The Northrop T-38 Talon is an American supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer and to date, is also the most produced. It remains in service as of 2011 in air forces throughout the world.
The United States Air Force (USAF) is the largest user. In addition to USAF pilots, the T-38 is used in the United States by NASA astronauts, with the aircraft bailed to NASA from USAF. The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School is the principal U.S. Navy operator (other T-38s were previously used as USN aggressor aircraft until replaced by the similar F-5 Tiger II), as well as some NATO pilots participating in joint training programs, also fly the T-38. A few are also under civilian ownership.
The United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) had T-38 Talons in service from 1978 until SAC's deactivation 1991. These planes were used to enhance the career development of bomber co-pilots through the "Accelerated Copilot Enrichment (ACE) Program". They were later used as proficiency aircraft for all B-52 and B-1 pilots, as well as SR-71, U-2, KC-135, and KC-10 pilots. SAC's successor, the Air Combat Command (ACC), continues to retain T-38s as proficiency aircraft for U-2 pilots.
The Air Training Command's (ATC) successor, the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), uses the T-38C to prepare pilots for aircraft such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor. The AETC received T-38Cs in 2001 as part of the Avionics Upgrade Program. The T-38Cs owned by the AETC will undergo propulsion modernization which replaces major engine components to enhance reliability and maintainability, and an engine inlet/injector modification to increase available takeoff thrust. These upgrades and modifications, with the Pacer Classic program, should extend the service life of T-38s to 2020.