T-39 Sabreliner

T-39 Sabreliner

The North American Sabreliner, later sold as the Rockwell Sabreliner, is an American mid-sized business jet developed by North American Aviation. It was offered to the United States Air Force (USAF) in response to its Utility Trainer Experimental (UTX) program. It was named “Sabreliner” due to the similarity of the wing and tail to North American’s F-86 Sabre jet fighter. Military variants, designated T-39 Sabreliner, were used by the USAFUnited States Navy (USN), and United States Marine Corps (USMC) after the USAF placed an initial order in 1959. The Sabreliner was also developed into a commercial variant.

Design and development

North American Aviation began development of the Sabreliner as an in-house project, and in response to the UTX request for proposals, offered a military version to the USAF. UTX combined two different roles, personnel transport and combat readiness training, into the same aircraft.

The civilian version prototype, which carried the model number NA-265, made its first flight on September 16, 1958. It was powered by two General Electric YJ85 turbojet engines. The type received its FAA type certification in April 1963. The UTX candidate, designated the T-39A, was identical in configuration to the NA-265, but when the contract was awarded and the T-39A entered production, it was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojet engines.

The civilian production version, or Series 40, was slightly refined over the prototype, with more speed and a roomier cabin. North American then stretched the design by 3 feet (0.91 m) and 2 inches (51 mm), providing greater cabin space, and marketed it as the Series 60, which was certificated in April 1967. The cabin was made taller for the Series 70 and General Electric CF700 turbofans were installed for the Series 75A (also branded as the Series 80).

By 1973, North American had merged with Rockwell Standard under the name Rockwell International. In 1976 Rockwell contracted Raisbeck Engineering to redesign the wing of the Sabreliner series. The resulting Raisbeck Mark V wing was the first supercritical wing in service in the United States. The Mark V wing was combined with Garrett TFE731 turbofan engines, to create the Series 65. Sabreliner models 60 and 80 were retrofitted with the Mark V wing as the Series 60A (STC SA687NW) and Series 80A (STC SA847NW).

Sabreliner production came to a close in 1981. The next year, Rockwell sold its Sabreliner division to a private equity firm which formed Sabreliner Corporation, the support organization for continuing operators.



  • Sabreliner: (NA-265 or NA-246) Prototype powered by two General Electric J85-GE-X turbojet engines, one built sometimes unofficially called XT-39.
  • Sabreliner 40: (NA-265-40 or NA-282) Civil production variant for 11 passengers powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-6A or -8 engines, two cabin windows each side; 65 built.
  • Sabreliner 40A: A Sabreliner marketing version of the Sabre 40 with lighter avionics similar to the Aero Commander, also produced by Rockwell International at the time. In addition to the lighter avionics package, the interior was redesigned for lighter construction.
  • Sabreliner 50: (NA-265-50 or NA-287) One built in 1964 as a Model 60 with Pratt & Whitney JT12A engines, experimental platform for radome nose cowling.
  • Sabreliner 60: (NA-265-60 or NA-306) Stretched Model 40 for 12 passengers with two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 engines, five cabin windows each side, 130 built.
  • Sabreliner 60A: Series 60 with Mark V super-critical wing.
  • Sabreliner 65: (NA-265-65 or NA-465) Based on the Series 60 with Garrett AiResearch TFE731-3R-1D engines and new Mark V super-critical wing, 76 built.
  • Sabreliner 75: (NA-265-70 or NA-370) Series 60A with a raised cabin roof for greater cabin headroom, two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 engines; nine built.
  • Sabreliner 75A (Sabreliner 80): (NA-265-80 or NA-380) Sabreliner 75 powered by two General Electric CF700 turbofan engines, 66 built.
  • Sabreliner 80A: Series 80 with Mark V super-critical wing.


  • T-39A: Pilot proficiency trainer and utility transport for the United States Air Force. Based on Sabreliner prototype but powered by two 3,000 lbf (13 kN) Pratt & Whitney J60-P3 engines, 143 built.
  • CT-39A: T-39A modified as a cargo and personnel transport, powered by Pratt & Whitney J60-P3/-3A engines.
  • NT-39A: One T-39A modified for electronic systems testing.
  • T-39B: Radar systems trainer for the United States Air Force, fitted with avionics of the Republic F-105D Thunderchief fighter bomber (including R-14 NASARR main radar and AN/APN-131 doppler radar) and with stations for three trainees, six built.[16]
  • T-39C: Proposed radar systems trainer fitted with avionics of McDonnell F-101B Voodoo all-weather interceptor. Unbuilt.[17]
  • T-39D: (NA-265-20 or NA-277) Radar systems trainer for the United States Navy, equipped with AN/APQ-94 radar for radar intercept officer training and the AN/APQ-126 radar for bombardier/navigator training. (T3J-1 prior to 1962 redesignation program.), 42 built.
  • CT-39E: United States Navy cargo/transport version, with JT12A-8 engines, originally designated VT-39E, seven second-hand aircraft.
  • T-39F: Electronic warfare crew training conversion of the T-39A for the United States Air Force, for training of F-105G “Wild Weasel” crews.[18]
  • CT-39G: United States Navy cargo/transport version based on the stretched fuselage Sabreliner 60, Pratt & Whitney JT12A engines equipped with thrust reversers, 13 bought.
  • T-39G: CT-39G modified for the Undergraduate Flight Officer Training program.
  • T-39N: Navy trainer for the Undergraduate Flight Officer Training program.
  • T3J: Original United States Navy designation that became the T-39D in 1962.

Specifications (T-39D)

Crew 4-5
Capacity 4-7 passengers
Length 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)
Wingspan 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m)
Heigh 16 ft 0 in (4.88 m)
Wing area 342.1 sq ft (31.79 m2)
Empty weight 9,257 lb (4,199 kg)
Gross weight
Max take off weight 17,760 lb (8,056 kg)
Power plant (Dry thrust)
2 × Pratt & Whitney J60-P-3 turbojet, 3,000 lbf (13 kN) thrust each
Power plant (Thrust with afterburner) 
Maximum speed (Sea level)
Maximum speed (High altitude) 478 kn (550 mph, 885 km/h)
Combat radius
Ferry range
2,170 nmi (2,500 mi, 4,020 km)
Service ceiling
40,000 ft (12,200 m)
Rate of climb  
Wing loading  
Thrust/weight 0.338
Design load factor  


  • Angentine
    • Argentine Air Force (One series 75A)
    • Argentine Army Aviation (One series 75A)
  • Bolivian Air Force (One series 65 FAB-005 used as military and Presidential transport)
  • Ecuadorian Air Force
  • Mexico
    • Mexican Air Force
    • Mexican Navy – 8 T-39G and 7 T-39N used as trainer
  • Swedish Air Force (One series 65, local designation Tp 86)
  • United States Navy – 8 T-39G and 7 T-39N trainer

Related Armament

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