The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star is an American-built jet trainer aircraft. It was produced by Lockheed and made its first flight in 1948, piloted by Tony LeVier. The T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 starting as TP-80C/TF-80C in development, then designated T-33A. It was used by the U.S. Navy initially as TO-2 then TV-2, and after 1962, T-33B. Despite its vintage, the venerable T-33 still remains in service worldwide.
T-33 (aka “T-Bird”) was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 by lengthening the fuselage by slightly over three feet and adding a second seat, instrumentation and flight controls. It was initially designated as a variant of the P-80/F-80, the TP-80C/TF-80C.
Design work for the Lockheed P-80 began in 1943 with the first flight on 8 January 1944. Following on the Bell P-59, the P-80 became the first jet fighter to enter full squadron service in the United States Army Air Forces. As more advanced jets entered service, the F-80 took on another role – training jet pilots. The two-seat T-33 jet was designed for training pilots already qualified to fly propeller-driven aircraft.
Originally designated the TF-80C, the T-33 made its first flight on March 22, 1948, with U.S. production taking place from 1948 to 1959. The U.S. Navy used the T-33 as a land-based trainer starting in 1949. It was designated the TV-2, but was redesignated the T-33B in 1962.
The two-seat T-33 proved suitable as an advanced trainer, and it has been used for such tasks as drone director and target towing. The U.S. Air Force began phasing the T-33 out of front line pilot training duties in the Air Training Command in the early 1960s as the T-37 Tweet and T-38 Talon aircraft began replacing it under the Undergraduate Pilot Training construct. Similar replacement also occurred in the U.S. Navy with the TV-1 (also renamed T-33 in 1962) as more advanced aircraft such as the T-2 Buckeye came on line. USAF and USN versions of the T-33 soldiered on into the 1970s and 1980s with USAF and USN as utility aircraft and proficiency trainers, with some of the former USN aircraft being expended as full scale aerial targets for air-to-air missile tests from naval aircraft and surface-to-air missile tests from naval vessels. Several T-33s were assigned to USAF F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart units, to include similarly equipped Air National Guard units, of the Aerospace Defense Command as proficiency trainers and practice “bogey” aircraft. Others later went to Tactical Air Command and TAC-gained Air National Guard F-106 and F-4 Phantom II units in a similar role until they were finally retired.
The T-33 has served with over 30 nations, and continues to operate as a trainer in smaller air forces. Canada Air built 656 T-33s on license for service in the RCAF – Canadian Forces as the CT-133 Silver Star while Kawasaki manufactured 210 in Japan. Other operators included Brazil, Turkey and Thailand which used the T-33 extensively.
The F-86, the USAF’s first swept-wing jet fighter, made its initial flight on Oct. 1, 1947. The first production model flew on May 20, 1948, and on Sept. 15, 1948, an F-86A set a new world speed record of 670.9 mph. Originally designed as a high-altitude day-fighter, it was subsequently redesigned into an all-weather interceptor (F-86D) and a fighter-bomber (F-86H).
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (Russian: Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-15) was a jet fighter developed for the USSR by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich. The MiG-15 was one of the first successful swept-wing jet fighters, and it achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where early in the war, it outclassed all straight-winged enemy fighters in daylight. The MiG-15 also served as the starting point for development of the more advanced MiG-17 which was still an effective threat to supersonic American fighters over North Vietnam in the 1960s. The MiG-15 is believed to have been the most widely produced jet aircraft ever made, with over 12,000 built. Licensed foreign production perhaps raised the total to over 18,000. The MiG-15 is often mentioned along with the North American F-86 Sabre in lists of the best fighter aircraft of the Korean War and in comparison with fighters of other eras.
Soviet aviation minister Mikhail Khrunichev and aircraft designer A. S. Yakovlev suggested to Premier Joseph Stalin the USSR buy advanced jet engines from the British. Stalin is said to have replied, “What fool will sell us his secrets?”
However, he gave his consent to the proposal and Mikoyan, engine designer Vladimir Klimov, and others travelled to the United Kingdom to request the engines. To Stalin’s amazement, the British Labour government and its pro-Soviet Minister of Trade, Sir Stafford Cripps, were perfectly willing to provide technical information and a license to manufacture the Rolls-Royce Nene. This engine was reverse-engineered and produced as the Klimov RD-45, subsequently incorporated into the MiG-15.