U.S. Navy Trainers Used During My Lifetime

I’ll soon turn 64 years old and have seen quite a few military aircraft over the years. I remember visiting cousins in Massachusetts, near the (former) NAS South Weymouth base. There was a steady stream of airplanes – both jets and piston-powered aircraft in the traffic pattern which went right over their house. Looking back, that was an early attention-getter for me – I’ve seen a long line of Navy and Marine Corps trainers over the subsequent years. Here are the majority of those types, with a short bit of information about them.

The Grumman TF-9J was a trainer adaptation of the F9F/TF-9 Cougar fighter. It was used from the 1950s through 1974. This one was parked on Celebrity Row in MASDC after retirement.

This is a Convair T-29C, a flying classroom for navigators and radar operators (note the radome under the front fuselage). These were used in various forms from the 1950s through the mid-1970s.

The Temco TT-1 Pinto was designed for the US Air Force but lost out on the bid for the primary jet trainer which the Cessna T-37 won. The Navy used some of the 15 produced as the TT-1 from 1959 to 1960, just after my birth!

The North American T-28 Trojan was an advanced U. S. Navy piston-powered trainer from the 1950s through 1984. Many are still flying as warbirds acrorss America. Some T-28s were modified as AT-28Ds and used as a Forward Air Control aircraft by the U.S. and France.

The Beech T-34 Mentor was based upon the civilian Beech Bonanza 35. utilizing a conventional tail instead of the “V” tail, The T-34B Mentor was used as a primary trainer until the more powerful T-34C turboprop version was delivered. Initial use was in the mid-1950s and retired in the mid-1970s. Some of the -Bs were used as Reserve liaison aircraft well into the 1990s.

The Beech T-34C was the Navy and Marines’ primary training aircraft from 1975 through the early 2000s, when it was replaced by the Beechcraft/Raytheon T-6B Texan IIs. Called the Turbo Mentor, the type saw widespread use with foreign and other U.S. Government users.

The Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is a modified Pilatus PC-9 trainer. The T-6B version is a primary training aircraft, some of which are used for initial weapons training as well. This color scheme was used during the Centennial Of Naval Aviation celebration, normally they wear two tone white and red colors.

This Grumman TC-4C Academe was one of 9 built for navigator/bombardier training in the A-6 Intruder jet. The airframe is that of a Gulfstream I executive transport with an A-6 nose grafted on to it. In use from 1968 through the 1990s, when the A-6 Intruder was retired as well.

The Beech T-44 Pegasus is an adaptation of the Kingair 90 transport, used for multi-engine training for the Navy and Marines. Originally delivered as the T-44A in 1997, a revitalization of the fleet of trainers occurred in the mid-2000s as the T-44C, with advanced cockpit avionics. It is still in use today; this non-standard color scheme was another used during the Centennial of Naval Aviation celebrations.

The North American Rockwell T-2 Buckeye was the Navy’s primary jet trainer from 1959 through 2008, in 3 variants. A total of 545 airframes were built for the U.S., another 52 were exported to Greece and Venezuela.

The LTV TA-7C Corsair II fleet was rebuilt from 60 A-7B/C attack jets. The two-seat trainers were used for flight training, as well as electronic adversary training (this is one of 8 EA-7Ls converted from TA-7Cs).

Rockwell Sabreliners were modified as navigator and radar operation trainers for the Undergraduate Flight Officer Training program. It was originally an Air Force trainer and transport; the Navy ordered slightly more than 200 in various versions. First used in 1963, a large number were replaced by the Cessna T-47 in the mid-1980s but were returned back into service after a 1993 hangar fire which destroyed most of the T-47s. The final T-39 trainers were retired in 2014.

The Cessna T-47A was an attempt to phase out the T-39 Sabreliner. Not entirely successful in that role, some 13 out of 15 airframes were damaged or destroyed in a hangar fire while being stored.

The McDonnell Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk came in two versions, the TA-4F and later TA-4J. The twin-seat trainer version of the A-4 Skyhawk bomber, 241 TA-4F conversion trainers were built, and 277 straight TA-4J trainers were either built new of converted from TA-4Fs. The TA-4F entered service in 1966, the TA-4J around 1970. The last of the trainers were retired during 2002.

The McDonnell Douglas TAV-8B Harrier II is a dedicated version of the second iteration of the Harrier. The original AV-8A/C Harrier versions had TAV-8A trainers built to train pilots for the unique role of VTOL landings and takeoffs. The Harrier II AV-8B had over a dozen training versions built, seventeen dedicated TAV-8Bs were upgraded with night vision capability in 2001. These jets still serve today while the Harrier II fleet is winding down operations; the F-35B is taking its place.

The McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk is the Navy and Marine Corps advanced jet trainer, capable of aircraft carrier operations as well as land-based use. A derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk trainer, McDonnell Douglas was the winner of the Navy’s new trainer competition of 1978. Introduction to service occurred in 1991, and upgrades to various systems have occurred in the 32 years since.

Bell’s TH-57 Sea Ranger has been the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard’s primary helicopter training platform since 1968. Based upon the commercial B-206 Jet Ranger, the TH-57 will retire in 2024. It’ll be replaced by the TH-53A Thrasher.

The Leonardo TH-73A Thrasher is the Navy’s new training helicopter. The first aircraft was delivered during 2021, The airframe is based on the AW-119Kx Koala helicopter, with some interesting additions – like the ability to fit and operate a hoist. Around 130 of the type will be based at NAS Whiting Field, in Florida.

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