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Northrop T-38A Talon

Photo ID 28939 by Brian Lockett. USA Air Force Northrop T 38A Talon, 61 0904
Two-seat, intermediate and advanced jet trainer.

Since the T-38's introduction in 1961, every USAF pilot has earned his/her wings flying the T-38. The sleek and distinctive shape is a constant in military and high performance flying. The T-38 was the world's first supersonic jet trainer and remains so in use with the USAF and NATO allies. NASA astronauts use the T-38 for Shuttle chase duties and for proficiency training. The U.S. Navy uses the T-38 for test pilot training and at one point, as an aggressor aircraft.

An armed variant, the AT-38, was used by the USAF for basic weapons training for a brief period of time. The single-role niche makes the T-38 cost prohibitive for many air arms to operate. The USAF aerial demonstration team, The Thunderbirds, flew the T-38 from 1974 to 1981. The T-38 was the only time a front line USAF type was not flown by the Thunderbirds. The USAF plans to keep the T-38 in service for another ten years, making some airframes close to 60 years old by the time they are retired. Possible replacements for the T-38 include the BAE Systems Hawk and the Korean Aerospace T-50.
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • First Flight: 3/10/59
  • Initial Service Date: 3/17/61
  • No. Built: 1,187
  • No. In Service: 935 (approx.)
  • No. of Hardpoints: 1
  • Crew: 2


2 x General Electric J85-5A afterburning turbojets at 3,850 lbf


The T-38 carries no weapons.


Length:46 ft. 4.5 in.
Wing Span:25 ft. 3 in.
Wing Area:170 sq.ft
Height:12 ft. 10.5 in.
Empty Weight:7,200 lbs
Max. Weight:12,500 lbs


Max. Speed:858 mph
Service Ceiling:50,000 ft.
Normal Range:1,140 nm


Germany (Air Force, 35), Portugal (Air Force, 12, r.1993), South Korea (Air Force, 17), Taiwan (Air Force, 40), Turkey (Air Force, 67), United States (Air Force/NASA/Navy, 459/32/10)

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