A T-46 out of Edwards AFB
Role Jet trainer aircraft
Manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft
First flight 15 October 1985
Status Cancelled in 1988
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 3

The Fairchild T-46 was an American light jet trainer aircraft of the 1980s. It was cancelled in 1986 with only three aircraft being produced.

Design and development

The United States Air Force (USAF) launched its Next Generation Trainer (NGT) program to replace the Cessna T-37 Tweet primary trainer in 1981.[1] Fairchild-Republic submitted a shoulder-winged monoplane with a twin tail, powered by two Garrett F109 turbofans and with pilot and instructor sitting side by side.[2] Part of the rationale was an expectation of increasing levels of general aviation traffic. A pressurized trainer would permit training at higher altitude, leading to fewer restrictions on the new pilots.

In order to validate the proposed aircraft's design, and to explore its flight handling characteristics, Fairchild Republic contracted with Ames Industries of Bohemia, New York to build a flyable 62% scale version. Burt Rutan's Rutan Aircraft Factory in Mojave, California was contracted to perform the flight test evaluations, with test pilot Dick Rutan doing the flying. The scale version was known at Rutan as the Model 73 NGT, this flying on 10 September 1981.[3] One requirement was for the aircraft to be able to go into a spin, but to also have easy recovery from the spin. This was demonstrated using the Model 73 NGT.

Fairchild's design, to be designated T-46, was announced winner of the competition on 2 July 1982,[2] with the USAF placing an order for two prototypes and options for 54 production aircraft.[4] It was planned to build 650 T-46s for the USAF by 1991.[5]

The aircraft first flew on 15 October 1985,[6] six months later than originally programmed date of 15 April. Costs had increased significantly during the development process, with the predicted unit cost rising from $1.5 million in 1982 to $3 million in February 1985.[5] The 1985 Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget Act mandated spending cuts for the US government in an attempt to limit the national debt,[5] and while testing did not reveal any major problems,[7] Secretary of the Air Force Russell A. Rourke cancelled procurement of the T-46, while allowing limited development to continue.[5] While attempts were made in Congress to reinstate the program, which resulted in the FY 1987 budget being delayed, an amendment was passed to the 1987 Appropriations Bill to forbid any spending on the T-46 until further evaluation of the T-46 against the T-37 and other trainers took place.[8]

The project was cancelled a little more than a year later, for reasons that largely remain controversial[citation needed]. The T-46 was the last project of the Fairchild Republic Corporation, and after the program termination Fairchild had no more income. Without any new contracts and the NGT program cancelled, the company closed the Republic factory in Farmingdale, New York, bringing 60 years of Fairchild aircraft manufacturing to an end.

Two T-46 aircraft circling Edwards AFB

The aircraft itself featured a side-by-side configuration, a twin (or "H") tail (similar to the company's A-10), ejection seats, pressurization, and two turbofan engines. Had it gone into full production the NGT program called for 650 aircraft being built up to 1992. There was potential for some overseas sales as well, such as in the light ground attack role in addition to its role as a trainer.[9]


 United States

Aircraft on display

All three prototypes have been preserved:

Specifications (T-46) (performance estimated)

T-46, X-32 and YF-23 in the restoration area of the National Museum of the United States Air Force

Data from Tweety-Bird Replacement[11]

General characteristics


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era



  1. ^ Braybrook 1985, p. 274.
  2. ^ a b Braybrook 1985, p. 275.
  3. ^ Braybrook 1985, pp. 275–276.
  4. ^ Flight International 17 July 1982, p. 122.
  5. ^ a b c d Mormillo 1986, p. 650.
  6. ^ Flight International 26 October 1985, p. 8.
  7. ^ Mormillo 1986, pp. 651–652.
  8. ^ Flight International 8 November 1986, p. 9.
  9. ^ Warwick 1985, p. 29.
  10. ^ Fact Sheet: FAIRCHILD REPUBLIC T-46A". National Museum of the USAF. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  11. ^ Braybrook 1985, p. 276.
  12. ^ Taylor 1986, p. 402


  • Braybrook, Roy. "Tweety-Bird Replacement". Air International, June 1985, Vol 28, No. 6. pp. 273–280.
  • "Fairchild wins NGT". Flight International, 17 July 1982, p. 122.
  • Mormillo, Frank B. "T-46A: The Trainer of the Future?" Aircraft Illustrated, December 1986, Vol. 19, No. 12. pp. 648–653.
  • "T-46A is flown". Flight International 26 October 1985, p. 8.
  • Taylor, John W. R. (editor) Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1986–87. London: Jane's Yearbooks, 1986. ISBN 0-7106-0835-7.
  • "USAF trainer contest opened to all" Flight International, 8 November 1986, p. 9.
  • Warwick, Graham "T-46: A Class Apart". Flight International, 13 April 1985, pp. 24–29.