Before pilots can hop into the cockpit of the latest variation of the F-35 Lightning II or F/A -18 Super Hornet, they need to get more flight time in an actual jet. That’s accomplished through the Northrup T-38 Talon. According to the United States Air Force, the T-38 is used to train not only fighter jet pilots but also perspective pilots for the Rockwell B-1 Lancer strategic bomber and the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jet (also called the “Warthog.”
The Talon is quite the leap from the Texan. It carries all of the latest and greatest avionics and targeting systems with the added benefit of a top speed of 812 mph. In the cockpit of the Talon, pilots can learn how to fly in formation and at night. In addition to aerobatics, the T-38 is equipped with practice weapons that allow trainees to learn how to use guns or bombs without expending any munitions.
While the actual jet a pilot will be serving with is the best way to get acclimated to whatever mission a pilot is going on, the T-38 accomplishes the majority of the high-speed training. It’s where the “training wheels” are kicked off.