The Sabreliner was designed as a combat readiness trainer and utility aircraft The prototype aircraft, powered by two General Electric J-60 turbojet engines, flew its first flight 16 September 1958. Three versions, the T-39A, T-39B, T-39C, each with specific combat readiness training roles, were flown by the United States Air Force. The T-39D, the United States Navy version (42 aircraft were bought), was used as a training aircraft for naval flight officers and radar operators. Aircraft deliveries began in August 1963. In 1969, the United States Navy began acquiring a fleet of newer Sabreliners, Commercial Model Sabre Series 40, Navy designation CT-39E (7 aircraft) and Sabre Series 60, Navy designation CT-39E (12 aircraft) to provide rapid response airlift of high priority passengers and cargo.

Our display aircraft, T-39D BuNo 150987, was delivered to the United States Navy on 12 August 1964. It was operational in our Naval Air Training Command activities for its first 13 years. In April 1977, our Chief of Naval Operations authorized BuNo 150987 to be bailed to McDonnell Aircraft Company for F-18 aircraft radar development tests. Bailment started 29 August 1977 and continued until 30 October 1985. The aircraft was modified and configured with an actual F-18 aircraft radome, a complete state-of- the-art APG-65 (F-18 aircraft) radar system, engineering crew stations with displays, and a full instrumentation package. This flying "test laboratory" with an onboard test team (military, Government, and prime contractors) was operational at Hughes Aircraft, McDonnell Aircraft, Ford Aerospace, and here at the Naval Air Test Center. The test team crew of pilots, naval flight officers, engineers, and technicians could take measurements, conduct tests, collect data, and make on-site real-time evaluations of the radar systems performance and capabilities. The aircraft spent the next 2 1/2 years involved in test work at the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California. It arrived here at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in September 1988 to be used to support the airborne system syllabus as a systems demonstrator and an airborne system platform. It accumulated a total of 6,711 flight hours, made its last flight on 14 July 1989, and joined our Patuxent River Naval Air Museum stable in May 1994.

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