North American/Rockwell T2J/T-2 Buckeye

As a second generation jet trainer for the United States Navy, the North American Buckeye remained in service for more than four decades, before being replaced by the T-45 Goshawk in the early 2000s. It started life as the single engine T2J/T-2A, but as it was underpowered, it soon got a twin engined version. 

The appearance of the T-2 is quite typical. It has a high fuselage with the engine(s) in the lower half.  The bean shaped air intakes are at the lower sides of the fuselage, near the front of the canopy. Student and instructor pilot sit behin each other under a canopy that opens up in one piece.The exhaust(s) are underneath the rear fuselage, in front of the tall cruciform tail with big dorsal fin. Behind is the arrestor hook, at least on most versions. The straight wings of the Buckeye go through the middle of the fuselage. This means that the main landing gear is long. It retracts inward in the wings. At the end of the wings are tip tanks as a standard.

Different versions

The different versions of the North American T-2 Buckeye can externally be distinguished by

  • the number of engines
  • the presence of a curved filler between the exhausts
  • the number of pylons under the wings
  • the presence of an arrestor hook


In the beginning there was only a single engine version of the Buckeye, designated T2J-1 at first and T-2A after 1962. Of course the single exhaust underneath the rear fuselage is the main recognition point. This is best visible an the bottom view. When seen from the side look for the absence of a curved separator behind the exhaust.

A bottom view reveals the single exhaust of the North American T2J-1 or T-2A best. (photo US Navy/WikiMedia)

From the side the single engine version of the Buckeye is best recognised by the absence of a separator between the exhausts. (photo Alan Wilson/WikiMedia)

T-2B & T-2C

While a significant number of T-2As was built, it proved to be underpowered. Therefore a twin jet version was developed. Of course the resulting T-2B has two exhausts, and that is most obviously visible from a bottom view. However, also from the side you can recognise the version by the curved separator between the two exhausts.

The T-2C has different engines than the T-2B, but this is externally not visible.

The T-2C was the most built version of the Buckeye. The transition between the exhaust and the underside of the rear fuselage is more curved than on the T-2A.

Here yu can better see the curved separator between the two exhausts of the twin engined Buckeyes. Also note the tall vertical stabiliser with large dorsal fin.


This was an export version of the T-2C for Venezuela. The T-2D differs from this variant by the lack of arrestor hook below the tail. However, it has provisions for three pylons under each outer wing. These are not always present though.

Two of the key features of the T-2D are visible on this photo: there is no arrestor hook and it has multiple pylons under the wings, of which at least two are visible. (photo:


Another export version was made for Greece, the T-2E. This is similar to the T-2D, so with six optional underwing pylons in total, but it does have an arrestor hook.

The T-2E is the only Buckeye version still in active use. They are often painted in camo colours. Clearly it has an arrestor hook, but the optional pylons are not in place. (photo: Jerry Gunner/WikiMedia)

Confusion possible with

Grumman F9F Panther

f9f 4

Like the Buckeye the F9F has straight wings with tip tanks, an exhaust underneath the rear fuselage and a cruciform tail. However, the intakes are in the wing roots, and the vertical stabiliser is triangular with a small dorsal fin. Additio­nally, the Grumman aircraft has a single seat cockpit.