Cessna Model 318 / T-37 / A-37 Dragonfly


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Cessna Model 318 / T-37 / A-37 Dragonfly

In the early 1950s the US Air Force was looking for a turbojet-powered trainer, and in 1953 Cessna was announced winner of this design competition, two prototypes being ordered under the designation XT-37. The company identified the type as the Cessna Model 318, and the first of these made its initial flight on 12 October 1954. It was a perfectly straightforward monoplane of all-metal construction, with pupil and instructor seated in what had long been considered to be an ideal side-by-side arrangement (contrary to the normal US tandem practice). Powerplant consisted of two Continental turbojets (Americanised versions of the French Turbomeca Marbore) mounted within the wing roots on each side of the fuselage. The tail-plane was mounted above the fuselage about one-third of the way up the fin to ensure that the airstream flowing past it was unaffected by the jet efflux.

The first production batch of 11 aircraft, which had the designation T-37A, was ordered during 1954, and the first of these flew on 27 September 1955. The T-37As, of which 534 were built under successive contracts, were slow in entering service as a result of the need for a number of changes and modifications before they were considered acceptable for training purposes.

When introduced into service, in 1957, the T-37s were used initially as basic trainers, the pupils transferring to these aircraft only after completing their primary training on Beech T-34 Mentors. In April 1961 all-through jet training was initiated, the pupil flying from the very beginning of his training on T-37 aircraft which had a speed range of 138-684km/h. No catastrophic accident rate resulted, as had been feared by many, but one point which had not been fully considered was the much higher training cost using jet aircraft. There is inevitably a varying pupil rejection rate at the end of primary training, and it was decided in 1964 to revert to light piston-engine trainers, which are much cheaper to operate, for this primary phase, so that T-37 pupils were those left after the first weeding-out.

The T-37B with more powerful engines and improved nav/com systems, was introduced into service in November 1959, and all surviving T-37 As were converted retrospectively to this standard. Final version was the T-37C with provision for armament and wingtip fuel tanks. When production ended in 1977 a total of 1,268 T-37s had been built for the USAF and for export. "During 1962 two Cessna T-37B trainers were evaluated by the USAF's Special Air Warfare Center to consider their suitability for deployment in the counter-insurgency (COIN) role. These were first tested with their original powerplant of two 465kg thrust Continental J69-T-25 turbojets, at a take-off weight of 3946kg, almost 33% above the normal maximum take-off weight. Subsequently the airframes were modified to accept two 1089kg thrust General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojets. This vast increase in power made it possible for the aircraft, then designated YAT-37D, to be flown at steadily increasing take-off weights until a safe upper limit of 6350kg was reached. There was, clearly, plenty of scope for the carriage of a worthwhile load of weapons.

This exercise was academic, until the need of the war in Vietnam made the USAF take a closer look at this armed version of what had proved to be an excellent trainer. Accordingly, Cessna were requested to convert 39 T-37B trainers to a light-strike configuration, a contract being awarded in 1966: this related to the conversion of new T-37B aircraft taken from the production line. The new model was based on the earlier experiments with the two YAT-37Ds, and equipped with eight underwing hard-points, provided with wingtip tanks to increase fuel capacity and powered by derated General Electric J85-GE-5 turbojets.

Delivery to the USAF began on 2 May 1967, and during the latter half of that year a squadron numbering 25 of these aircraft, designated A-37A and named Dragonfly, underwent a four-month operational evaluation in South Vietnam. Following this investigation they were transferred for operational duty with the 604th Air Commando Squadron at Bien Hoa; in 1970 they were assigned to the South Vietnamese air force.

During this period, Cessna had built the Model 318E prototype of a purpose-designated light-strike aircraft based on the T-37 and this flew for the first time in September 1967. Little time was lost in evaluation and the initial production batch of this A-37B was started quickly enough for the first deliveries to begin in May 1968.

The A-37B differed in construction from the prototype YAT-37D, its air-frame stressed for 6g loading, maximum internal fuel capacity increased to 1920 litres with the ability to carry four auxiliary tanks having a combined capacity of 1516 litres, and with provision for flight-refuelling.

Powerplant was changed to two General Electric J85-GE-17A turbojets. A GAU-2B/A 7.62mm Minigun was installed, and the eight underwing hardpoints could carry in excess of 2268kg of mixed stores. For the assessment of results both gun and strike cameras were carried, and some armour protection for the crew of two was provided by the inclusion of layered nylon flak-curtains installed around the cockpit.

By the time that production ended in 1967, a total of 577 A-37Bs has been built, and in addition to serving with the USAF the type was supplied in small numbers to friendly nations. Many were transferred to the US Air National Guard and to the South Vietnam air force.

Cessna Model 318 / T-37 / A-37 DragonflyA three-view drawing (592 x 869)

 ENGINE2 x General Electric J85-GE-17A, 1293 kg
  Take-off weight6350 kg13999 lb
  Empty weight2817 kg6210 lb
  Wingspan10.93 m36 ft 10 in
  Length8.62 m28 ft 3 in
  Height2.71 m9 ft 11 in
  Wing area17.98 m2193.53 sq ft
  Max. speed834 km/h518 mph
  Cruise speed787 km/h489 mph
  Range w/max.fuel1629 km1012 miles
  Range w/max payload740 km460 miles

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
Stuart Frazer, e-mail, 09.03.2020 05:51

I flew 321 missions in the A-37B


Chris Comly, e-mail, 22.12.2017 16:38

My father was an instructor in T-37s at Vance AFB in the early 60's. When I was young I had a chance to sit in one of the sims at Vance. Boy do I wish I could do so now that I am a pilot and actually have an idea of what I am doing.


Milton Moore, e-mail, 03.06.2017 00:05

I was stationed at Randolph AFB, TX in 1969. The Director of AF Personnel lived in my neighborhood and got me an assignment in the A-37B to Bien Hoa Air Base, S. Vietnam. I flew 341 missions in my year there. The best were "Troops in Contact." The A-37 carried as much ordinance as the F-100. It could also do inflight refueling. I also flew the F-100 and F-104 earlier in my carrier.


Frank Smith, e-mail, 14.09.2016 12:57

Finished out the last T-33 class at Webb AFB as an IP and was sent down to instruct in the "Tweet". Ended
up with 320 plus T-37 hours as an IP and finally got out ATC after almost twelve years! Went to Alaska's 317th FIS flying F-102's and back to Perrin AFB AS AN IP! in the Duece. Flew T-28D-5 with the Royal Thai AF. Retired at Tyndall AFB in '73...yep, as an IP in T-Birds! Big benefit of all the IP time was I retired with over 5,000 hours of T-33, T-28 (A and D), T-37 And F-102's

webb AFB


Abbye A Faurot, e-mail, 14.03.2015 08:17

Billy K Faurot, 91, was an instructor at Bainbridge GA and was honored by being assigned the first class of cadets to fly the T37. I would really like to have a picture of the plane to go with all the other planes we flew. B17 pilot in WWII in 8th AF at Knettishall, Norfolk, UK


Steve Laurance, e-mail, 08.02.2015 21:58

The Tweet was the first airplane I flew. I was in class 65H at Reese AFB. The noise was terrible but the airplane was a pleasure to fly. The A-37 must have been a big improvement because of the increased power.


Ollie Maier, e-mail, 09.01.2015 20:48

In response to Abe's comment,forgot to mention in previous message that we could stay on target much longer than most other jet fighters. Could shut one engine down to save fuel so sometimes had two hour missions. As funny as it seems, we could hold with one engine shut down at 10,000 will full fuel and bomb load using less fuel per hour (1,100 /pph) then at idle on the ground with both engines running (600 /pph each engine)...


Olllie Maier, e-mail, 09.01.2015 20:10

Flew 502 combat missions with the initial group testing the A-37A during 1967-1968. Great Close Air Support weapon. Both FACs and troops on ground in firefights loved us. Enjoyed flying it much more than F-84F and F-100 fighters
Another pilot and I started the A-37 Association which has reunions every two years for anyone who flew, worked on, worked with, or has high admiration for great little fighter. Check A-37.org for more info.
Recently published was a 350 page, 9 by 11" book on the little fighter with stories from those who were involved with it.,, primarily in 'Nam where it flew about 100,000 combat missions. Again, check A-37 for more info or email me at OMaier@TxState.edu. I also have over 2,000 hours in the T-37 as UPT and PIT instructor... great side by side trainer... think AF made mistake by going to turbo-prop trainer instead...


Abe, e-mail, 11.12.2014 15:25

It's incredible. I can't believe that you can write this type of information and leaving out one of the most important features of this jet, the fuel capacity, and it's a shame most web pages about this aircraft fail to specify the amount of fuel used..


Lon Holtz, e-mail, 16.11.2013 01:14

Had the privilege of logging 350 combat missions in the A-37a with the third group of pilots in Vietnam. It was a true pilot aircraft that produced exceptional Closer Air Support and saved countless lives in Troops In Contact engagements with the uncanny accuracy of less then 45 feet from any delivery angle. Its small size and lower then other fighter delivery speeds our survibility rate was extremely high with only 11 aircraft lost to enemy actions out of over 100,000 sorties flown in three squadrons. We rapidly went from novelty status to the favorite of Forward Air Controllers and ground commanders as we could go further stay longer and put the bombs exactly where needed.


Jarvis H "Flip" Latham, e-mail, 23.10.2013 22:19

Flew the T-37 at Bainbridge in Class 59-G. Ours was, I believe, the first regular Primary class to use the bird. Class 59-D at Bainbridge also flew the T-37, but they were a "Test" class with the designation "Project Palm." My civilian instructor was Sam Weil, one of the best instructors I had. I graduated from pilot training with 59H at Greenville, Miss. Went from there to B-47s at Lincoln AFB.


Julio Torres, e-mail, 10.07.2013 19:57

Flew it at Bainbridge AB, Georgia Class 60C end of 1958 as Aviation Cadet of the Venezuelan Air Force, remember at that time there was a crew, instructor and student, had to eject as they went into an inverted spin.


Kara Mcghee, e-mail, 25.12.2012 02:16

Does anyone know where I can get a clock from one of these?


Dick Conan, e-mail, 19.10.2012 01:21

To Bob Insel et al: I was in class 60-E pre-flight and had planned a career in the A.F. Things were going well... I was the Cadet Group Commander for Red Birds (Pilots) under Lt. Hayes (the Shadow.) Two weeks before going to Marianna, Florida, the Flt Surgeon found out I had arrythmia (heart palpitations and was "zapped" on a medical. It broke my heart and I still think... "What if?" Our class was told we would be the first to fly the
T-37 and the Northrop T-39, but maybe they lied. Anyway, if there are any Class 60-Echo men out there, please drop me a line. So many of our men lost their lives in Vietnam and in accidents. William "Smitty" Smith and Wayne Ensminger both died soon after graduation. Anyone out there know them?


Bob Insel, e-mail, 20.06.2012 01:42

Our cadet class,59-G, were going to be the first class to get the T-37,at Graham Air Base, however, there was not enough available. Class 59-H were the lucky ones. I washed out at the end primary. I sure would like to hear from any one from class 59-G or for that matter, any cadet class.


Keith Barney, e-mail, 02.06.2012 20:14

As a weapons mechanic I went from F-4s to A-37s to B-52s, hat a ride! The Tweet was definitely the easiest to work on as long as you didn't mind walking on your knees a lot. I was at Bien Hoa and Pleiku with the 604th, 7 /67 to 7 /68 through Tet and the around the clock endurance test. Great little weapons platform.


Charlie Bryant, e-mail, 09.05.2012 23:29

I deployed with the first group of

I was NCOIC of the Nav Aids section deployed on Combat Dragon in Feb '67 to England AFB, Lousiana then to Bien Hoa, South Viet Nam where we provided maintenance support for the A-37A during combat evaluations for the aircraft. It was a great experience with many many memories.


Andy, e-mail, 14.01.2012 20:42

Long time ago. I was in (I think) technitions squadron. I worked on the ejection seats in the a37's. I was ALL alone and used to take the comm-nav guy to help me out. (Damn the rules!)


John Whistler, e-mail, 12.01.2012 03:26

I flew the 37's in the 604th 67-68 also F-100'S. The Tweet for 200 combat missions. Grest little bomber down in the trees with the troops on the ground, they always were happy to have us around in tight spots. It was easy to service and turn around for the next mission.


dick gruber, 07.01.2012 01:07

Flew 252 missions in the A-37 in '69 /'70 Vietnam war...very effective close air support aircraft. We were able to pretty well "pin-point" our ordinance delivery, because our bomb,nap and rocket release altitudes were set for optimal low level accuracy...great airplane.Also great number of men in the 604th.


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