What was this all-black airplane? Which even though it had Air Force insignia on the side didn’t look like anything I was used to seeing?
The picture you posted of the black T-38 is a companion trainer from Beale AFB. U-2 pilots don’t get enough flight hours to keep all their currencies up, so they fly around in those black T-38s to stay proficient.
And from another Air Force veteran who looked at the photo very closely:
The BB tail code on the bad-ass looking T-38 you parked on the ramp next to signifies Beale AFB. The U-2 squadron up there uses them to keep the pilots that are still flying the U-2 current for basic airmanship, since U-2 sorties are relatively few and far between and a pilot needs to fly a certain number of hours each month to be safe in the air, as you know.
Here’s what the U-2 itself looks like, so you can see the similarity in paint scheme if little else:
And, from a fellow small-plane pilot:
A little googling (search on: black T-38) suggests that the black-with-red-trim T-38’s are unique to Beale AFB and are flown by the U-2 pilots based there for currency. Given where you met one, that fits.
For good measure, here is one of the U-2s shown coming in over Beale itself, which is north of Sacramento:
Now I know. Thanks to all.
Update From another pilot:
The aircraft you posted a picture of is a T-38, and the BB on the tail flash denotes it is from Beale Air Force base. The U-2 pilots stationed there use the T-38s to maintain some of their flying currencies, I assume due to lower operating costs. The black color and lettering is the same scheme as their primary aircraft. They probably have requirements for off-station instrument approaches and landings, which may be why you saw one at San Bernardino. The B-2 pilots from Whiteman Air Force base also fly matching colored T-38s for the same reasons.
The T-38 is a great aircraft. I flew more than 1200 hours in it, but in many ways I would rather have the means to own a Cirrus (yours looks great, by the way). I have shared several moments of mutual admiration at FBOs like the photo you posted. Different shades of grass, I suppose.