T-38C fleet undergoes propulsion upgrades

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christa D'Andrea
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
Air Education and Training Command's first T-38C Talon with modified ejectors, engines and inlets will be delivered to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., the week of Nov. 4th by pilots from the 415th Flight Test Flight here.

Following on the heels of the recent avionics upgrade program, these new upgrades, known as the propulsion modernization program, are designed to extend the life of the T-38 through the year 2020.

More than 500 aircraft and 1,200 engines will be modified under the program with the 479th Flying Training Group at Moody AFB being the first AETC unit to receive the upgraded models.

"AETC has constantly sought out improvements in flying operations," said Milan Michalec, AETC program manager for the propulsion program. "PMP was developed to correct airframe and engine deficiencies related to safety, performance, reliability and maintainability. PMP modifications update the 40-year-old T-38 propulsion system and will extend the life of the T-38 to meet future pilot production needs."

Under the program, the T-38 intakes and ejectors have been redesigned and the engines modified. The most obvious change is the larger inlets. Internally, improved components, including a revamped compressor, are installed in the engines.

To the untrained eye, the modified aircraft may not look much different, but its performance and safety are improved significantly.

"PMP improvements to the airframe increase operational safety," Michalec said. "They extend the life and improve the safety of the engines. Additionally, these modifications will make the aircraft and engines easier to maintain, cheaper to operate and less susceptible to environmental factors."

Maj. Jack Morawiec, the 415th FLTF operations officer and a functional check flight pilot who flew the first fully modified T-38, said that over the years upgrades to the aircraft increased the weight of the plane. The added weight decreased the T-38's takeoff performance.

"PMP essentially improves the takeoff performance of the T-38 by increasing the thrust," said Morawiec. "The increased thrust enables the T-38 to be operated in a safer and less restrictive manner when it comes to takeoff performance."

He added that maintenance and operations costs also would be reduced as a result of the modifications.

The 10-year modernization process is performed under contract at Randolph by Lear Siegler Services, Inc. The process works under a "Queen Bee" concept in which Randolph acts as the organic depot for all T-38Cs. This concept is the most cost-effective way to perform modifications and structural repairs to the aircraft, officials said. (Courtesy of AETC News Service)