, the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB conducted a programme to check whether the occurrence of compressor stalls with the upgraded engine/inlet modification remains below the stall rate for legacy engines.
A fatal crash of a T-38 in April 2008 at Columbus AFB due to a broken aileron lever led to an emergency production programme of 1600 pieces milled from solid aluminium blocks to avoid a grounding of the Talon fleet.

Earlier milestones in the T-38 programme were:

  • 10 April 1959: First flight of the YT-38.
  • 17 March 1961: The T-38 officially enters service with the USAF at Randolph AFB, Texas.
  • May 1964: NASA selects the T-38 for its astronaut training programme.
  • April 1967: The German Luftwaffe selects the T-38 for its training needs. The aicraft remain in the US at Sheppard AFB.
  • September 1967: One million flight hours for the T-38.
  • November 1970: The T-38 reaches three million flight hours.
  • 1972: Delivery of the last T-38A to the USAF

Technische Daten  

Herstellerland:Vereinigte Staaten (USA)
Hersteller: Northrop Grumman

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