Northrop T-38A Talon/F-5B by Hasegawa

1/72 scale
Kit No. JS-018:100
Price: $8.50
Decals: Two versions – U.S. Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force
Comments: Older kit, raised panel lines; includes centerline, wingtip and underwing drop tanks, plus two 750 lb.
bombs on outboard underwing hard points


The Northrop T-36 Talon, like the versatile series of lightweight F-5 export fighters, was developed from Northrop’s N-156 prototype, which after two years of development as a private venture resulted in a supersonic trainer dubbed N-156T by the company in 1956. Three additional prototypes were ordered in December 1956 for development as a two-seat supersonic jet trainer — at the time, the only such aircraft in the world. While work on these aircraft progressed, the contract was revised in June 1958 to include six aircraft under the designation YT-38, plus an additional airframe for static testing.

The powerplant for the first two prototypes was a pair of non-afterburning General Electric YJ85-GE-1 turbojets of 2, 100 lbs. thrust each — but the remainder of the YT-38 aircraft were powered by afterburning YJ85-GE-5 engines. Although testing of the first two prototypes was satisfactory, early evaluation of the YT-38’s with the more powerful engines left little doubt that the U.S. Air Force was about to get an exceptional trainer. The name Talon appeared with the contract for the first 13 aircraft. The first production T-38 was delivered to the 3510th Flying Training Wing at Randolph Air Force Base on March 17, 1961.

When it entered service, the T-38 looked like anything but a trainer. With its slender, area-ruled fuselage, and narrow, sharp-edged wings reminescent of the F-104 Starfighter, it appeared to be an advanced combat aircraft that made aspiring fighter pilots wonder what they were getting into. The T-38 was capable of Mach 1.3 at altitude, but also had a stalling speed as low as 146 mph. A great deal of design effort went into making it trainee-friendly. Both pupil and instructor sat on rocket-powered ejection seats, with the rear tandem seat raised 10 inches higher to improve the instructor’s forward view.

All flying controls are hydraulically powered by a duplicated system, and the Talon can be flown with one aileron inoperative. The T-38 Talon was so safe and reliable that in 1972 the U.S. Air Force reported that it had the highest safety record of any supersonic aircraft in Air Force service. In 1971 the T-38’s accident rate was 1.2 per 100,000 flying hours, or less than half the Air Force average.

When production ended in 1972, 1,187 Talons had been delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Other operators included the U.S. Navy and NASA, which purchased 24 Talons from Northrop to serve as flight-readiness trainers for astronauts. A total of 46 aircraft were supplied by the Air Force to the German Luftwaffe to train their student pilots in the United States; those aircraft retained the U.S. Air Force insignia.


Type: Two-seat supersonic trainer
Powerplant: Two 3,850 lb. afterburning thrust General Electric J85-GE-5A turbojets
Performance: Maximum speed Mach 1.3 or 858 mph at 36,000 ft.; Maximum cruising speed 627 mph at 36,000 ft.; Range with
maximum fuel, with 20 minutes reserve at 10,000 feet: 1, 140 miles
Weights: 7,164 lbs. empty; Maximum take-off and landing 11,820 lbs.
Dimensions: Wingspan 25 ft. 3 in.; Length 46 ft. 4.5 in.; Height 12 ft. 10.5 in.; Wing area 170 sq. ft.
Armament: None
Operators: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, NASA, former West Germany

The Kit

Hasegawa’s T-38 trainer is injection molded in white and consists of three sprues totalling 51 parts, including the one-piece clear canopy. The cockpit is very basic with two bare seat, no instrument panels and two pilot figures. One interesting note is the variation in detail between the two figures. One of them is well done, realistically posed with engraved detail on the flight suit and a clearly delineated oxygen mask. The other is crude by comparison, in a static pose and almost lumpy — perhaps to underscore the distinction between the instructor and the novice pilot!

The fuselage sports raised panel lines and has separate parts for the air intakes just aft of the tandem cockpit. Also of note are the separately molded rudder and nose cone. The wings are a single separate piece and feature rather deep engraved lines highlighting the leading edge slats and ailerons, and their shape is slightly reminescent of Lockheed’s F-104 Starfighter. The nose gear is a single piece, with the tire molded onto the gear itself, although the main landing gear feature separate tires. The pylons for the under wing stores seem rather thick for the scale, and the more enterprising modelers may want to sand them down a bit, although this will obliterate their raised detail. Although the T-38 was an unarmed trainer, Hasegawa provided what appear to be two 750 lb. bombs, perhaps intended to be practice bombs, or, with a slight alteration to the nose cone, namely removing its antenna, it may have been intended to provide the option for the F-5B version of this aircraft. It is not clear, as the instructions are entirely in Japanese.


This is a simple kit of an important Cold War jet trainer, and should provide no assembly headaches. Recommended.


The Encyclopedia of World Air Power, Crescent Books, New York, Copyright 1980.

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