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Sword 1/48 T-38A Talon Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2008 Manufacturer Sword
Subject Northrop T-38A Talon Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48004 Primary Media Styrene/Resin
Pros First and only styrene kit of this subject in 1/48 scale Cons Challenging to assemble
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $OOP

First Look


The T-38 Talon was a trainer variant of Northrop's project N-156 that developed a lightweight, low-cost, single-seat, supersonic interceptor. While the USAF was not very interested in the single-seat aircraft, they lacked a supersonic trainer in the 1950s. The venerable T-33 Shooting Star was the best jet trainer in the inventory and the Air Force recognized that they needed a trainer to bring pilots into the supersonic age.

The T-38 first flew in 1959 and would enter service in 1961. Production would run through 1972 with over 1,100 aircraft built. The T-38 was initially used primarily as a training aircraft, taking new pilots out of the T-37 and giving them experience with higher performance aircraft. The aircraft continues in this role today, with a number of them being updated to the T-38C configuration to provide pilots with the look and feel of contemporary service aircraft.

The T-38 would soon see another dimension in its capabilities, that of an aggressor/adversary aircraft. The Air Force and Navy used the T-38 as a MiG-21 simulator until more capable F-5 airframes could be obtained. Even after the T-38 completed its aggressor mission, a number of the aircraft were modified into the AT-38B configuration to provide 'fighter lead-in' training to teach new fighter pilots the essential skills of the mission at a significantly lower cost per hour than training on their assigned aircraft.

Almost 50 years after the T-38's first flight, the aircraft remains in service with the USAF with no replacements on the horizon. The T-38 also serves with NASA as a proficiency trainer and has provided flight training in a number of international air forces including Germany, Portugal, Taiwan, and Turkey.

A number of years ago, Fujimi produced the T-38 Talon in '1/48 scale' but the kit actually scales out to 1/50. In addition, the airframe was really an F-5B, so until Sword released this kit, there has not been a styrene rendition of the Northrop workhorse in 1/48th.

The kit is molded in dark gray styrene and presented on two parts trees (actually 1 1/4 parts trees) plus a single tree of clear parts. A nice array of resin details accompany this kit which, on opening the box, makes this kit look really nice!

Unfortunately, the reality of this kit is that it will require some good building skills as some of the parts, like the intakes, do not fit well onto the fuselage halves and will take some skill and bodywork to get everything just right.

Take a look at those resin parts. If they look familiar, they should, many of them are out of the same patterns used in the Classic Airframes 1/48 F-5 series including the F-5B ( review here). That is because same folks that produced this kit also produced the Classic Airframes F-5s (which also share some of the same fit challenges).

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • T-38A, 61-3263, Air Training Command
  • T-38A, 61-0836, TAC, Holloman AFB, NM

This kit is recommended to experienced builders who can work with resin and limited run styrene-based kits.