USAF rolls out first 'Pacer Classic III'-upgraded Talon | World Defense

USAF rolls out first 'Pacer Classic III'-upgraded Talon


Dec 5, 2014
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USAF rolls out first 'Pacer Classic III'-upgraded Talon
Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's International Defence Review
06 August 2015

The first of a planned 150 T-38C Talon advanced jet trainer aircraft to go through the 'Pacer Classic III' modernisation process is rolled out at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, on 31 July. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) has rolled out the first Northrop T-38 Talon advanced jet trainer aircraft to be modernised under the 'Pacer Classic III' programme, the service announced on 6 August.

The aircraft was rolled out at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex's (ALC's) 575th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, on 31 July.

Under the 'Pacer Classic III' modification effort, the USAF is refurbishing the airframes of 150 of its 453 T-38Cs to sustain them in service out to 2029. With the first now completed, the service is currently working on a further 11 aircraft and expects to receive 17 more in fiscal year 2016. Work on the project should be complete by 2021.

According to officials, it is the largest and most invasive structural modification ever performed on the Talon, with each aircraft taking approximately 8,900 man-hours to go through the process. Brigadier General Carl Buhler, the Ogden ALC commander described the effort in a statement as "a ton of work".

Although the T-38C entered service in 2002, it is based on the T-38A platform which began operations in 1961. Production of the airframe ceased in 1972, at which time more than 1,100 T-38As had been delivered. As well as the 453 T-38Cs that remain in use today, the air force also fields 50 of its original T-38As.

The 'Pacer Classic' programme was initiated by the USAF in 1984 to maintain the structural integrity of the T-38 aircraft up to 2020, with Pacer II starting in 2001 to stretch the life still further to 2026. As noted by IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft: In Service , the structural element of the projects included replacement of the ejection seats, dorsal longerons, brakes, wheels and flight controls, as well as reinforcing the wing-spar, re-winging, and fitting a new bird-resistant canopy. The avionics of a number of T-38As were modified to the T-38C standard under these efforts also. The 'Pacer Classic III' programme specifically involves replacing fatigue sensitive structural items including the steel dorsal longerons, cockpit longerons, and the upper/lower centre longerons.

The Air Education and Training Command (AETD) uses the T-38 to train pilots for front-line types once they have completed their basic flying training on the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II.
USAF rolls out first 'Pacer Classic III'-upgraded Talon - IHS Jane's 360