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The first supersonic trainer!
The Northrop T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer. Adapted from an in-house lightweight fighter project (dubbed N-156F) that was aimed at the export market, Northrop was successful in the USAF competition to replace the aging T-33 trainer. The first prototype flew on 10 March 1959. Quickly adopted, it entered service in 1961. By the time production ended in 1972, 1,187 T-38s had been built.
Since its introduction, it is estimated that some 60,000 military pilots have trained on this aircraft! The USAF remains one of the few armed flying forces using dedicated supersonic final trainers, as most, such as the US Navy, use high subsonic trainers.
In 2003, 562 T-38s were still operational with the USAF and are currently undergoing structural and avionics programs (T-38C) to extend their service life to 2020. Improvements include the addition of a HUD, GPS, INS (Inertial Navigation System), and TCAS as well as PMP (a propulsion modification to improve low-altitude engine thrust). Many USAF variants (T-38A and AT-38B) are being converted to the T-38C.
Besides the USAF, USN and NASA, current T-38 operators include the German Air Force, the Republic of China Air Force, and the Turkish Air Force.
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