Tag Archives: T-38 Talon

U.S. Air Force T-38C Talon II Crashes Near Columbus AFB, Mississippi: Crew Ejects.

Two Flight Crew Hospitalized. No Ground Casualties in Crash of Advanced Trainer. It’s the second T-38 crash in 6 months, fifth USAF crash (tenth U.S. military) since the beginning of 2018

A USAF T-38C Talon II advanced, twin-engine jet trainer has crashed near Highway 373 and Barton’s Ferry Road north of Columbus AFB, Mississippi approximately 9 miles north of the city of Columbus on May 23. It’s the second T-38 crash in little more than 6 months: a U.S. Air Force T-38 crashed on Monday, November 20, 2017 outside Lake Amistad, Texas, killing the pilot.

Reports from the scene say that the Talon went down at approximately 8:30 AM local time. Witnesses have told several news outlets that the flight crew of two “ejected safely”. A statement released from Columbus AFB said the two flight crew were being evaluated and treated at a local facility.

Witnesses report seeing a plume of smoke from downtown Columbus, Mississippi, although the aircraft is reported to have gone down outside of the town. An Air Force statement reported in local news media said there were no structures or houses near the area where the aircraft is reported to have gone down.

Columbus Air Force Base is home to the USAF 14th Operations Group. Contained within that unit are six individual training squadrons who perform the 52-week Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) training mission. The 14th Operations Group also performs quality assurance for private contract aircraft maintenance.

At least two squadrons within the 14th Operations Group operate the T-38C Talon II; the 49th Fighter Training Squadron, the “Black Knights” and the 50th Fighter Training Squadron, the “Strikin’ Snakes”. Other units within the operations group operate the T-6 Texan II and T-1 Jayhawk trainers. The 43rd Flying Training Squadron of the 14th Operations Group also lists the T-38 advanced jet trainer in their inventory in addition to the 49th and 50th T-38C Talon II flying training squadrons.

The T-38 Talon trainer, and its newer, updated T-38C Talon II, are advanced, supersonic jet trainers. The T-38 family of advanced trainers is also the first-ever supersonic jet trainer first flown in April, 1959. Similar, single seat versions of the aircraft under the Northrop F-5 designation are used as lightweight, multirole combat aircraft by air forces around the world. An advanced version of the F-5 called the F-20 Tigershark was proposed as an alternate aircraft during the development of the General Dynamics F-16, but neither adopted by the U.S. Air Force nor sold as an export aircraft.

Given the long, nearly 60-year history of the T-38 trainer family, and its role as a training aircraft that is operated frequently by pilots relatively new to high performance, supersonic jet aircraft, the T-38 family has a good safety record with approximately 200+ accidents reported since its first flight. The T-38 is also used as a currency trainer for units as diverse as older SR-71 units and current B-2 Spirit stealth bomber pilots. It has been used as a chase and observation aircraft in numerous flight test and development programs including the space shuttle.

No names or specific units have been released in connection with today’s crash outside Columbus AFB and no cause for the crash has been suggested. As with all USAF accidents, the official cause of the crash will likely be released following an official investigation.

This accident continues a series of recent incidents and accidents in U.S. military aviation: the most recent one involved a WC-130H from the 156th Airlift Wing from Puerto Rico ANG that crashed near Chatham City, Georgia on May 2, 2018, causing 9 deaths.

Top image: file photo of a Northrop T-38C Talon II Advanced Jet Trainer (USAF)

Dual-role M-346FT Fighter Trainer has completed first weapon tests. And here are some interesting images

The new multi-role version of the M-346 Master advanced jet trainer has completed first weapon tests to demonstrate its close air support capability.

The development of the dual-role variant of the Leonardo M-346FT continues.

Testing that took place in Italy in coordination with the Italian Air Force shown the successful deployment of two weapon systems: the Lizard LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and the Mk.82 ballistic bombs. Recce and cannon pods are already integrated and fully operational, according to company sources.

Unveiled at Farnborough International Air Show in July 2016, the M-346FT is the new low-cost, multi-role variant of the basic M-346 Master AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer), one of the world’s most advanced trainers in service with the Air Forces of Italy (18 ordered jets, performing training as well as aggressors tasks), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8)

The “FT” is intended to offer both advanced training as well as urban and battlefield close air support, tactical reconnaissance and homeland security tasks. For this reason the aircraft is going to be equipped with a TDL (Tactical Data Link) and a defensive aid subsystem, to provide SA (Situational Awareness) and self-protection; a multiband secure radio and networking suite. Leonardo is also working on one more version that would also include a radar. With such an addition, the aircraft, that could easily be converted from the trainer configuration to the light attack one, could satisfy the requirements of many air arms all around the world that are looking for tactical platforms able to carry a wide array of weapons and sensors at lower costs than the current 4th (and 5th) generation’s combat planes.

The “baseline” M-346 Master platform already offers digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide variety of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft: it’s considered one of the best LIFTs (Lead-In Fighter Trainers) to train pilots destined to the next generation aircraft, thanks to its performance and cutting-edge human-machine interface.

The “Master” is also one of the candidates to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s T-38 Talons as the next-generation U.S. Air Force training plane. Leonardo is offering a specific variant of the 346, dubbed T-100, for the competition as prime contractor.  The Italian company (initially by means of its subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi) teamed up with General Dynamics, between 2013 and 2015, and with Raytheon, between 2016 and Jan. 25, 2017, to offer the T-100 for the T-X. But both U.S. company withdrew as prime contractors for the T-100 offering, leaving Leonardo without an American partner in the program where it would face the competition of some clean sheet designs, such as the Boeing T-X, as well as some modified trainers, such as the Lockheed Martin T-X, an upgraded T-50A.

On Feb. 8, 2017, Leonardo eventually announced its decision to propose the T-100 for the U.S. Air Force T-X competition,  with its U.S. subsidiary DRS as the prime contractor. Leonardo DRS will be supported by CAE USA in the design and development of the T-100 Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) whereas Honeywell will provide twin F124 turbofan propulsion engines. The new T-100 aircraft is to be built at a U.S. manufacturing facility that has not been selected yet.

Image source: Leonardo


Alenia Aermacchi M-346 back in U.S. Air Force T-X advanced trainer program

Compliance with the “sustained-G” requirement and a possible new U.S. partner make Alenia Aermacchi confident they can win the T-X race.

The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master” is a dual-engine LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Trainer) jet for the latest stage of a fighter pilot training which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).

The aircraft, selected by Italy, Poland, Israel and Singapore for advanced pre-operative training, represents the air segment of an integrated training system (ITS) that includes ground-based facilities, academics, simulators, and mission planning and debriefing stations developed to fill the gap between the flight schools and the operational unit and to prepare the pilots to fly and operate Gen. 4th and 5th multirole aircraft in high-threat/high performance environments.

M346 T-X 2

Along with fast jet performance that this author experienced in first person the advanced trainer couples cutting-edge human-machine interface with modern systems and sensors, including a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft: in short, it with all the bells and whistles pilots can find in the Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The aircraft is considered one of the best candidates to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of aging Northrop T-38 Talon trainers.

[Read also: We have flown one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers: the M-346 of the Italian Air Force]

Still, the fate of the T-100, the M-346 proposal for the T-X program has been unclear since General Dynamics announced it was withdrawing itself as the prime contractor for the bid in March. Furthermore, there were doubts the aircraft could be compliant to the sustained g performance requirement included in the initial RFI (Request For Information), issued by the Air Force.

M346 T-X

Nevertheless, it looks like both finding the partner and comply with the challenging requirement are no longer a problem: the company said Aviation Week that talks are in progress with a new partner that will be announced “very soon” whereas, dealing with the sustained g requirement, Alenia Aermacchi Chief Test Pilot Enrico Scarabotto said that the M-346 recently proved to be compliant with the latest amendment of the RFI, issued on Jul. 10.

The maneuver is described here (pag. 7):

The sustained G maneuver shall be flown with a standard configuration (i.e., clean with no external stores), at or above 80% fuel weight (relative to maximum fuel capacity), steady state flight, and standard day conditions. The maneuver will begin in level flight (flight path angle no lower than zero and no higher than two degrees nose high), wings level (+/‐ 5 degrees of bank), at or above 15,000 feet pressure altitude, and at or below 0.9M. From this point, the pilot shall immediately initiate bank and back pressure to achieve the sustained G. The sustained G must be maintained for a minimum of 140 continuous degrees. The pilot may begin reducing the load factor and rolling out after a minimum of 140 degrees in order to roll out at approximately 180 degrees of turn.

The flight path angle shall be no lower than 15 degrees nose low and the aircraft shall descend to no lower than 13,000 feet pressure altitude during any portion of the entire 180‐degree maneuver. There is no power setting specified for this maneuver. The aircraft may lose no more than 10% of the initial airspeed during the 180‐degree maneuver. There are no specified degrees of turn for roll in or roll out. “Approximately 180 degrees of turn” is meant to describe a recognizable maneuver without mandating exactly 180 degrees. There is no specified length of time for the 140‐degree portion of the maneuver or for the 180‐degree maneuver as a whole.

Minimum acceptable load factor will be 6.5 sustained for a minimum of 140 degrees. The lowest load factor registered during the 140‐degree period will establish sustained G for the maneuver. For example, if the aircraft maintains 7.2Gs for less than 140 degrees and then drops to 6.9Gs by the end of the 140‐degree period, 6.9Gs will be used as the maximum sustained G. There is no requirement to exceed 7.5Gs.

With a new U.S. partner at the horizon and compliance with the sustained g maneuver (that will be secured even more in the future as the company works to improve the aircraft agility through new software releases) candidates itself (again) as the leading contender for the T-X program, worth 350 jet trainers for the Air Education and Training Command.

Photo: U.S. Air Force plane prepares for take off under giant double rainbow on Dec. 21 “Doomsday”

Taken on the day of the alleged Mayan Apocalypse Dec. 21, 2012, the following cool photo shows pilots preparing the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon jet at Beale Air Force Base, California.

The supersonic jet trainers are used for training of U-2 pilots since they have similar flight controls (and lower operating costs than the “Dragon Lady”).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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