The T-38 Talon is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance, and exceptional safety record. The Northrop-built Talon first flew in 1959. Since then more than 1,100 were delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972. Approximately 562 remain in service throughout the United States Air Force (USAF). The USAF’s Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38 for undergraduate pilot and instructor pilot training. Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, and NASA also use the T-38 in various support roles. In late 2018, the USAF announced that a new Boeing/Saab T-X training aircraft would start replacing the T-38 in 2023.
Although the two T-38s on display at USSRC are presented in the standard blue striped NASA paint scheme, one is actually on loan from the USAF. Nevertheless, the T-38 association with NASA has a long history. NASA has frequently used T-38s as test platforms, chase aircraft, and vehicles to allow NASA pilots to maintain their minimum flight requirements. During the Apollo through Space Shuttle era, Astronauts frequently used T-38s for transportation between NASA locations to include flights to Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launches into space. Have you ever driven a sports car at supersonic speeds? Many NASA and USAF pilots think they are in a sports car when they are in the cockpit of a T-38. There are various models of the T-38 used for multiple missions. But whether flown as a trainer, a test pilot chase plane or transporting an astronaut to a launch, the simple sleek “White Rocket” is a favorite of anyone who has ever flown it. The T-38 located at Aviation Challenge is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.