A Trainer for the Postwar Generation
North American Aviation had distinguished itself during the Second World War by not only designing the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter and B-25 Mitchell bomber, but also through the equally legendary series of advanced trainers which bore the name Texan in American service and Harvard in British Commonwealth forces.
North American’s wartime advanced trainer became the most widely used training aircraft in history and very few pilots who flew World War Two did not spend some time in a Texan or Harvard as part of their training.
It was through a 1946 requirement from the U.S. Navy for a new training aircraft to replace their Texan trainers that the T-28 had its beginnings. While North American did rise to the challenge and offer a design for consideration, the Navy was less than receptive to it at first.
A year or so later, the U.S. Air Force gave the new trainer design a second chance. With a few modifications to remove naval related equipment, the aircraft’s prototype flew in 1949 and was accepted as the new USAF trainer and designated as the T-28A.
In 1952, with more pressure on them to replace their Texans, the U.S. Navy took a second look at the T-28. With a list of modifications, including a more powerful engine, the Navy accepted the T-28 as their trainer in 1954. The Navy used two variants of the aircraft; the T-28B for flight training and the tail hook equipped T-28C for aircraft carrier qualifying of pilots.
While the U.S. Air Force used the T-28 in the trainer role for barely more than a decade, the Navy and Marines used it as such for three decades.
The Trojan Goes into Battle
In the late 1950s, France was fighting a war against insurgents in Algeria and needed something better than the old Texan trainers it was using at the time. At the same time, the USAF was starting to retire their T-28A trainers and France bought 150 as surplus. The former USAF T-28s were modified by Sud Aviation in France with more powerful engines, weapons stations under the wings and armor plating around the cockpit. The reworked aircraft were given the name Fennec, a type of desert fox.
Not long after the French brought the Fennec to bear on insurgents in Northern Africa, the United States fount itself going to battle against insurgents in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. Following the French lead, the USAF took a fleet of T-28B aircraft modified to carry weapons on charge. The new variant was known as the T-28D.
The aircraft’s robust construction, uncomplicated maintenance requirements and reasonable operating costs made it a very attractive and feasible aircraft for the militaries of under developed and developing nations to procure and operate. For these reasons, the South Vietnamese Air Force received many T-28s and used them extensively during the Vietnam conflict.
In the mid 1960s, under CIA direction, a group of T-28s were sent to Congo in Africa to quash the Communist uprising happening there at the time; Many of the pilots were Cuban exiles. A great deal of this clandestine operation remains classified.
Many Trojans and Fennecs found second hand, and even third hand, users among less well off African, Asian and South American air arms in both trainer and armed variations. In total, the T-28 flew in the service of nearly 30 countries in its active military life.
The Trojan Today
The T-28 has fared very well in its post military life. Many are known to remain airworthy and active as sport planes or on the airshow cicuits while many more are known to be on display at museums around the world.
As it stands, the Trojan has the numbers and support to keep entertaining airshow fans for quite some time to come.
This is a quite good site, with a distinctly U.S. Navy slant, on the T-28:
And an equally thorough site on the Fennec variation: