T-38A Talon

Published on
June 6, 2014
Review Author(s)
Product / Stock #
Company: Trumpeter - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Stevens International - Website: Visit Site
T-38 Boxtop

The Northrop T-38A 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 2014 in air forces throughout the world.

On the heels of the Wolfpack T-38 kit comes the Trumpeter T-38A Talon kit in 1/48th scale. The kit is molded in grey plastic and clear plastic with recessed panel lines and rivet detail. It has 84 plastic parts, a fret of photo etch and two decal sheets one for the cockpit and one for markings of two aircraft, one from Holloman Air Force Base and one for an aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force, more on these decals later. The box is very sturdy and has a nice glossy front.


The build starts like most airplanes do, in the cockpit. Since this is a two seat aircraft there are two sets of everything, panels, seats, photoetch seatbelts, and canopy parts. The canopies can be put in the open or closed position as Trumpeter gives you a choice of open or closed canopy extension arms for both the front and rear cockpit. Building the cockpit for the most part was straight forward starting with the seats. Paint color call outs were available on the directions for some of the parts but not all and some were on the decal placement sheet. This would become a running theme throughout the build. An example in the cockpit would be the seats had all the color callouts but the seatbelts did not. I found that going online and finding photos of the real aircraft was of a great help in this build. After the seats were built the cockpit tub was put together, the sidewalls, panels, control sticks and rudder pedals were painted dark gull gray and the extension arms for the canopies were painted dark sea gray. The rear of the front cockpit and rear panel surround were painted flat black. The panels for each cockpit had raised detail for the dials and gauges. After the gull grey was dry I dry brushed flat black onto the panels to create depth and to color the dial surrounds so that the decal of dial faces would look correct. You do not need to file down the panels if you choose to use the dial face decals, just use liberal amounts of solvent to get them to settle in. If done correctly they do look great! The same cannot be said for the cockpit tub panels. The detail on them does need to be filed off so the decals lay flat. In the end I used a combination of decals and dry brushing to give the cockpit the appropriate “busy look” When all this was dry the control sticks, rudder pedals, seats, sidewalls and canopy extension arms were glued into place to complete the cockpit tub.


The next part of the build was to attach the nose gear bay and cockpit tub into the right fuselage half and main gear/airbrake bays into both sides of the fuselage. Once those were dry then it was time to attach both halves together. The directions do not mention adding any weight to the nose but to be safe I added 15 grams of lead weight on top of the nose gear bay. You may not need to add any weight but I feel it’s better to be safe than sorry to avoid having a tail sitter of a kit. When attaching the cockpit tub to the fuselage be extremely careful to make sure you have it at the proper angle. I thought I had mine correct and it turns out it is angled. The tolerances are pretty tight on this kit so test fit everything twice! Once the fuselage was together and glued shut I had some puttying and sanding to do but not too much, mostly around the nose (due to the angled cockpit tub) and the area around the main gear bays.

Step three was also to flesh out the fuselage by adding the air intakes, airbrakes, main gear doors and nose gear. I chose to do things here a bit out of order. If you do all that it asks it will become difficult to paint the gear wells and air brake bays and the insides of the air intakes. This is also another spot where finding photos of the real aircraft will come in handy as Trumpeter did not label what colors to use on the decal sheet. There is just an ambiguous color used on the two examples and it looks to be a natural metal of some kind. After finding a photo of the aircraft I was going to paint the model to represent I painted the air intake interiors, wheel wells, doors, air brakes, and air brake bays flat white. I also did not attach any of the doors or gear parts as this would have made painting that much more difficult. When the air intakes were dry I attached them and then used a bit of filler to fill in the seams so as to have a smooth join like on the real aircraft.

You have a choice in this step to attach a travel pod along the centerline of the aircraft. Though it is accurate in shape and size I chose to leave it off as the photo of the aircraft I had did not show it attached. You will need to fill in the two holes if you choose to leave it off. There is also an error with attaching the nose gear door. On T-38’s the front part of the nose gear is closed when the gear is down. Trumpeter would have you leave it in the open position. It was a fairly easy fix to correct this but does take some trimming of the part to make it fit correctly in the closed position.

Wings and Tail

Steps 4, 5, and 6 have you building the wings and tail. Both wings and Vertical Stabilizer/Rudder (they are one piece) are made up of two halves. Trumpeter did a great job on the wings and Stabilizer. Razor sharp edges on all three items. Only minor filling of seams on the top of the stabilizer and where the lower wing half meets the upper, as the upper half includes the lower outer wing portion. The leading and trailing edge of both wings needed no filler at all. Steps 4 and 5 also have you attaching the main gear but again I left this until after the fuselage painting was done. Parts of the main gear wheel wells are also on the wings and those were painted flat white to match the fuselage wells.

Step 6 has you attaching the wing and tail subassemblies, the one piece each horizontal stabilizers, cockpit glare shield and center support for the two canopies. The step also has you attaching auxiliary air intakes and the exhaust cans. I left the exhaust off until the end, again to facilitate easier painting. The exhaust was painted with Alclad II Aluminum. Once the wings and tail were dry I filled in some minor seams where the tail assembly meets the fuselage. The wings fit very tightly and no filler was needed. For the center support there was no paint call out. I had to look at a photo to see that in fact this part has multiple colors assigned to it. Red for where the canopies sit, dark gull gray on the underside and the exposed area not covered by glass is whatever fuselage color you are painting the aircraft. A minor error in the directions also would have you adding rear view mirrors to this part. The real aircraft only has them on the front canopy not the center post.


Step 7 and 8 have you attaching the canopy rear view mirrors, the canopies, either in the open or closed position and adding the optional boarding ladder. I held off on these until the painting was done. I did though put a coat of future on each canopy and this was where I found another issue. Each canopy and windscreen has a seam running down the middle! It actually wasn’t visible until I added the coat of future. I was surprised and disappointed by this as it would be extremely hard to remove without having to sand and polish each part. In today’s modern modeling world I think these parts could have been made to not have a seam.

Painting and Decaling

This kit gives you two options for both paint and decals, with paint callouts for Mr. Color and Hobby Color. I used Model Master Enamels. The first option is for an all gloss black T-38A from Holloman AFB and the other is a gloss white example from the Portuguese air force. The decals are a bit of an issue though. The Hollloman aircraft decals are correct when compared to photos of the real thing but the Portuguese ones are wrong. The tail flash colors are reversed and the blue roundels too big, while the white cross is too small. This may be a small issue but one that should be mentioned. In the end though I chose to do an aftermarket scheme with decals from Caracal. These were also reviewed by me for IPMS. The scheme is a four color “Grape” scheme from Nellis AFB during 1976. It is designed to represent an enemy camouflage typical of Russian or Eastern Bloc nations. Please see my review for more details on the paint callouts and decals.

Final Assembly

The final assembly went smoothly. The exhaust nozzles were attached. Gear doors were added along with the airbrakes and the airbrake actuators. I chose to use aftermarket landing gear from Scale Aircraft Conversions. These metal landing gear are exact duplicates of the plastic pieces but give the added strength of metal. These were reviewed by me as well for IPMS. The one difference between the kit gear and the aftermarket is that the kit gear has a two piece nose gear and the aftermarket is one piece. (The difference is the nose wheel attachment is separate from the strut itself in the kit.) For more detailed information see my review. The last step was to attach the windscreen and canopies. These attached easily and looked good in the open position.

Final Thoughts

Overall this kit will build up into a great example of a Northrop T-38A Talon, if you have some patience. As long as you test fit everything, especially where the cockpit fits into the fuselage it will go together tightly, easily and with little need for filler. It does have some flaws but what kit doesn’t? My recommendation would be to use aftermarket decals and possibly aftermarket canopies if you are bothered by the seam line down the middle of each canopy. There are many different paint schemes for the T-38A so finding one you like should be easy if you want to go the aftermarket route, and finding photos of the scheme you wish to use kit provided or aftermarket will help you out immensely. This kit is definitely recommended and if the chance arose I would definitely build a second one!

It has been my privilege to review this kit and I want to thank both Trumpeter and Stevens International for the kit and IPMS for this opportunity to review it.


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