T-33 Shooting Star
A demonstration T-33 in flight in 2016
Role Training aircraft
Manufacturer Lockheed
Designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson
First flight 22 March 1948
Retired 31 July 2017 (Bolivian Air Force)
Primary users United States Air Force
United States Navy
Japan Air Self Defense Force
German Air Force
Produced 1948–1959
Number built 6,557
Developed from Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
Variants Lockheed T2V SeaStar
Canadair CT-133 Silver Star
Developed into Lockheed F-94 Starfire
Boeing Skyfox
Lockheed NT-33A

The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star (or T-Bird) is an American subsonic jet trainer. It was produced by Lockheed and made its first flight in 1948. 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. The last operator of the T-33, the Bolivian Air Force, retired the type in July 2017, after 44 years of service.[1]

Design and development

The T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 by lengthening the fuselage by slightly more than 3 feet (1 m) 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.[2]

Design work on 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-place 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 22 March 1948 with Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier at the controls. Production at Lockheed ran from 1948 to 1959. The US 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 Navy operated some ex-USAF P-80Cs as the TO-1, changed to the TV-1 about a year later. A carrier-capable version of the P-80/T-33 family was subsequently developed by Lockheed, eventually leading to the late 1950s to 1970s T2V-1/T-1A SeaStar. The two TF-80C prototypes were modified as prototypes for an all-weather two-seater fighter variant, which became the F-94 Starfire. A total of 6,557 T-33s were produced: 5,691 of them by Lockheed, 210 by Kawasaki, and 656 by Canadair.

Operational history

U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy

The two-place T-33 proved suitable as an advanced trainer, and it has been used for such tasks as drone director and target towing. A reconnaissance version known as the RT-33A with a camera installed in the nose and additional equipment in the rear cockpit was also produced. Although primarily intended for export, the U.S. Air Force used a single example of the type for secret overflights of South Vietnam and Laos from 1961, with these flights codenamed FIELD GOAL. This lasted until the aircraft were replaced by the more capable McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo in this role.[3]

The USAF began phasing the T-33 out of front-line pilot training duties in the Air Training Command in the early 1960s, as the Cessna T-37 Tweet and Northrop T-38 Talon aircraft began replacing it for the Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) program. The T-33 was used to train cadets from the Air Force Academy at Peterson Field (now Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs). The T-37 replaced the T-33 for Academy training in 1975. The final T-33 used in advanced training was replaced 8 February 1967 at Craig AFB, Alabama.[4] 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 North American T-2 Buckeye and Douglas TA-4 Skyhawk II 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 McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, and Convair 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 McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II units in a similar role until they were finally retired, with the last being an NT-33 variant retired in April 1997.

Military use by other nations

Some T-33s retained two machine guns for gunnery training, and in some countries, the T-33 was even used in combat: the Cuban Air Force used them during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, scoring several kills including sinking two transport ships. The RT-33A version, reconnaissance aircraft produced primarily for use by foreign countries, had a camera installed in the nose and additional equipment in the rear cockpit. T-33s continued to fly as currency trainers, drone towing, combat and tactical simulation training, "hack" aircraft, electronic countermeasures, and warfare training and test platforms right into the 1980s.

United States Air Force Lockheed RT-33 reconnaissance plane forced down by Albanian MiG-15 in December 1957, on display in Gjirokastër, Albania
USAF Lockheed NT-33A

The T-33 has served with over 30 nations and continues to operate as a trainer in smaller air forces. Canadair built 656 T-33s on licence 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.

In the 1980s, an attempt was made to modify and modernize the T-33 as the Boeing Skyfox, but a lack of orders led to the project's cancellation. About 70% of the T-33's airframe was retained in the Skyfox, but it was powered by two Garrett AiResearch TFE731-3A turbofan engines.

In the late 1990s, 18 T-33 Mk-III and T-33 SF-SC from the Bolivian Air Force went to Canada to be modernized at Kelowna Flightcraft. New avionics were installed, and detailed inspection and renewal of the fuselage and wings were performed. Most of the aircraft returned in early 2001 and remained operational until the type was officially retired on 31 July 2017.[5]

On 21 June 1996, 1 T-33A-5-LO (trainer TR-602) from the Hellenic Air Force piloted by Squadron Leader Ioannis Kouratzoglou successfully intercepted a Turkish F-16C violating Athens FIR by engaging in low-altitude high-G maneuvers.[6]

Civilian use

A limited number of T-33s have been owned privately, with two used by Boeing as chase aircraft. In 2010, one T-33 owned by Boeing was used as a chase aircraft during the maiden flight of the Boeing 787.[7] The maiden flight of the Boeing 737 MAX-7 on 16 March 2018 also featured a T-33 chase plane.[8] The maiden flight of the Boeing 777-9 on January 25, 2020, also featured a T-33 chase plane, taking off from KBFI and meeting the 777-9 at KPAE, it stopped at KMWH and it took off again to chase the 777-9 on its way back to KBFI, flying around Mount Rainier before their landing.[9] On December 4, 2020, Boeing retired their T-33 Chase Planes after 66 years of service.[10] Both T-33s operated by Boeing were replaced by a single T-38 Talon.[11] Actor and pilot Michael Dorn owned a T-33, which he jokingly referred to as his "starship".[12]


Original United States military designation for the Lockheed Model 580 two-seat trainer for the United States Army Air Forces. Designation changed to TF-80C on 11 June 1948 following establishment of the United States Air Force as a separate military service in 1947, and then to T-33A on 5 May 1949; 20 built.
Two-seat jet trainer aircraft for the United States Air Force and delivery to foreign air forces under the Military Assistance Program, 5871 including 699 diverted to the United States Navy as the TV-2.
Conversions of the T-33A for export as a close support variant fitted with underwing pylons and hard points for bombs and rockets. Also used in the original fighter lead-in program at Cannon AFB, NM approximately 1972-1975.
This designation was given to a number of T-33As converted into drone directors.
This designation was given to a number of T-33As converted into special test aircraft.
This designation was given to number of T-33As converted into aerial target drones for the United States Navy.
T-33A modified before delivery as a single-seat reconnaissance variant; 85 built, mainly for export under the Military Assistance Program.
Re-designation of the United States Navy TV-2 in 1962.
Re-designation of the United States Navy TV-2D drone director in 1962.
Re-designation of the United States Navy TV-2KD target in 1962
U.S. Navy designation of P-80C, 50 transferred to USN in 1949 as jet trainers (not technically T-33 Shooting Star)
United States Navy designation for 649 T-33As diverted from USAF production. Two-seat land-based jet training aircraft for the U.S. Navy. First 28 were delivered as TO-2s before the Navy changed the designation to TV-2. Surviving United States Navy and United States Marine Corps aircraft were re-designated T-33B on 18 September 1962.[13]
Re-designation of the TO-2 after the first 28 were built.
TV-2s modified as drone directors, later re-designated DT-33B.
TV-2s modified as radio-controlled targets, could be flown as a single-seater for ferry, later re-designated DT-33C.


Silver Star Mk 1
Canadian designation for the T-33A, 20 delivered.
Silver Star Mk 2
Canadian designation for a T-33A which became the prototype of the Silver Star Mk 3.
T-33AN/CT-133 Silver Star Mk 3
The T-33AN is a Rolls-Royce Nene-powered variant of the T-33A for the Royal Canadian Air Force; 656 built by Canadair with the company designation CL-30. The Canadian military designation was later changed from T-33AN to CT-133.


One Lockheed-owned prototype with a more powerful engine. Was later developed into the T2V SeaStar.[14]
Aérospatiale Pégase
A Canadair T-33AN was modified by Aérospatiale with an S17a 17% thickness wing section.[15]
Boeing Skyfox
A comprehensive upgrade and re-engine project, powered by 2 Garrett TFE-731 turbofans. The sole prototype remains parked, without engines, at Rogue Valley International (MFR) at Medford, Oregon.


Iranian conversion of T-33A into drone.[16]

Former operators

T-33 of the Belgian Air Force
T-33 of the Taiwan Air Force at Hsinchu Air Base 2012.
A T-33 Shooting Star of the Hellenic Air Force
T-33A of the Mexican Air Force
T-33A of the Peruvian Air Force
T-33 Portuguese Air Force
T-33 of the Republic of Korea Air Force
T-33 of the Spanish Air Force
T-33 of the Philippine Air Force
Indonesian Air Force T-33A
T-33 belonging to the former Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF)
T-33 of French Air Force in 1980 on the Air Base 705 of Tours
T-33 in Saudi Arabia
T-33A of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force

For operators of Canadian-built aircraft, refer to Canadair CT-133 Silver Star.

 Republic of China
 Dominican Republic
 El Salvador
 Japan (all retired)
T-33 of the Uruguayan Air Force
 Saudi Arabia
 South Korea
 United States

Aircraft on display

Main article: List of displayed Lockheed T-33 Shooting Stars

Numerous T-33s have been preserved as museum and commemorative displays.

Notable accidents and incidents

4 August 1955
First Lt. Elmer C. Bybee (of Walden CO) and Second Lt. Conrad J. Zubalik (of Greensburg PA), US Air Force, were flying a T-33 on a training sortie out of Perrin Air Force Base (Sherman TX) when a wing snapped off during a turn. The aircraft crashed near Grapevine Lake Dam north of the Dallas-Ft Worth Airport. Both pilot trainees perished in the crash.[32][better source needed]
4 June 1957
Maj. Teruhiko Kobayashi, a flying ace of the Imperial Japanese Air Force, was flying a T-33 on a training sortie from Hamamatsu when a technical problem occurred just shortly after takeoff. He ordered his companion in the jet with him to eject. After his companion did, he tried to take control of the aircraft and attempted to land it away from any populated areas, but crashed shortly after.[citation needed]
23 December 1957
1 US T-33 flown by Maj Howard J.Curran entered Albanian airspace, alleging that he had interference requiring him to fly in Albanian airspace. He was forced to land on Rinas Airport by 2 Albanian MiG-15 flown by Anastas Ngjela and Mahmut Hysa. Major Howard J.Curran was later released but his T-33 was placed in the Gjirokastra castle museum, where it is still today.[33]
24 March 1958
Lt Col. Jacob E. Manch, a member of the Doolittle Raiders during World War 2, was killed in a T-33 jet trainer accident outside of Las Vegas, NV. He ordered the second crewmember to bail out and guided his powerless aircraft over a neighborhood, that included an elementary school, avoiding potential casualties on the ground. When he finally ejected, his parachute did not have sufficient time to properly operate, and he died when he hit the ground.[34]
20 May 1958
An Air National Guard Lockheed T-33A was involved in a mid-air collision with Capital Airlines Flight 300, a Vickers Viscount, over Brunswick, Maryland.
19 September 1968
A Chilean Air Force T-33A crewed by Sub-lieutenant Jorge Emberg and Second Lieutenant René Catalán crashed shortly after takeoff from El Bosque Air Base due to an engine failure.[35] Emberg managed to eject safely but Catalán and six people on the ground died when the aircraft crashed on the Santa Erna neighborhood.[36]
20 August 1971
On 20 August 1971, Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas was scheduled to fly a Lockheed T-33 jet trainer from PAF Base Masroor in Karachi. Bir Sreshtho Matiur Rahman, an instructor pilot,[37] saw Minhas about to take off and joined him via the instructor's seat.[38] Rahman then attempted to hijack the T-33 in midair, intending to fly the plane to India, defect, and join the Bangladesh Liberation War and fight for his motherland. Minhas sent a message to control tower that he has been hijacked before being knocked unconscious. The now alerted Pakistani Air Force scrambled F-86 Sabre jets but were unable to locate the T-33. In the meantime, Rashid regained consciousness and there was a struggle between the two pilots and the plane crashed in Pakistan, 40 kilometers from the Indian border, killing both pilots; the precise cause of the crash is unknown.[39]

Specifications (T-33A)

3-view silhouette drawing of the Lockheed TF-80C
3-view silhouette drawing of the Lockheed TF-80C

Data from Lockheed Aircraft since 1913[40]

General characteristics

4,600 lbf (20,461.82 N) maximum continuous, dry



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ "Fuerza Aérea desactiva cuatro aviones de entrenamiento y ataque T-33 – Diario Pagina Siete" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  2. ^ Lockheed P-80/F-80 Archived 2007-12-19 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Early USAF Reconnaissance in Southeast Asia". National Museum of the United States Air Force™. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  4. ^ Scholin, Allan R., "Aerospace World", Air Force and Space Digest, Air Force Association, Washington, D.C., March 1967, volume 50, number 3, page 38.
  5. ^ "Los aviones de entrenamiento y ataque T-33 de la FAB dejan de operar en Bolivia" (in Spanish). La Razón. 31 July 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  6. ^ Πτηση & Διαστημα (2019-03-18). "Ελληνικό Τ-33 εναντίον τουρκικού F-16 – και δεν είναι βιντεοπαιχνίδι". Πτήση & Διάστημα (in Greek). Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  7. ^ "787 First Flight from the chase plane." wired.com. Retrieved: 22 April 2010.
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  9. ^ "N109X Live Flight Tracking and History (T33 owned by BOEING LOGISTICS SPARES INC) ✈ 25-Jan-2020 ✈ KMWH - KBFI ✈ FlightAware". FlightAware. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 2020-01-27.
  10. ^ Hemmerdinger, Jon (4 December 2020). "Boeing retires vintage T-33 chase jets". Flight Global. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
  11. ^ "N38TZ (1965 NORTHROP T-38A owned by BOEING CO) Aircraft Registration". FlightAware.
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  14. ^ Beck, Simon. "Lockheed Shooting Star Series" Archived 2011-05-21 at the Wayback Machine. US Warplanes.net. Retrieved: 21 October 2011.
  15. ^ Gaillard, Pierre (1991). Les Avions Francaisde 1965 a 1990 (in French). Paris: Editions EPA. ISBN 2-85120-392-4.
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