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T-38 Talon

The Northrop T-38 Talon is a US-built supersonic jet trainer for military pilots. It was the world’s first supersonic trainer and remains in service as of 2003.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Dimensions:
3 Performance:


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 Lockheed T-33s 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. 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 T-38 is of conventional configuration, with a small, low, swept wing, a single tail fin, 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.

Most T-38s are of the T-38A variant, but the USAF also has a small number of aircraft that have been converted for weapons training. These aircraft (designated AT-38B) have been fitted with a gunsight and can carry a gunpod, rockets, or bombs on a centreline pylon. In 2003, 562 T-38s were still operational with the USAF and are currently undergoing structural and avionics programmes to extend their service life to 2020. Refurbished aircraft are being designated T-38C.

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

The fighter version of the N-156 was eventually selected for the US’s 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.

See also: F-20 Tigershark