From the Wikipedia page on the Northrop T-38 Talon:

Most T-38s built were of the T-38A variant, but the USAF also had a small number of aircraft converted for weapons training (designated AT-38B), which were fitted with a gunsight and could carry a gunpod, rockets, or bombs on a centerline pylon. In 2015, 504 T-38s were still operational with the USAF, with many more in operation around the world.

What, if any, is the difference between these weapons training capable T-38B and an actual combat aircraft? Is there anything missing (intentionally or otherwise) on a T-38B that would render it ineffective for actual combat, or is this term "weapons training" merely a term used to describe a trainer aircraft? A trainer, due to its age and ineffectiveness against modern aircraft?

Could it be fair to compare some variants of the F-5 against the T-38B? I'd be interested to know the difference, since the F-5 is undoubtedly an actual combat aircraft and not a trainer.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A trainer for the military, just like civilians, is slow, cheap to buy, cheap to repair, cheap to operate, and easy to fly. Adding weapons systems doesn't change any of that. Actual combat aircraft will be radically different on all counts. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Feb 16 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ The F5 may have been planned to be suitable as a combat aircraft, but I don’t think it ever made the cut or was actually deployed operationally. The only ones I know af were used as aggressors in advanced training. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Feb 16 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall, that might be the case with the US ones, but they were sold to many countries and they were used in actual combat in some of them (at least in Iran). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 17 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @jan hudec, good point. I am obviously too Americacentric! $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Feb 17 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ How about an aircraft fitted with sensors for weapons deployment but no actual weapons? This could be a weapons trainer. I would imagine simulators are used for this purpose now. $\endgroup$ – Mike Brass Feb 18 at 7:40

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