T2J-l / T-2 Buckeye
The Rockwell International T-2C Buckeye served proudly for more than 40 years, training more than 11,000 aviators for the U.S. Navy before being retired from active service.
In 1956, North American Aviation responded to a Navy request for information for a multipurpose jet trainer. The Navy sought data for a single aircraft type to cover a wide spectrum of flight training that included basic jet training, high-speed formation, day/night navigation, carrier qualification, gunnery/ordnance delivery and air-to-air combat tactics. The qualifying aircraft would also have to be equipped with under-wing hard points for gun pods and ordnance. There was strong preference for a rugged aircraft, yet one equipped with features for ease of maintenance.
The NAA configuration featured tandem seating, with the rear seat slightly elevated above the front seat. The instructor could operate from either seat. A high T-tail and 100-gallon (380-liter) wingtip tanks made the appearance more unusual. The design also included a refined configuration of the original wing and landing gear of the straight-wing FJ-1 Fury and an enhanced version of the T-28 Trojan flight control system. NAA hoped that proven systems would reduce testing time. Engineers also incorporated waist-high ease of reach to the electronics bay for ground crews and easy servicing for the single 3,400-pound thrust Westinghouse J34-WE-48 turbojet engine.
Previous military trainer experience with the AT-6/SNJ and T-28 entered the picture, as NAA won the industry-wide competition and was awarded a contract on June 29, 1956. NAA’s Columbus, Ohio, Division would be the center of production for the design and production of six YT2J-1 (NA-241) jet trainers. Initial planning progressed so well that by October of that year, the Navy increased its order by 121 aircraft.
First flight of YT2J-1 took place at Columbus on Jan. 31, 1958, followed by evaluation at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and carrier suitability tests aboard the USS Antietam (CVS-36) in May 1959. Shortly afterward, the T2J-1 was approved for introduction to the Training Command, and acquired the name “Buckeye" through a naming contest held by the Navy.
Deliveries to the Navy commenced on July 9, 1959, and the T2J-1 began earning a reputation as an excellent platform with stable flight characteristics — vitally important for new flight crew training.
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.
In 1973, North American Rockwell changed its name to Rockwell International, and from that same year through 1977, 24 T-2Ds were delivered to the Venezuelan Air Force. And in 1976 and 1977, 40 T-2E variants were delivered to Greece for use by the Hellenic Air Force for training. A total production run of 609 T-2s were built between 1956 and 1977.
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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