Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Talons - Holloman AFB

As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Northrop, now Northrop Grumman, T-38 Talon celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight earlier this year. Not only is it still in operational service training future fighter pilots for the U.S. Air Force, it is revisiting an old role of playing "Red Air."

The initial Navy Adversary and Air Force Aggressor units flew T-38s in Soviet-style tactics to give our pilots simulated air combat training, hence the appellation Red Air. Complimented by, then later replaced with Northrop F-5E Tiger II's and Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, the Talon performed well enough, but returned to it primary mission when it became clear more capable jets were needed to play the role.

However, with the F-22A Raptor replacing the F-117 Nighthawk at Holloman AFB, the T-38 has once again returned to the combat training aggressor role. This is mainly due to the fact that Aggressor units are stretched too thin and Holloman is a bit remote from the major Red Air operating sites (Nellis AFB foremost among them).

Usually, ACC (Air Combat Command) T-38s have the same paint scheme as their parent squadron. In other words, the T-38 companion trainers for the 509th Bomb Wing, which flies B-2s, are painted B-2 grey. The T-38s at Holloman were painted black to match the F-117s. They decided to leave them black when they took on the Red Air role against the F-22s because black was harder to detect in the air, or so our host told us when we visited the 7th CTS (Combat Training Squadron) during Phancon this year.

Incidentally, the tail band now has little F-22 silhouettes. When they were the companion trainers to the Nighthawk they had little F-117s.

One last note, the 7th CTS was called the Screamin' Demons when the F-117 was there. I assume they are still called that, but lately they have taken on a new, unofficial nickname. It is a play on the HO tail code on the jets. Believe it or not, they are affectionaly called the "Black HOs."

Politically correct it ain't. But it is descriptive and literally accurate.

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