The US Air Force hasawarded a new contract to Northrop Grumman to finalise the design and detailed damage tolerance analysis of an improved wing for the T-38 jet trainer with the eventual aim of rewinging its entire fleet of aircraft.

Northrop Grumman's latest contract represents the third phase in a seven-phase effort to develop a new Dash 33-standard wing for the T-38. Phases one and two, starting with an initial feasibility study, have been completed by the company. In the meantime, the company has been contracted by the USAF to bring back into production the original -29 standard wing.

A follow-on fourth contact, covering the start of work on a prototype wing, is due to be awarded to Northrop Grumman later this year subject to funds being made available, says an air force official. The USAF plans to invite competition for production of the T-38 improved wing.

Replacement of the T-38's Dash 29-standard wing forms part of wider effort to renew and extend the supersonic trainer's fatigue life to around 8,600h, which should keep the type operational till 2025, with option to extend to 2040. The air force hopes in the long term to be able to rewing all 470 tandem-seat T-38As and AT-38Bs used by the Air Education and Training Command.

The USAF is also in the middle of an avionics upgrade of the T-38. The Boeing-led work will involve a new head-up display, multifunction displays, an integrated global positioning/inertial navigation system and traffic alert and collision avoidance system.

Source: Flight International