LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. –
The 1st Fighter Wing here, recently added the T-38 Talon to its inventory to provide adversary training for F-22 Raptor pilots, creating a more realistic and cost efficient combat training platform for fifth-generation airpower.
The jet black, dart-like Talon is a high altitude, twin-engine, supersonic jet trainer used in a variety of roles because of its design, ease of maintenance and economy of operations.
"The primary function of these airplanes is to provide adversary training for the F-22 ... replicating threats that are out there in the world for the F-22 pilots to train against," said Lt. Col. Derek Wyler, 27th Fighter Squadron Adversary Air Operations officer.
The Talons will serve as "red air," or the enemy, while F-22 Raptors will fly as "blue air," or friendly forces. The T-38s typically fly twice daily to provide adversary support at a fraction of the operational costs of other aircraft.
The T-38s play the role of the 'bad guy,' trying to attack friendly targets, whether in the air or on the ground. In response, the F-22 Raptors use their radar capabilities and various tactics to locate and intercept the T-38s.
"We can replicate any threat nation that may be out there," said Wyler, adding they can duplicate the tactics and weaponry of any adversaries the F-22 would face in the sky.
"We don't get into a visual engagement with the Raptor because it would be a waste of time," said Col Kevin Mastin, 1st FW vice commander. "We would be getting crushed every time."
Three bases, Holloman AFB, N.M., Tyndall AFB, Fla. and Langley, host a T-38 adversary training program.
"The biggest advantage of a T-38 is that it is a highly reliable airplane," said Wyler, "It is an extremely cost-effective way to provide that 'red-air' replication."
The first Talon flew in 1959, with more than 1,100 delivered to the Air Force between 1961 and 1972, when production ended.
The T-38s are primarily used for joint, specialized, undergraduate-pilot training. After graduation, fighter pilots in training will strap into the T-38 again to learn their primary skills.
"It's there they will learn to employ the airplane like the fighter, when taken into combat scenarios," Mastin said.
The T-38s now operating out of Langley, were stored at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., at the Air Force Materiel Command's 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, better known as "The Boneyard." Most aircraft at the AMARG are either kept for storage, used for parts, or turned into scrap metal. Mission First Support Services at Holloman AFB, N.M., refurbished the T-38s before releasing them back to operational units.