T-2B Buckeye jet trainer
One exception to good performance began to emerge: The T2J-1 was underpowered. Originally, the J34 with inherent technology dating back to the late 1940s had been the only available engine compatible with the YT2J-1 airframe. By the 1960s it was technically obsolete, and newer engines were available.
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. NAA was awarded a contract in January 1962 to modify two aircraft to a twin-engine design utilizing the Pratt & Whitney J60-P6. Engineering and modifications were not difficult, thanks to the excellent original engine bay design characteristics. The two new engines provided a combined 6,000 pounds of thrust — an 88 percent increase over the single-engine version. This performance boost was significant—especially for the safety of carrier qualification training when the tail hook misses all the arrestor cables and the pilot must initiate a go-around (bolter) in full power without the benefit of afterburners. In addition, the T2J now used 1,800 feet (550 meters) less runway to take off from land bases.
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.
As the service years ensued, additional performance added to the longevity of the Buckeye. In 1962, the T2J was redesignated T-2, with the new twin-engine version designated T-2B. The Navy continued to order blocks of the T-2B through the early 1960s.
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