The United States Air Force (USAF) is thought to be close to announcing a contest for the supply of a new jet training aircraft to replace its fleet of venerable Northrop T-38 Talons that have now served it for almost five decades.
The T-38 Talon was the first supersonic trainer introduced anywhere in the world and was produced in vast numbers, with almost 1,200 examples ultimately leaving the production line. While its chief operator remains the USAF, which has 450, the Talon equips other air arms including the Republic of China Air Force, as well as NASA in whose service the type has a chase plane role.
Future USAF Jet Training
Five aircraft manufacturers are believed to be interested in supplying an aircraft for future USAF jet training. One potential contender is Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle design, which first flew in 2002 and which shares some commonality with the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role combat aircraft. The T-50 is already in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force.
The BAE Hawk 128 is another potential competition entrant. The Hawk 128 is a new-generation Hawk, updating the older version which remains the RAF’s standard jet trainer. The first new Hawk T MK2 was delivered to the RAF in July 2009, pending the start of a formal training programme based around it in 2011.
Talon Jet Trainers
USAF Talon Jet trainers serve with AETC – Air Education and Training Command – which is based at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. The pilots that fly them will go on to fly USAF combat aircraft like the F-15C Eagle, the F-16 and the awesome new F-22 Raptor, strike aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt II and strategic bombers like the B-52 Stratofortress.
The T-38 provides tandem seating for a crew of two, comprised of an instructor and a student pilot. T-38 Talon flights take place to allow student pilots to practice and hone aerobatic and formation skills, to experience night flying and supersonic flying and to understand general maintenance procedures.
Armed Forces International will present further coverage of the USAF’s anticipated new trainer competition as future facts emerge.