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AETC receives new T-38C Talon trainers

07/25/02 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- Air Education and Training Command took another step in modernizing its forces when a newly modified T-38C Talon landed here July 23, becoming a permanent part of the aircraft inventory.

The T-38C is a converted T-38A aircraft and is sometimes called the "glass cockpit" because of its improved avionics and support systems, making it closer in design to F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor cockpits.

"Fighter aircraft employ highly complex avionics that aren't available in the T-38 A and B models," said Lt. Col. Michael Romeo, 50th Flying Training Squadron T-38C conversion operations chief. "Only a small percentage of the necessary avionics-related skills and knowledge transfer from the T-38 A and B (aircraft) to initial fighter training aircraft."

AETC will use the C model T-38s to transition graduate-level pilots into more advanced bomber-fighter aircraft used by Air Force major commands. According to Lt. Col. Richard Koepke, AETC's operational test director for the T-38 conversion, the trainers will be used for three key training courses in the command: specialized undergraduate pilot training here; introduction to fighter fundamentals at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.; and instructor pilot training at Randolph AFB, Texas.

"The A- and B-model aircraft avionics systems are 40 years old and suffer from low reliability and have high-maintenance time," Romeo said, "and the T-38Cs will correct these problems. The T-38C is expected to reduce overall maintenance costs by replacing several mechanical displays with just a few state-of-the-art computer displays. A comprehensive built-in test system, which should identify faulty components, will simplify troubleshooting and reduce aircraft turnaround times."

Significant enhancements incorporated into the T-38C include a global positioning system satellite receiver, a ring-laser gyro-inertial navigation system, a radar altimeter, a collision-avoidance system and an instrument-flight certified heads-up display.

The cost of the upgrade is $600,000 per aircraft and is done as part of a $750 million contract with Boeing.

Supplementing the T-38C conversion is the purchase of three new types of new simulators: the unit training device, which includes a cockpit with a 40-degree field-of-view display and an instructor operating station; the operational flight trainer; and the weapons-system trainer, which offers IFF pilots more realistic air-to-air training simulation.

Columbus will receive seven jets a month until it reaches its full complement of 66. The T-38As now at the base will be sent to Boeing in Mesa, Ariz., for conversion to the "C" models. More than 500 aircraft will be modified under the program with 454 going to AETC bases. (Courtesy of AETC News Service)

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