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Air Force sharpens its Talons, propels pilot training into the future

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stormy Archer
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
A major milestone for the Pacer Classic III T-38 Talon structural-modification program was celebrated during a ribbon cutting ceremony July 31 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

The Pacer Classic III program, run by Air Force Material Command, represents the largest single T-38 structural modification ever undertaken and involves removing and replacing 185 structural parts and assessing the serviceability of up to an additional 155 parts on the aircraft.

These modifications will ensure the structural airworthiness of 150 T-38s and maintain the T-38 fleet viability until 2029.

“Today is a special day for Air Education Training Command, Air Force Material Command and the entire Air Force,” Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander, said. “This team worked tirelessly to get this first production aircraft back to operational flying status. Today we get to recognize the effort and work that started several years ago. More importantly for me is knowing that this team delivered on their commitment to the Air Force.”

The program is scheduled to complete 125 aircraft with a total program cost of $250 million, with the possibility of adding 25 additional aircraft at a cost of $25 million.

“Without the Pacer Classic III modifications, the most severely flown T-38 aircraft would be forced to retire between now and 2023, leaving a significant aircraft availability deficit to Air Education and Training Command’s pilot training,” said Robert Lewin, 575th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director, said. “This double modification package will extend the service life of aircraft in the fleet for another 8,000 hours.”

“Pilot training is something we have to do continually with in the Air Force,” Buhler said. “As the life span of the T-38 has been moved to get the aircraft to the 2029 time frame, we had to accomplish this massive structural modification allowing the aircraft to sustain flight and recover from the corrosive environments that the aircraft has been in over the years.”

The modifications were made by the members of the 575th AMXS, and required nearly 9,000 hours of scheduled work for every aircraft.

“Eight months ago this squadron embarked on a journey never before seen in the life of the T-38,” Lewin said. “Our task was a tall one. Take a 50-year-old aircraft, take it down to just a skeleton and rebuild it; better, stronger, safer. The men and women at the 575th AMXS are what make this possible.”

The first production aircraft from the ceremony belongs to the 80th Flying Training Wing that hosts the world’s only internationally manned and managed pilot training program, the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

The T-38 is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer, first flown in 1959 with more than 11,000 aircraft delivered to the Air Force from 1961-1972.