If you are a United States fighter pilot, you don’t need an introduction to the T-38 Talon. This swept wing supersonic jet is used as the training aircraft that has prepared pilots to operate the F-15, F-16, A-10, F-22, and other fighter aircraft for over 50 years. With its high-performance capability and an exceptional training record, this two-seat tandem-configured cockpit trainer is a perfect tool for training today’s fighter pilots. The Talon was not only the world’s first supersonic jet trainer, but it was also the most produced.

The T-38 is the ideal trainer as it mimics the handling characteristics of a 4th Gen aircraft like the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It provides pilots a feel of what flying and fighting in a supersonic aircraft is like. The T-38’s first flight was in 1959 and was introduced into service in 1961. It still remains operational today. When production ended in 1972, 1100 T-38s had been produced.

Also read: Training Naval Aviators in Carrier Operations in the T-45 Goshawk

To keep the fleet operational, upgrades and replacements of the aging aircraft over the years have included the engines, system components, flight control surfaces, and aging airframe sections. Since its introduction, some of the USAF Talons have undergone modifications to include the introduction of heads-up displays, GPS, INS, TCAS, a gun pod and pylons to hold rockets and bombs. These additions allow the flight trainer to also be used in training pilots as front-line fighters and bombers.

NASA’s T-38 Talons

t-38 chase planes with space shuttle sts-3NASA operates the T-38 as jet trainers of astronauts. The pilots use the T-38 to get outside the flight simulator and perform exercises like diving at the runway on an angle similar to the space shuttle’s landing approach. The T-38 can fly above 40,000 feet, giving pilots an opportunity to continue real world training outside a simulation where they are required to think quickly. NASA also uses the T-38 as their chase planes. When you watch a video of the Space Shuttle landing, you’ll see T-38s on either side of the shuttle. They kept the shuttle pilots aware of the shuttle’s outside conditions.

Other Operators

Other countries that operate the T-38 include Germany and Turkey. Germany’s 35 aircraft are based in the U.S. and have USAF markings. Turkey has 33 T-38Ms in service as trainers for their pilots. There are seven privately owned T-38s in the United States. These aircraft are used as trainers and chase aircraft. Previous operators of the Talon are Portugal, Taiwan, and South Korea.


The T-38 carries two crew, a student and an instructor. It has a loaded weight of 11,820 lbs and is powered by two General Electric turbojet engines with afterburners. With this thrust/weight ratio of 0.65, the T-38 can take off on a runway as short as 2,300 ft. The Talon can climb 33,000 feet in one minute and can exceed Mach 1 with a top speed of 858 mph.

T-38 Flap Actuators

t-38 talon flap actuatorDuotech supports the flap actuators for USAF and NASA’s T-38 aircraft. Flap actuators like the one shown here are mounted on each wing and activate the flaps to move up or down. Flaps on an aircraft are used to maintain efficient flight at low airspeeds like when the aircraft is landing. Actuators are also used for an aircraft’s landing gear and crew seats.

The Future Trainer

To find a replacement for the aging trainer, USAF has launched its T-X Program. This program is established to identify the new 2 seat jet trainer that will prepare future pilots for the complex environments of 5th Gen aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. Pilots training to fly these advanced fighters need to prepare not only for the 5th Gen superior flight performances but also information management processes due to the much more complex systems of the F-22, F-35, and any future fighter aircraft.

The USAF expects to find the replacement and introduce it into service in 2023. Until there is a suitable replacement, the T-38 Talon’s airframe and flight systems still need to be maintained. The Talon still needs to train pilots for the foreseeable future while remaining a reliable and safe training tool. Instead of users scrapping repairable equipment, Duotech offers solutions to keep legacy aircraft like the T-38 Talon in the air and obsolete mission-critical equipment functioning.

Duotech has over 34 years of experience providing a full range of equipment repair services. We provide Depot Repair Services for a wide variety of electronic and electromechanical systems for military and commercial applications. Find your part and contact us to answer your questions or Request a Repair Quote.

Here’s to Friday, and to all those out there taking it to the edge to keep us FREE, we salute you! See all our Jet Friday posts.

Also read: Training Naval Aviators in Carrier Operations in the T-45 Goshawk

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