Start saying good-bye to the T-38C Talon



Has it been 50 years already?

The US Air Force revealed yesterday it wants to replace the venerable Northrop T-38C Talon by 2017 with a new “family” of jet and simulator systems that can do five things: sustained high-g maneuvers, air-to-air intercepts, data-link operations, night vision imaging and air refueling.

The USAF listed its performance requirements for the so-called T-X contract in a second request for information to potential bidders. The first RFI issued in March asked vendors to supply only general information about their manufacturing and design capabilities. In the second round, the USAF wants to know specific information about the capabilities of the competing aircraft.

The replacement for the T-38C’s has been delayed several times in the past. The USAF believes it can keep the current fleet flying safely through 2020, but hardly a moment longer. A fatal crash last year grounded the T-38 fleet after investigators found that it was caused by a single part that failed due to age.

Replacing the USAF’s 50-year-old T-38 fleet of more than 550 jets is seen as the prize for the military jet trainer market. The contenders for the deal include the KAI/Lockheed T-50 Golden Eagle, BAE Systems Hawk and AleniaAermacchi M346, with the latter already eyeing the opportunity to compete as a prime contractor for the first time for a major US contract.

I noticed the USAF has asked the potential vendors to specify if their aircraft shares common parts “with any other operational aircraft”. I wonder if this is a veiled reference to the T-50s commonality with the Lockheed F-16?

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7 Responses to Start saying good-bye to the T-38C Talon

  1. Royce 6 August, 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    A contract for 500 jet trainers? That’s like the holy grail of trainer contracts.

    I say the Hawk has no shot. It’s old and the market has something newer and shinier to look at. This is race between the T-50 and M-346, and it’s the contract that Lockheed Martin was thinking about when they helped the Koreans build the T-50. So who is Alenia going to pair up with- Boeing or Northrop Grumman? Or maybe L-3? Cause the Italians are not going to win it alone.

  2. mike j 6 August, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Back in the 80′s, when Northrop was trying to get traction with the F-20, they might have tried sticking the F404 onto the T-38, probably downrated a bit for the trainer. On second thought, more like sticking the T-38 from the intakes forward on the F-20, but whatever, it’s dead and gone.

    Maybe the only reason the Hawk would come into consideration is the T-45. One factor that comes to mind against the T-50 is LockMart having the lion’s share of the fighter business already.

  3. Obamanite 6 August, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    The requirement seems less like one for a trainer than an actual, 4.5 Gen fighter. It’s ridiculous, and it’s never gonna happen. The USAF at the same time will be buying, supposedly, the F-35, whatever tanker it finally decides to buy, maybe the NGB, and sundry UAVs and UCAVs. What money will it have left for a “trainer” that, given the requirements, is likely to cost some $50 million each??? I am not questioning the need for a new, high-end trainer. I am questioning the feasibility of, basically, buying a Block-60 F-16 as your “trainer.” If the state-of-the art has advanced to such an extent that the USAF didn’t feel the need to get two-seater versions of the F-22 and F-35, I’m sure they can do better than ask for an all-up fighter for a trainer. Here’s a thought: plenty of F-16Bs and Ds with ample airframe life are likely to still be around then. SLEP the hell out of them, go to the Boneyard if necessary, purchase surplus airframes from overseas and bingo, you’ve got an airframe that meets all your requirements already built and for a fraction of the cost of buying an all-new design. I’m a freakin’ genius…

  4. MrSatyre 6 August, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    Just bring back the F-20 and have done with it. Cheaper in every aspect than the F-35 by god-only-knows how many billions of dollars. Based on the F-5, no one would have any trouble transitioning to it from the T-38 (except, obviously, for up-to-date avionics).

  5. Obamanite 10 August, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    MrSatyre: I thought about a two-seater F-20 as well. It would be cheap, proven, use an existing engine and components and, given that the National Guard is so concerned about its “fighter shortfall,” a singe-seater could also be used to address that problem, since for “homeland defense” you don’t need an F-22 nor even an F-35 but a cheap interceptor. Fit a relatively inexpensive SABR AESA on it and bingo, you’ve got yourself a damned fine interceptor capable of small cruise missile defense for a fraction of the cost. Did I mention I’m a freakin’ genius? Paging Northrup Grumman. Did you hear me, NG???

  6. Purba Negoro 11 August, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    I have no idea why the T-38 marketed in SE Asia (with a US gun to our heads) as the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” had such long life.
    I imagine as it was cheap and had massive profit margin- the Reagan Military-Industrial-Congressional “Iron Triangle” Complex had been promised US government funded contracts for these aircraft to be later sold on to coerced suckers like ourselves.

    Frankly, the T-38 aka F-5 was and remains total rubbish in comparison to the Scandinavian, Brazilian, French and Russian aircraft available at the time.
    Today, it is now warfare based on avionics, advanced arrayed radar and extreme range missiles- so in this era of tight budgets- an avionics upgrade should keep it airworthy (and far advanced of most Chinese rubbish) for at least 10 more years (GE will be maintaining spare parts and main production of the Junkers Jumo 004 aka the US reverse-engineered J-85 until 2040).
    Read up on “Operation Paperclip” and the US multi-billion-dollar intellectual property theft as illegal war reparations from Germany.

  7. Obamanite 11 August, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    Purba, you are on a warpath, aren’t you? Don’t like the U.S. arms embargo of your country? Maybe you should take it up with the Indonesian junta that terrorized East Timor for decades. Personally, I wouldn’t give three turds if Indonesia did not buy a single piece of U.S. equipment ever again. I’m sure the French and Russians would be happy to feed off the scraps of whatever we leave them, including the coveted Indonesian market. BTW, your avatar is VERY frightening…

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