The F-5 Tiger is a highly maneuverable supersonic fighter jet produced in the U.S. by Northrop Grumman and used by militaries around the world. The T-38 Talon, which shares an origin with the F-5, was the most-produced supersonic training aircraft in the world. At AllClear, we help our customers keep these legendary aircraft flying by providing parts, service, and repair options worldwide.
F-5/T-38 History and Development
The first F-5 Tiger test flight was held at Edwards Air Force Base, California on July 31, 1963, with the first delivery to the U.S. Air Force in 1964. The single-seat N-156 fighter was originally designed to operate from U.S. Navy Escort Carriers. After this class of carrier was retired, Northrop continued development on the single-seat N-156F fighter and a two-seat N-156T combat trainer.
At around the same time, the Air Force was looking to replace its Lockheed T-33 trainers that had been in use since the 1940s, and the N-156T looked like the best option. It was this design that came to be known as the T-38 Talon. Northrop continued to develop the N-156F until the Military Assistance Program propelled into full-scale development and production for the Air Force and American allies. This became the F-5 Tiger, which is still actively flown by Brazil, Mexico, and Taiwan, among others.
The F-5A was a single-seat tactical fighter optimized for air-to-ground missions. Powered by two GE J85-GE-13 turbojets, the maximum speed was Mach 1.4 at 30,000 feet with a service ceiling of 50,000 feet and a range of over 1,300 miles. The F-5B was originally developed as a two-seat training aircraft that replaced some of the F-5A armaments and internal space with an instructor cockpit.
Meanwhile, the T-38 has been used by the Air Force Air Education and Training Command since 1961, serving a role as a trainer for front-line fighter and bomber pilots. Other Air Force offices, as well as NASA, have also used the T-38A trainer. Requiring as little as 2,300 feet of runway, the T-38 can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet in one minute.
Use of the T-38 Through the Years
With its swept wings and streamlined fuselage, the T-38 quickly asserted itself as an effective supersonic combat trainer, with the T-38A being the most used variant. The AT-38B was developed to serve as a weapons training aircraft, incorporating a gun sight and practice bomb dispenser. The waist-high location of most critical components on the T-38 make them easily reachable by maintenance crews.
Between 1961 and 1972, Northrop delivered more than 1,100 T-38s to the Air Force. Over the years, the T-38 program has evolved into a Pacer Classic sustainment program, with essential modifications to the airframe, engine, and system components, as well as major structural replacements.
The T-38 was used by the Strategic Air Command to train bomber and tanker copilots and as proficiency aircraft to train all pilots for a number of Air Force aircraft. Currently, the T-38 is used to train U-2 and B-2 pilots for the Air Combat Command and Global Strike Command, respectively.
In 2001, the Air Force began taking deliveries of the T-38C, which includes a glass cockpit, as a part of its Avionics Upgrade Program. The T-38C has subsequently been upgraded with an advanced propulsion system. The entire T-38 program is slated for phaseout beginning in 2023.
In addition to being used as a combat trainer, the T-38 is used by advanced Joint Services Unified Pilot Training students for aerobatics, formation, night, instrument, and cross-country navigation training. Material Command employs T-38s to test experimental electronics and weapons systems. Most NATO-country pilots train on the T-38 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. International T-38 operators include Turkey, Portugal, and Germany. NASA uses the T-38 as a training aircraft, and used it as a chase aircraft during the Space Shuttle Program.
F-5 and T-38 Upgrades and Repairs
AllClear has been recognized as a leading F-5 and T-38 sustainment solution source. We have agreements with F-5 and T-38 OEMs, including Honeywell, AMETEK, Collins Aerospace, and others, which allow us to provide sustainment and modernization services that can exceed the original aircraft specifications. Through our OEM partnerships, we stock and distribute hundreds of F-5 and T-38 parts, providing support for every major aircraft system.
In addition to distributing parts, AllClear coordinates with a global network of MRO partners to provide our F-5 and T-38 customers with repair management, tooling development, engineering, manufacturing, and logistics solutions.
When it comes to maintaining the F-5 or T-38, our customers rely on AllClear to provide them with not only the parts, but also the necessary expertise. If you are looking for a partner to keep your F-5 Tiger or T-38 Talon operational, contact AllClear to see how we can help.