Hobby Master 1-72 Air Power
HA5401 T-38A Talon "Chase Plane" N923NA, STS-3 Mission for Space Shuttle "Columbia", New Mexico, USA, 30th Mar 1982

The first prototype of what would become the Northrop T-38 Talon and F-5 Freedom Fighters flew on April 10, 1959. The first Talon entered service on March 17, 1961 at Randolph AFB. The USAF and NASA used the Talon to help their pilots maintain their proficiency. NASA especially liked the T-38 for its much lower operating and maintenance costs compared to the F-18 they had tried. Because of the low cost to operate the T-38 the USAF Thunderbirds Demonstration Team used them from 1974 – 1983 during the OPEC oil embargo.

NASA operates the Northrop T-38 Talon as a jet trainer for their astronauts as well as a “chase plane”. Part of the NASA Talon fleet is based at Sheppard AFB, Ellington Field, Houston, Texas. In 1966 T-38 66-8355 was delivered to the USAF but in 1969 the aircraft was transferred to NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) and later renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC). With NASA 66-8355 became N923NA on September 10, 1969. On March 30, 1982 N923NA was the “chase aircraft” for the return of the shuttle Columbia.

Specifications Northrop T-38A Talon
Years of Production – 1961 / 1972
Number produced – 1,100 +
Crew – 2 x Instructor / Student
Dimensions
Length – 46 ft 4.5 in (14.14 m) Wingspan – 25 ft 3 in (7.7 m) Height – 12 ft 10.5 in (3.92 m)
Weight
Empty – 7,200 lb (3,270 kg) Loaded – 11,820 lb (5,360 kg Maximum Take-Off – 12,093 lb (5,485 kg)
Performance
Engines – 2 x General Electric J85-5A (J855R after PMP modification) Afterburning Turbojets
Thrust
Dry – 2,050 lbf (9.1 kN) per engine Afterburner – 2,900 lbf (17.1 kN) per engine Maximum Speed – Mach 1.3 (858 mph / 1,381 km/h) Range – 1,140 mi (1,835 km) Service Ceiling – 50,000 ft (15,240 m) ROC – 33,600 ft/min (170.7 m/s)