Posted : Monday Jul 12, 2010
The T-38 Talon, one of the Air Force’s advanced jet trainers for nearly 50 years, is getting a new ejection seat.
“The ejection seat in the T-38 is the original one from the 1950s and ’60s,” said Rick French, T-38 program manager at Air Education and Training Command. “There were modifications over the decades, but the seats made today are much more capable.”
The new seat, called the Mk US16T, provides rapid deployment of the parachute following an ejection. It is known as a zero-zero seat, which means it will “eject at zero altitude and zero airspeed, so the aircrew can bail out on the ground,” said Rey Gutierrez, 12th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment instructor.
“When the seat clears the aircraft, explosives deploy the parachute,” French said. “It’s almost instantaneous.”
The parachute on the old ejection seat took longer to open.
An added benefit of the new ejection seat is aircrew members no longer have to carry their 45-pound parachutes to the aircraft. The parachutes are part of the new seats and are enclosed in a container called the head box, which means aircrew members only have to wear a five-pound harness that attaches to the seat.
Safety features on the new seat include the inter-seat sequencing system. It is designed to decrease the possibility of aircrew collision during ejection and burns to the aircrew because the rear seat will eject first and go to the right while the front seat will eject to the left.
Thigh and ankle restraints keep aircrew members more secure, and the adjustable seat allows for anyone between 103 and 245 pounds to fly the T-38.
“Now the seat can better accommodate smaller pilots,” French said. “The old seat accommodates 58 percent of female pilots. The new seat brings that percentage up to 87 percent.”
Other safety features include a survival kit and fittings that allow for a faster release of the parachute canopy.
The first seats were installed at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The 66 T-38Cs based at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, are getting the seats next.
Work on aircraft at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., is expected to begin sometime in July, and the project is expected to be completed in May 2013 at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.