T-38 Talon gets life extension

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force’s trusted trainer, the T-38 Talon, has a new lease on life, thanks to a robust structural-modification program.

Technicians in the Ogden Air Logistics Complex’s 575th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, recently completed the first aircraft in the program and are currently working on 11 more.

“Today is a special day, because we get to recognize the efforts of a ton of work … work that started several years ago. But, more importantly to me is the knowledge that this team has delivered and they met their commitment to our Air Force,” said Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, Ogden ALC commander.

“Not only a commitment to create and stand-up this T-38 PCIII modification line, but a commitment to deliver production quality aircraft. Aircraft that will have their lifespan extended till the 2029 timeframe, which will ensure pilot training capacity for our Air Force,” Buhler said. 

This program, tabbed “Pacer Classic III,” will extend the life of the T-38 Talon to 2029.

According to officials, it is the largest and most invasive structural modification ever performed on the Talon. Each aircraft takes approximately 8,900 man hours.

The Air Force Sustainment Center has invested nearly $8 million in improving the program’s facilities at Randolph, which is a geographically separated unit under the Ogden ALC.

The unit installed 11 fixtures that stabilize the aircraft during maintenance and allow technicians to complete work on different sections of the aircraft simultaneously.

The 575th AMXS will bring in 17 more aircraft in fiscal 2016 and plans to complete work on more than 150 T-38s by 2021. To accomplish this, officials said the unit, which started in 2010 with five employees, and currently has 280 employees, will be hiring 340 more.

Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38 to train combat-ready pilots for “front-line” fighter and bomber aircraft like the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor.

Service life extension programs are essential for aging aircraft like the T-38, which entered Air Force Service in 1961. More than 1,100 T-38s were delivered to the Air Force by 1972, when production ended. 

“Our task, a tall one, is to take a 50-plus-year-old aircraft, take it down to just a skeleton and rebuild it. Better, stronger, and safer,” said Rob Lewin, 575th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director.

“I’m here today to tell you: Mission accomplished. But this accomplishment is not ours alone. It has taken a collaborative effort of hundreds people throughout the Department of Defense and aerospace industry partners over several years to make this a reality,” Lewin said.

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