A U.S. Air Force Northrop T-38 Talon two-seat, twin engine, advanced supersonic jet trainer was damaged in a mishap at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia today, Friday, November 28, 2018.
No injuries were reported in today’s incident. Photos from the scene show the T-38 jet trainer resting on its right wingtip suggesting the right main landing may have failed as a result of, or as a contributing factor to, the incident. As with all U.S. military aviation incidents, the cause of the accident is pending an official investigation that is already underway.
The aircraft damaged in today’s incident had the tail code “FF” indicating it was assigned to the 71st Fighter Training Squadron, 1st Fighter Wing out of Langley AFB, VA.
This latest mishap brings the total of U.S. Air Force accidents involving the 57-year old T-38 to six in little more than one year.
On November 13, 2018 one crew member died in an Air Force T-38 crash near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas
On September 11, 2018, a USAF T-38C advanced jet trainer from Sheppard AFB suffered an incident when it departed the runway and both crew members ejected. One of the crew members was a German exchange pilot.
The T-38 Talon is expected to be replaced by the new Boeing T-X next generation advanced jet trainer by 2023. The Air Force plans to buy 351 of the new Boeing T-X trainers according to a September 27, 2018 official announcement. In addition to replacing the aging T-38 Talon trainer fleet the new Boeing T-X advanced trainer will facilitate a more integrated transition to the Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The new Boeing T-X is a single-engine advanced jet trainer that is significantly larger and develops several times more thrust than the aging T-38. The target date for Initial Operating Capability of the new Boeing T-X is five years from now. Until then the Air Force will likely have to rely on the aging T-38 Talon for much of its advanced jet training of future fighter pilots. An extrapolation of the 2018 accident rate for the T-38 over the next five years suggests an ominous portend. From a strictly statistical perspective, at the rate of 6 accidents per year as experienced during 2018, there could be (mathematically) an additional 30 accidents involving the T-38 by 2023 when the Boeing T-X becomes operational.
This latest December 28, 2018 accident brings the total number of U.S. Air Force accidents since the beginning of 2018 to at least 11. The Air Force accidents so far in 2018 include the loss of an F-15C Eagle that crashed near Japan on June 11, 2018 and the fatal June 22, 2018 crash of an Embraer A-29 Super Tucano participating the Light Attack Experiment near Holloman AFB. This latest Air Force incident increases the total number of U.S. military aviation accidents in 2018 to at least 18. Earlier this year the U.S. Navy made changes to its official web portal that formerly reported aviation accidents to the public. The accident data has since been moved behind a password protected firewall and can no longer be viewed by media reporters. This change preceded a significant accident on December 5, 2018 involving a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D two-seat, twin-engine tactical fighter and a large, four-engine KC-130J turboprop aerial tanker. Six Marines died in the accident.