Martin-Baker has completed the installation of new-generation US16T ejection seats in the US Air Force’s entire fleet of Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainers, with the upgrade providing crews with a “zero-zero” escape system.
The last of 456 aircraft to have undergone the work was returned to use at Vance AFB in Oklahoma in mid-June.
The company, which was selected for the upgrade in June 2005, began replacing the T-38’s Northrop-produced seats in 2009, after what director of marketing and business development Andrew Martin describes as “a challenging qualification programme”.
“At the start of the programme we were retrofitting at a single base at a rate of seven aircraft per month," Martin says. “At the peak of the programme we were installing at a rate of two aircraft per week at two bases simultaneously.” Production work was performed in the UK and at the Martin-Baker America facility in Philadelphia.
US Air Force
One ejection has already occurred with the upgraded T-38, with a US instructor and German air force student having used their US16Ts “on take-off at low altitude and stall speed” at Sheppard AFB, Texas, in July 2013. Both survived the incident.
According to the company, some 1,813 Mk 16 ejection seats are now in operation with the T-38 and Beechcraft T-6 trainers, “with another 47 and counting in the [Lockheed Martin] F-35”. A zero-zero rating means pilots are able to employ the escape system even while an aircraft is stationary on the ground.