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T2J-l / T-2 Buckeye

In 1960 the Navy began receiving the T2J-l "Buckeye," a two-place jet trainer built by the North American Aviation Corporation. This was the forerunner of today's T2-C basic jet trainer. An improved member of the "Buckeye" family, the twin-engine T-2B aircraft, made its appearance in 1970. The T-2As and T-2Bs were phased out in February 1973 and May 1973, respectively, and replaced by the T-2C Buckeye. It was a very stable and very reliable aircraft, which made it such a great trainer and a great way to get students involved with what jet aircraft are before they move on to bigger, more powerful aircraft.

The first T2J made its maiden flight in December 1957. It was designed for use as a basic jet trainer that would provide the type of features found in high-performance jet fighters and modern service planes. It had a tandem-seat, single jet engine, straight wing and tricycle landing gear. The T2J was capable of operating as a land or carrier-based training aircraft.

A unique feature was its dual ejection system which the instructor could operate from either the front or back seat. The low-level, rocket-propelled ejection system provided a safe means of escape for pilot and student throughout the flight envelope, including ground level. This was the first time this type of escape/ejection system had been incorporated into a trainer.

Simplicity of operation was an important feature provided by the T2J-1. It was equipped for use in gunnery, bombing and rocket training; formation and tactics; instrument training; carrier qualifications; and other operations including tow target. The T2J was designed to provide a comprehensive training program from primary through advanced training, giving the student a well-rounded background for further advanced training. These features, combined with ease of maintenance, reliability and economical operation, provided the Navy with an excellent basic jet trainer.

After the completion of Navy tests at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC), Patuxent River, Md., and aboard Antietam, the Naval Air Basic Training Command (NABTC) received its first T2J-1 Buckeyes in July 1959. After a training syllabus was developed, flight instructors began familiarization training. On November 2, 1959, the first class of Navy flight students began, assigned to BTG-9 (later redesignated VT-4) at NAS Pensacola.

More firsts followed for the T2J-1s. They were the first jets used in air-to-air gunnery practice in May 1960 and another milestone was recorded on June 2, 1960, when cadets from VT-4 were the first to carrier qualify in the T2J-1 aboard Antietem.

The last of the T2J-1s were delivered to the Navy in April 1961, bringing the total number built for the Navy to 217. The commands operating the Buckeye at that time were VT-4, VT-7, NABTC at NAS Pensacola and the Naval Air Technical Training Unit at Olathe, Kansas.

With the end of production, the Navy began to investigate possible upgrading of the Buckeye. North American (later known as Rockwell International) modified the T2J-1 to a twin-engine aircraft. The prototype, designated YT2J-2, made its first flight on August 30, 1962. The two new engines, weighing less than the single engine in the T2J-1, provided a substantial increase in performance. A contract was signed with North American in February 1964 for an initial production number of the new Buckeyes, redesignated YT-2B because of aircraft designation changes by the Department of Defense (previous T2J- 1s were redesignated T-2As in 1962). The Naval Air Basic Training Command at NAS Pensacola received two YT-2Bs on April 6,1964, for use in evaluating the jet training syllabus.

The first production model of the T-2B made its maiden flight on May 21, 1965. It was a twin-engine jet with some new electronics. The major systems, such as flight controls, landing gear, fuel and speed brakes, were almost identical to those on the T-2A. This was done to keep costs low, including the cost of the spare parts inventory, and for ease of maintenance training. The twin-engine Buckeye provided a large increase in power, which brought the aircraft's performance more in line with highperformance jet fighters and made the transition from jet trainers to combat-type planes easier for Naval Aviators. The addition of the two engines increased safety since, if there was a malfunction in one engine, there would be sufficient power in the other to bring the aircraft back safely.

On August 24, 1965, testing of the T-2B began at the NATC and the first squadron delivery was to VT-7 on November 9, 1965, followed by additional T-2BS to VT-4 at NAS Pensacola in December. VT-4 incorporated the new aircraft into its training syllabus in August 1966, the first squadron to use the T-2B for air-to-air gunnery and carrier qualification training. The first carrier landing by a student Naval Aviator was on September 2, 1966, aboard USS Lexington.

A third in the Buckeye series, designated T-2C, was introduced in 1966. The only major difference between the C and B models was a change in engines. General Electric J65-GE-4 engines provided an additional 45 pounds of thrust for each engine over the Pratt & Whitney J60 engines on the T-2BS. VT-9 at NAS Meridian was the first squadron to receive the new T-2C on April 30, 1969.

The twin-engine T-2Bs and Cs eventually replaced the single-engine A model. The last of the T-2As were retired from the Naval Air Training Command on February 28, 1973, after 14 years of service in basic flight training. In a reversal of the traditional pattern of aircraft acquisition, several T-2Bs which had been retired to storage at Davis- Monthan AFB were brought out of mothballs in the latter part of 1981 to fill the shortage of T-2Cs.

T-2C Buckeye jet trainer aircraft was produced for the US Navy by North American Aviation [purchased by Rockwell, which was purchased by Boeing] at Columbus. T-2C trainers were used by the Naval Air Training Command to conduct basic jet flight training for future Navy and Marine Corps aviators. The trainer established an outstanding record of safety and reliability while providing training for more than 11,000 students to pilot 18 different models of Navy jet aircraft. Buckeyes also were purchased by Venezuela (T-2D) and Greece (T-2E).

The two-place, high-performance T-2C Buckeye was used for a wide variety of pilot training, from the student's first jet flight to fully qualified flight. The aircraft was used for teaching a wide range of skills, including high-altitude, high-speed formation and aerobatic flights; basic and radio instruments; night and day navigation; and gunnery, bombing, and carrier operations. Distinguishing features include wide-track tricycle landing gear, a straight tapered wing, a dorsal-faired vertical stabilizer, large low-slung intake ducts, a deep-squared engine compartment, and faired twin tailpipes.The aircraft is designed for both land- and carrier-based operations.

The T-2 was grounded three times in 1997 due to safety problems. Recent improvements in aircraft flight control and ejection seating have improved the aircraft's handling and safety. The aircraft had a history of uncommanded pitch events, which became chronic in the last few years. Extensive research identified the causes. Changes to the elevator boost actuator have been implemented to correct the problem. In addition, a redesign to correct a long-standing deficiency in the ejection seat pan has been developed and successfully tested. Modifications began in early 1999.

The T-45 Goshawk replaced the T-2 Buckeye in the Intermediate Jet Pilot Training Program. After more than 40 years of service, the venerable T-2 Buckeye training aircraft left service after one last training detachment with Training Wing 1's Reserve Squadron Augment Unit (SAU) 9. Some of the aircraft continued in service, training naval flight officers and other non-pilot personnel. Some remain in service around the fleet in various roles, as well as at the Naval Test Pilots School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The rest of the aircraft were flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Most T-2 Buckeyes have been replaced by the T-45 Goshawk. It is expected that NAS Meridian completely transition from the T-2 Buckeye to the T-45 Goshawk in August 2004. At NAS Pensacola, the T-2 Buckeye remained in service for about another year.

A chapter in naval history came to an end 17 July 2003, when the T-2C "Buckeye" completed its final carrier qualification aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). A group of eight student aviators from Training Air Wing (TW) 1 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian, Miss., were the last students to carrier qualify in the aircraft that has been the backbone of Navy pilot training for the last 40 years. The National Museum of Naval Aviation acquired the last T-2C Buckeye to make a carrier landing, 09 April 2004. The aircraft made the final T-2 arrested landing aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), 25 July 2003.

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