Trumpeter 1/48 T-38C Talon II
KIT #: 02876
PRICE: $30.00 delivered from China
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2014 release


The Northrop T-38 Talon is a two-seat, twin-engine supersonic jet trainer. It was the world's first supersonic trainer and is also the most produced. The T-38 remains in service as of 2013 in air forces throughout the world.

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the largest operator of the T-38. In addition to training USAF pilots, the T-38 is used by NASA. The US Naval Test Pilot School is the principal US Navy operator (other T-38s were previously used as USN aggressor aircraft until replaced by the similar Northrop F-5 Tiger II). Pilots of other NATO nations fly the T-38 in joint training programs with USAF pilots.

As of 2012, the T-38 has been in service for over 50 years with its original operator (the USAF). Other current and previous operators of the T-38 include Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Germany. All German T-38s are kept in the US and used to train German pilots.  


After the initial sell out of the Sword kit, we had to wait several years for another T-38 from Wolfpak, and after a few months, this one from Trumpeter. To be fair, I think many will consider the Wolfpak kit to be short run and this one to be more mainstream. In many ways they are quite similar, though the Trumpeter kit does not have the molding errors (mainly sink areas) of the Sword kit. .

The cockpit comes with two nicely done ejection seats, and this time there are photo etch belts included. Instrument panels have raised detailing with no face detail, relying on decals for that. Side consoles are the same way. I should point out that these are the 'glass' instruments of the T-38C so you cannot do the earlier A model and remain true to the prototype. Rudder pedals, control sticks and such are provided for the but. There is also detail behind the seats. One has to decide when building the cockpit whether they want the canopies open or closed as the mechanisms are installed at this time. Side panels are also included to fill out the tub assembly.  Under the cockpit tub fits the one piece wheel well. There is room in the nose for weight if you feel the kit needs it. None is shown in the instructions. The p.e. fret is mostly for the seat harness.

Intakes are a left and right side with a separate lip piece. On this kit, the intakes are not see-through. There are main gear well inserts and no lower fuselage insert, which I know will please most builders. The kit has single piece wings, and horizontal stab. The fin is two pieces with the small flat piece atop the fin is molded in place. Trumpeter has provided a single piece exhaust so no need to fiddle with separate exhaust. It also includes a bracing plate between the two. Landing gear is well done and are the appropriate thin tire version that is typical for a T-38.

Gear doors have separate actuators as do the speed brakes. The one thing I don't like about the kit is that Trumpeter has already opened the holes for the travel pod that is included. These planes did not always carry this so one will have to fill holes if not using it. I do wish Trumpeter would get with the program on things like this and leave the holes flashed over so the builder can decide if they want to open them. The only other bit included is a travel pod.

Instructions are well done and include color information using Gunze paint references. Markings are provided for two planes. One is the box art aircraft from the 49th FTS, which at the time was based at Moody AFB, but has since moved to Columbus AFB. This aircraft is in a non-standard scheme of gunship grey over medium grey. The other is from the  25th FTS out of Vance AFB in the now standard scheme of the same greys as the previous aircraft.  Markings are well done and those who want something different have several aftermarket sheets from which to choose.


As of this writing, I have built all three of the currently available T-38s from Sword, Wolfpack, and Trumpeter. The one that builds the best is the Trumpeter kit, however, it is not the most detailed, with the Wolfpack kit filling that bill, though you pay for this detail by a fussy and sometimes frustrating build. The downside of the Trumpeter kit is that it is oversize compared to the other two. Almost as if it is 1/46. You don't really notice the difference unless you have the three kits side by side. This may be a deal breaker for some, but if you prefer ease of construction above absolute fidelity to scale, then this is the kit for you.

Below is the T-38A version I built ten years back.


 April 2024 

Copyright All rights reserved. No reproduction in part or in whole without express permission from the editor.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page