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Interesting Facts about the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon; World’s First Ever Jet Trainer

Today we present to our readers the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon; the aircraft that was known to be the world first-ever official jet trainer aircraft. This was a two-seat aircraft with supersonic twin jets. The aircraft is also renowned to be one of the very few supersonic trainers that were mass-produced by the US Army or any other army. Even in 2019, the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon still remains in the service of many of the world’s military air forces.

The country that operates the majority of the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon is US and most particularly its Air Force division. The Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon is not used by the US Air Force but has also been in service of NASA for their various speed and altitude tests regarding space missions. The US Navy operator use the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon for their US Naval Test Pilot School until they replaced the T-38 with the very similar Northrop aircraft named F-5 Tiger II. In addition to USAF, pilots from the NATO nations also do joint training exercises with the UAF pilots on the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon.

In 2019, it has been nearly 50 years of service for the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon and the primary operator of the aircraft during this time was US Air Force.

For our readers, we have decided to present to you some of the interesting facts about the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon; World’s first ever jet trainer.


According to the data of US Air Force, the claim that they flew the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon at sea level for a top speed of 1.08 Mach which roughly amounts to 812 mph. as for NASA they have their own claim of flying the T-38 for a top speed of nearly Mach 1.6 which is quite impressive feat for an aircraft that was built on technology from 1950s.

The original version of the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon is powered by twin General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojet engines that allow it to produce a dry thrust of nearly 2050 pounds. As for the thrust from afterburners, it is almost 2900 pounds. As for the variant of the T-38 named T-38C, it has been upgraded with a propulsion crank system that allows it to generate dry thrust of 2200 pounds and with afterburners a thrust of 3300 pounds.

As for the range of the aircraft it is measured to be roughly 1093 miles with a ceiling height of maximum 1093 miles.

Unique Technology

The Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon holds the title of being the world’s most capable jet trainer that is able to have a ceiling climb from the sea level to 30000 feet in a time span of 1 minute. This high of an altitude climb wrenches the pilot of the T-38 with almost 7 Gs which is 7 times the normal amount of Earth’s gravity.

As it is difficult to move under this much pressure, the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon has been integrated with a glass cockpit that features an avionics display along with heads up display system. As for the bombing practice, the aircraft has been integrated with a No Drop Bomb scoring system that only gives the pilot a gun sight along with a bomb dispenser for just practice.


Back in the 1961, when the first ever Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon was available for active duty, its cost was about 756000 dollars. By taking in account the inanition of money from that time, the cost of the single Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon is about 6 million dollars today. Considering all the amazing features of the aircraft, this was way cheaper for an aircraft of such caliber even today.

To pout cherry on top for the USAF, every order of the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon was delivered by the company on time or if not at a below contract price.


The wings for the Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon are a single unit meaning they are built from tip to tip as a single piece from aluminum alloys. The control surfaces of these wings were then reinforced with help of internal honeycomb.

As for the seating area, both the student and the instructor sit in this aircraft in tandem over rocket-powered ejection seats while being inside a pressurized air-conditioned cabin. Nearly every pilot who serves in the US Army as a fighter or a bomber, they have sat in the T-38 for training. This military jet is used for helping the pilots hone their following skills.

  • Aerobatics
  • Cross-country navigation
  • Formation flight
  • Night flight
  • Instrument flight

All the USAF, US Naval test pilots and the flight test pilots stationed at the Edwards Air Force Base, California and Patuxent River, Maryland also train in the T-38. These personnel also use this very aircraft for the testing of the electrical and weapons systems.


The contract for a trainer supersonic jet was given to Northrop Corporation back in 1956 by USAF and in between years from 1959 to 1972, company gave the delivery of nearly 1187 T-38s. The very first flight of the aircraft was back on 10th April, 1959.

The aircraft has served nearly for 50 years and thus has received new wings and better avionics and a state of the art propulsion system. During the 50th ceremony in commemoration of the T-38’s first flight, the Major General Greg Feest,  Commander of the 19th Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, stationed at the  Randolph Air Force Base in  Texas, said the following words,

“The impact this aircraft has had on the Air Force has been profound. The T-38 has been the backbone for training Air Force aviators of the past and the present, and undoubtedly it will continue to produce the best pilots in the world for many years to come.”


As for the future of the T-38., it still seems to be bright as the aircraft is undergoing numerous modifications and maintenances that will allow the aircraft to saw its service extending until 2020 which will officially make it the longest-serving jet trainer with 60 years of service.

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