TINKER HISTORY: Allison J33 engine, unprecedented advancement

  • Published
  • By Greg L. Davis
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Allison J33 turbojet was the first mass-produced jet engine used by the military. The J33 was an outgrowth of the turbojet engine developed for aircraft use prior to and during World War II by the British in the form of the Whittle engine.

The J33 powered what became known as “jet” aircraft like the P-80 Shooting Star, its T-33A cousin and the Navy’s F9F Panther. It also powered the USAF’s Mace, Matador and Snark surface-to-surface guided missiles, according to the National Museum of the Air Force.

The Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area/Tinker Air Force Base performed maintenance, repair and overhaul of 6,541 J33 engines between April 1947 and June 1952.

The importance of the J33 engine to the advancement of human flight can’t be overstated. The T-33 became the primary jet trainer for thousands of U.S. Air Force pilots as it did for Naval aviators in the Navy’s version of the T-33, the T2V-1.

Early jet pilots experienced dramatically increasing speed and altitudes along with maneuvering and gravitational forces. The exploration and understanding of these factors fostered a period of unprecedented technological advancement for air and space flight.

There are many T-33s still flying today in civilian hands and in the air show and warbird community. Because of its stability and reliability, Boeing continues to use J33 powered T-33s as safety and photo chase platforms for its new KC-46 Pegasus tanker, the most advanced tanker in the U.S. Air Force fleet.