Imagine taxiing down the runway with an open canopy, feeling the cool breeze through your body. After closing the canopy and being in position, the aircraft is cleared for takeoff. Adrenaline rushes through your body, making your heart race as anticipation increases. In a matter of seconds, you go from being on the ground to looking out the glass cockpit and being engulfed by nothing but white clouds and the bright blue sky. You are now 30,000 feet in the air, traveling at up to 812 miles per hour, with the feeling of 3,000 pounds from the thrust of the afterburners and the force of gravity pulling down while ascending through the sky.
This is what pilots flying the T-38 Talon experience.
As the world’s first supersonic, twin-engine, high-altitude trainer, the jet first flew in 1959 and continues to be utilized to this day.
“Pilots love to fly the T-38,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew, a pilot assigned to the 393d Bomb Squadron. “It’s fast, maneuverable and a great-looking jet.”
The Air Force received more than 1,100 of the T-38 Talons by the time production of the aircraft ended in 1972. Over time, specific airframes, engine and other components have been modified, replaced and upgraded to keep this aircraft operational.
“It has no autopilot or modern avionics, so when you strap into the jet you feel like you’re being transported back to the 1960s,” said Andrew. “Whiteman’s maintainers do an amazing job keeping these jets airworthy.”
Air Education and Training Command is the primary user of the T-38 Talon, as it prepares pilots for front-line fighter and bomber aircraft like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt, F-22 Raptor, as well as the B-2 Spirit.
“The T-38 aerobatic jet trainer is used by the bomb squadrons to maintain pilot proficiency,” said Andrew. “Without the T-38, pilots would have to spend more time practicing basic skills in the B-2, which is a much more expensive and maintenance-intensive aircraft.”
The T-38s at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, have the important mission of keeping pilots prepared and skillful in the sky to ensure aerial domination.
“The T-38s play a critical role in maintaining the lethality of bomb squadron pilots here,” said Andrew. “They help the 393d Bomb Squadron Tigers maintain a basic level of Airmanship so that when we are fighting in the B-2, we are able to focus on higher level tasks and tactics.”
For the past 60 years, fighter and bomber pilots have trained in T-38s. This aircraft has served our nation in the past and will continue to serve it in the future.