Northrop T-38 Talon

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Product Type:

Military Trainer Aircraft (Supersonic)

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

Upgrades / sustainment + replacement

Prime Contractor:

Northrop Grumman Corporation

The Northrop T-38 Talon

About the T-38 Talon:

The Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) T-38 Talon is a twin-engine two-seat supersonic jet trainer used by the U.S. Air Education Training Command (AETC) as an advanced trainer for specialized undergraduate pilot training. The T-38 is powered by two General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines with afterburners, each delivering 2,050 pounds of dry thrust (2,900 pounds with afterburners).

The T-38 has swept wings, a streamlined fuselage and tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel. Two independent hydraulic systems power the ailerons, rudder, and other flight control surfaces. Critical aircraft components are waist-high and can be easily reached by maintenance crews. The instructor and student sit in tandem on rocket-powered ejection seats in a pressurized, air-conditioned cockpit. The newest configuration, the T-38C, incorporates a glass cockpit with integrated avionics displays and a heads-up display.

To date, more than 75,000 U.S. Air Force pilots have trained in the T-38 Talon, which was the world's first supersonic trainer. The aircraft has accumulated 13 million flight hours to date. In 1956, the former Northrop Corporation won the U.S. Air Force contract to develop an advanced supersonic trainer. The YT-38 development aircraft made its first flight on April 10, 1959. The former Northrop Corporation produced 1,187 T-38s between 1959 and 1972.

Northrop Grumman has produced a replacement wing for the T-38 that will help to extend the service life of the aircraft beyond 2020.

The U.S. Air Force has launched the T-X program to develop the replacement aircraft for the T-38. Budget cuts have delayed the program and initial operational capability is not expected before 2020 or later. The average age of in-service T-38s is now over 45 years. While the aircraft is safe to operate, the T-38 is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to sustain. Another issue is that the T-38 is inadequate to train pilots to operate fifth generation stealth fighters.



T-X Production Forecast:

A 15-year T-X trainer replacement production forecast is available through Forecast International's Platinum Forecast System, which includes a breakout of total market unit and value statistics by manufacturer and end-user. This real-time service also includes information on all prime and subcontractors, contract awards, worldwide inventories, a complete program history, and a rationale detailing the outlook of the program. A 10-year T-X production forecast is also available in report format through Forecast International's Military Aircraft Forecast service.


Supersonic jet trainer for joint specialized undergraduate pilot training. The Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38C to prepare pilots for frontline fighter and bomber aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II.

FY 2017 & FY 2018 - T-38 and T-X DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Northrop Grumman Corp.

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DoD Spending in FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016, FY 2017 and FY 2018 + 5-year forecast
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