Tiger Century Aircraft, Inc. was founded in 1982. Over our history, we have developed many innovative technologies ranging from vortex aerodynamics to digital flight controls to air combat simulation. Although we continue to develop advanced concepts for a wide range of aerospace applications, today, the majority of TCA’s business is concentrated on sustaining, refurbishing and upgrading US Air Force T-38 “Talon” and international F-5 “Tiger” aircraft.
Aviation experts have called Northrop’s T-38/F-5 family of lightweight trainers and fighters one of the best designed military aircraft of the 20th century. More than 3,800 T-38/F-5 aircraft were built and have served with distinction in the air forces of more than 30 countries for more than 40 years. Today, more than 20 international air forces are expected to continue to operate the 1,300+ remaining T-38s and F-5s until 2020 or longer. The USAF has announced their intention to continue to operate more than 550 T-38s as their main jet trainer until at least 2020.
Tiger Century Aircraft offers a range of products and services which are designed to enhance the combat performance and training capability of the F-5 and T-38 while extending their useful life and contributing to a lower cost of ownership. The TCA product line of aerostructures components and integrated systems each have important proprietary and/or patented design features. Some of the TCA products are based on a strong “requirements pull” from the customers. Some are based on “technology push” where TCA has developed important design improvements to the aircraft that meet an anticipated customer requirement.
Whereas many companies manufacture structural and non-structural products for the F-5 and T-38 on a “build to print” basis, all of the TCA products embody important engineering “value added” content. This is the key to the TCA product development strategy. Technologies that support this engineering content include: aerodynamics, flight performance, flying qualities, structural dynamics, propulsion integration and thermodynamics. These technologies are collectively identified as “aeronautical technology”. Since these technologies are typically found only in a major aicraft design company, none of the non-Northrop companies that have become active in the F-5/T-38 upgrade business have access to these technologies.
In the late 1980’s, the USAF began the process of developing a new aircraft to replace the venerable T-38 jet trainer, a design that was already more than 25 years old at that time.
The project was named “Bomber-Fighter Training System”, or “BFTS”.
General Dynamics, Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas) and one small company, Tiger Century Aircraft. Notably, Northrop, the OEM of the T-38, submitted a proposal but was not awarded a contract.
The large aerospace companies all offered new aircraft designs; TCA offered a plan to refurbish and upgrade 600 existing USAF T-38s. TCA’s “T-38X” plan involved 4 integrated elements:
- Structural upgrades to extend the life of the airframe,
- Avionics upgrades to replicate a modern fighter,
- Engine upgrades to enhance performance and reduce cost of ownership and
- Aerodynamic upgrades to enhance performance.
In 1993, the USAF formally announced that they had chosen TCA’s “T-38X” plan over the plans offered by the large companies. Now, each of the program elements has been implemented by the USAF via contracts to major aerospace companies. TCA developed the overall T-38X program plan, but other companies were the implementers. The result was a cost-effective program that created an upgraded T-38C aircraft that is projected to continue in service as the USAF’s Advanced/Lead-In Fighter Jet Trainer until 2020 or later!
TCA’s Business Model
To support the T-38 and F-5, TCA is organized around four (4) inter-related business areas:
Engineering/Technical Services: We provide specialized engineering and technical services in areas such as aerodynamics, propulsion, flight controls, flying qualities, structural integrity, systems integration and pilot-vehicle interface.
Modification/Upgrade Kits: We design, produce and install modification/upgrade kits for the T-38 and F-5.
Logistics Support Services: We manufacture structural spare parts, procure replenishment spares for resale and manage the repair and overhaul of existing components and systems for the T-38 and F-5.
Turnkey Aircraft: We procure F-5s from the surplus inventories of existing operators, refurbish and upgrade them with new technology and resell them as turnkey aircraft to new operators.