To see how the US Air Force can extend the life of an aircraft if it wants to, take a look at its T-38 Talon supersonic trainer. First flown in 1959, and last produced in 1972, the T-38 is planned to stay in service until 2020, thanks to extensive avionics and structural upgrades (the latter including new longerons…). Okay, it’s a trainer, but that works out at almost 60 years!
There is no established requirement to replace the Talon, but manufacturers are already circling. Aermacchi is looking for a US prime to offer its M346 and Lockheed Martin displayed a model of South Korea’s supersonic T-50 in USAF colours at a recent training show in the US. Lockheed was a little relucant the release an image, as it doesn’t expect the USAF to articulate an advanced trainer requirement in the near future, but it’s a reminder not even the Talon need last forever.