Seeking Successor Claw

The Air Force has begun exploring the best attributes for a future trainer aircraft to replace the T-38 Talon, including asking late last month for industry input. The Air Force expects to field this notional aircraft, which would be part of a new advanced pilot training family of systems, in the 2017 timeframe to help train the F-22, F-35, and bomber pilots of tomorrow, according to the service’s March 31 request for information. According to the RFI, one of the issues to tackle with the new trainer is how to best prepare student pilots for requirements like sustained high-G operations and air refueling that are best learned with the aid of an instructor pilot on board, considering there will be no two-seat versions of the new F-22 and F-35 fighters. The Air Force just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first T-38 flight. It still has nearly 550 Talons in its inventory. While the service expects to fly T-38s until around 2020, some sustainment issues are emerging. For example, mechanical failure of the right aileron caused the fatal crash of a T-38C last April, leading to the replacement of aileron actuator levers in the Talon fleet. (For more, read Flight Magazine’s April 22 report.)