THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

THE PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

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The Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter"

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The Lockheed XF-104 thru The F-104A "Starfighter"

 

 The XF-104, Lockheed Model L-246, was designed by "Kelly" Johnson of the famed Skunk Works. Two aircraft (S/N 53-7786 and 53-7787) were built. The first flight was on 5 March 1954. Powered by the Wright J65, the XF-104 flew as fast as Mach 1.7.

17 YF-104A service test aircraft (S/N 55-2955 to 2971) were built with the improved General Electric J79 turbojet. The YF-104A (55-2955) exceeded Mach 2 on 28 February 1956. The pre-production Block 1 F-104As (S/N 56-730 to 736) along with the YF-104As were retrofitted during testing to solve various problems revealed during the program including pitch-up, low speed handling, and engine problems.

(Aircraft description from T.O. 1F-104A-1) F-104 aircraft are high-performance day and night fighters powered by an axial-flow, turbojet engine with afterburner. F-104A and C are single place aircraft, built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, are designed for cruise at high subsonic speeds and combat at high supersonic speeds. Notable features of the aircraft include extremely thin flight surfaces, short straight wings with negative dihedral, irreversible hydraulically powered ailerons, and a controllable horizontal stabilizer. The wings, with leading and trailing edge flaps, have a boundary layer control system which is used in conjunction with the trailing edge flap to reduce landing speeds. A drag chute is installed to reduce the landing roll. In-flight escape is accomplished by an upward ejection system.

 

TYPE Number built/Converted Remarks
XF-104
YF-104A
F-104A
NF-104A
F-104B
F-104C
F-104D
F-104E
F-104F
F-104G
F-104J
F-104S
2
17
153
3 (cv)
26
77
21
0
*
*
*
*
Prototype; Ltwt. Ftr.
Service test
First prod. aircraft
Hi-alt. trainer; Conv. F-104A
Two seat trainer
Imp. F-104A
Imp. F-104B
Designation not used
MAP a/c for Germany; Mod. -D
MAP and Consortium built
Japanese built -G model
Super Starfighter; Imp. -G

Notes:
* - Not procured by USAF
MAP - Military Assistance Program - US built for other countries.
Consortium - Built by using (non-US) country.
22 F-104As were converted to QF-104 target drones.

SPECIFICATIONS (F-104A from T.O. 1F-104A-1)
Span: 21.94 ft.
Length: 54.77 ft.
Height: 13.49 ft.
Tread: 8.79 ft.
Weight: 25,300 lbs. (tip tanks and pylon tanks); 19,600 lbs. gross wt. with no external load.
Armament: Basic armament consists of two AIM-9B air-to-air guided missiles, carried one on each wing tip in place of the tip tanks. Aircraft also incorporates a M61 20mm electrically operated gun located on the lower left side of the forward fuselage. Its ammunition supply of 725 rounds is fired at an average rate of 4000 rounds per minute.
Engine: One General Electric J79-GE-3B (or -19, -11A, -11B) of 15,800 lbs. static sea-level thrust with afterburner (-19 rated at 17,500 lbs. max. thrust)
Crew: One
Cost: $1,471,000

PERFORMANCE
Maximum speed: 1,320 mph. (Mach 2)
Cruising Speed: 575 mph.
Range: Approximately 1,820 nautical miles with two 170 gallon tip tanks and two 195 gallon pylon tanks (dropped when empty) using cruise climb profile: 8.5 min. time-to-climb, 26,000 ft. initial, 39,000 ft. final at approximately .85 Mach for 3 hr. 35 min. With no external stores: 1,120 nm., 2 hr. 13 min., 6 min. time-to-climb 33,000 initial, 40,000 ft. final.
Service Ceiling: 58,000 ft.

COURTESY OF THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM

 

The first official flight of the first XF-104 took place at Edward AFB on March 4, 1954 with Tony LeVier at the controls.

 

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YF-104

 

Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter

BY Joe Baugher

 

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The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the result of an attempt to reverse the trend towards ever-increasing weight and complexity in fighter aircraft. When it first appeared in the mid-1950s, it had a futuristic look about it, and its small wing area and needle-nose earned it the appellation of "missile with a man in it". The F-104 was the first operational interceptor capable of sustained speeds above Mach 2 and was the first aircraft ever to hold the World Speed and Altitude records simultaneously.

The Starfighter was destined to serve only briefly and in relatively small numbers with the air force of its country of origin. It was to be in the service with the air forces of other nations that the Starfighter was to achieve its reputation. The Starfighter won a large contract for NATO's next-generation multi-role fighter capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and was built in large numbers by a European consortium of aircraft manufacturers from Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and Canada as well as the USA. The Starfighter became an important part of NATO's nuclear deterrent during the 1960s and 1970s, and served with the air forces of Denmark, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Canada, Spain, and Norway. It was also built under license in Japan. The Starfighter also served with the air forces of Jordan, Taiwan, and Pakistan. Although the Starfighter has been superseded by later types in most of the air forces with which it was originally associated, the Starfighter still serves in fairly large numbers with the air forces of Greece, Taiwan, and Italy,

A total of 2580 of all Starfighter types were produced, making the aircraft one of the most important Western postwar military aircraft. However, in the mid-1960s when the Starfighter first entered service in significant numbers, the aircraft was involved in a large number of accidents. Because of the high accident rate, the Starfighter became a controversial aircraft and there were charges that the aircraft was an intrinsically flawed and dangerous design. However, in retrospect, the Starfighter was not intrinsically any more dangerous to fly than lots of other military aircraft of the day, and the high accident rate can be blamed more on inadequate and insufficient crew training rather than on any flaw with the basic design.

The Starfighter had its origin in a November 1952 unsolicited proposal by Lockheed's Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson for a lightweight and relatively unsophisticated air-superiority fighter. Weight and complexity would be minimized in the pursuit of unmatched speed, altitude, and maneuverability. Johnson had visited Korea in December of 1951, and while there he had talked to fighter pilots then flying in combat over North Korea. He asked them what kind of fighter plane would be ideal. Their general consensus was that the trend toward ever-increasing weight and complexity had gotten completely out of hand, and they would gladly trade in their existing fighters for a lighter, less costly fighter with clearly superior speed, ceiling, climb rate, and maneuverability. Following his return to the USA, Johnson tried to convince Lockheed management that they should design a new type of fighter plane, one that was uncomplicated, lightweight, and inexpensive but one that would be able to outperform any other fighter in the world.

Even though the Air Force had no official requirement for such a fighter, Johnson was nevertheless authorized by Lockheed management to proceed with an initial private venture design.

In March of 1952, Johnson assembled a team of first-rate engineers at the famous Skunk Works at Burbank, California to work on the new fighter. The team started with the low-winged Project 227-0-6, which had a MiG-21 type center nose cone intake. This was followed by the mid-mounted delta-winged 227-0-11 with lateral intakes, a flush cockpit in a conical nose, and a high-set tail on top of a sharply-swept vertical fin. The 227-8-1 which appeared a month later reverted to a conventional low/mid-wing layout but weighed about 30,000 pounds. The Model 227-16-2 of a few weeks later was similarly configured but had a chin intake and weighed only 8000 pounds. It featured an ultra-thin straight wing. This design was later scaled way up into the Project 227-13-1, which weighed about 50,000 pounds. At the same time, the team looked at the 227-15-3, which was a rocket-propelled aircraft looking a lot like a stretched Bell X-1. The 227-20-1 of October 1952 completed the Project 227 studies--it stretched the 227-13-1 concept even further but at only half the weight.

In November of 1952 the team started a new series of studies known as Project 242. This time the emphasis was to be on a substantially smaller fighter. The 242-19-1 proposal had a miniscule mid-mounted wing with a V-shaped windshield and a fuselage-mounted tail-plane. Its estimated weight was only 9000 pounds empty. Apart from its tiny dimensions, it had the basic shape and layout of the design which was eventually to emerge as the F-104. The 242-23-1 which appeared at the end of 1952 was a scaled-up version of the earlier proposal and had a stabilizer mounted low on an extended-chord vertical fin. The slightly-smaller 242-27-1 of February 1953 had the stabilizer moved to the top of the vertical fin. This tail arrangement and the 242-27-1's un-raked cheek intakes were then combined with the more elongated Project 246-1-1 which had evolved in the previous few weeks. This was finalized in the spring of 1953 as the Lockheed L-246 or Model 83, which had an empty weight of 12,000 pounds. The maximum takeoff weight weight was only 15,700 pounds, less than half the weight of some of the "Century Series" of fighters that were appearing at the time.

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The L-246 design was based on an ultra-thin low-aspect ratio, symmetrical section trapezoidal wing with a thickness/chord ratio of only 3.36 percent and a quarter-chord sweepback of only 18 degrees. The thin, straight wing had the advantage of providing a high lift potential at low angles of attack and high speeds, but with a penalty of a high induced drag at large angles of attack and in high-g conditions. The leading edge radius was only 0.016 inches, sharp enough to require a felt covering strip during maintenance to protect ground personnel from injury. The wing had 10 degrees of negative dihedral in order to improve roll control during high-G maneuvers and to enhance stability at high speeds and high altitudes. Since the vertical fin was only slightly shorter than each wing main plane, the anhedral was thought necessary to counter a marked roll tendency from rudder application.

The potential flutter problems that might arise from possible aero-elasticity in the thin wings were minimized by the short span, which gained some endplate and damping effects from the mounting of long jettisonable 170-US gallon tip tanks. The aircraft was supposed to be capable of supersonic performance even when these tanks were mounted. It was proposed that the wingtip tanks could be replaced by mounting rails for a Philco Sidewinder GAR-8 AAM.

This wing design was based on earlier Lockheed experience with the X-7 ramjet test vehicle as well as on the results with high-speed rocket flights over the western desert with various wing profiles. Test flights of the Douglas X-3 Stiletto experimental aircraft also played a role in the design of the wing. In order to recoup its losses on the X-3 program, the Air Force had insisted that Douglas deliver the aircraft plans to Lockheed.

Since the wing was so small, special techniques had to be devised to keep the landing speed at an acceptably low level. The Lockheed team employed boundary layer control to increase the amount of lift available at low speeds, thus decreasing the landing speed. This system operated by blowing compressed air from the engine over the trailing edge flaps, reducing turbulence in the boundary layer due to flow separation thus reducing the stalling speed. Full-span leading edge flaps were also fitted, which drooped in coordination with the trailing edge flaps during take-off, landing, and low-speed maneuvering.

The powered, all-flying horizontal tail-plane was mounted atop the vertical fin. It moved as a unit and had no elevator. The tail-plane was situated on top of the vertical fin in order to get it out of the turbulent air flowing over the wings and fuselage. It was hoped that this would help to improve lateral stability at high speeds.

The rocket-like fuselage was of a high fineness ratio (i.e., highly tapered toward the nose). All of the internal fuel was housed inside the fuselage, there being no room for fuel inside the thin wings. There was no space in the wings for the retracted landing gear either, so they had to be accommodated entirely inside the fuselage. The main oleos were mounted on skewed pivots that twisted during forward retraction so that the wheels lay flat in the lower belly.

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The engine was to be the General Electric J79 engine, which was currently under development. It was an outgrowth of the J73 and was known at that time only as the J73-GE-X24A. The proposed J79 was to be capable of producing 9000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,000 lb.s.t. with afterburning. It was designed to be capable of Mach 2 performance. Since the advanced J79 would not be available for several years, the afterburning Wright J65-W-7 was selected as an interim propulsion system for the first few examples.

The engine was to be fed by a set of lateral air intakes, one on each side of the fuselage just ahead of the wing leading edge. Fixed half-cones were to be incorporated in the lateral air intakes to reduce the speed of the air entering the engine. These half-cones were supposed to reduce Mach 2 airflow to about Mach 0.7 at the engine's face.

A downward-firing ejection seat system was selected, since it was feared that conventional upward ejection would be highly dangerous if not impossible at the high speeds at which the CL-246 would be operating.

On October 31, 1952, Johnson presented the CL-246 proposal to Lockheed management. They were enthusiastic, and gave him the go-ahead to present it to the Air Force. Even though the USAF did not have a standing requirement for such a fighter, the USAF thought sufficiently highly of the general idea that they issued a General Operational Requirement on December 12, 1952 for a lightweight air-superiority fighter to replace the North American F-100 in the Tactical Air Command beginning in 1956. However, in order to be completely fair, the USAF had to request competitive bids for the project from the aviation industry.

In response to the request for proposals, Republic submitted its Model AP-55, based on its XF-91 Thunderceptor, but with a solid rounded nose and NASA-developed flush-type engine air intakes. North American submitted its Model NA-212, which was an advanced version of the Super Sabre which eventually emerged as the F-107. Northrop submitted its Model N-102 Fang, a proposal for a J79-powered aircraft fed by a ventral, bifurcated air intake.

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Lockheed's head start was just too much for the competitors to overcome, and in January of 1953, Lockheed's proposal was selected. On March 12, 1953 a letter contract for two prototypes was issued under Weapon System 303A (WS-303A). The designation XF-104 was assigned. Lockheed assigned the aircraft the company designation of Model 083-92-01.

Under the guidance of Clarence R. "Kelly" Johnson and project engineer Bill Ralston, the project rapidly moved ahead. The mockup was inspected on April 30, 1953, and at that time it was decided to substitute a single General Electric Vulcan Gatling-type cannon (then under development and known as the T-171) in place of the two 30-mm cannon originally proposed. The T-171 (later to be designated M61) cannon was to be mounted on the left side of the fuselage and was projected to be capable of firing up to 6000 rounds per minute. The cannon was 72 inches long and weighed about 300 pounds. It was to be fed by a 725-round drum of ammunition. The cannon was to be integrated with a Type K-19 fire-control system and incorporated an AN/APG-34 radar and a computing gun-sight.

The first prototypes were to be powered by a non-afterburning Wright J65 turbojet (license-built Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire), but production aircraft were to be powered by a single afterburning Wright J65. The J65 would serve as the interim powerplant until the more advanced J79 could be ready.

Construction of the first prototype XF-104 (53-7786) began in the summer of 1953 at Lockheed's Burbank, California factory. This aircraft initially was powered by a non-afterburning Buick-built Wright J65-B-3 turbojet. Construction of the second prototype (53-7787)--the armament test bed--began in the autumn of 1953, but work on this aircraft proceeded at a slower pace in case revisions were needed. The air intakes of the two XF-104s were of fixed geometry without presence of half-cones, since the J65-powered aircraft was incapable of Mach-2 performance. The air intakes were similar to those of the F-94C, being mounted slightly proud of the fuselage, with an inner splitter plate for the boundary layer bleed.

The first XF-104 (53-7786) was ready in early 1954, and was trucked out to Edwards AFB in high secrecy during the night of February 24-25. Veteran Lockheed test pilot A. W. "Tony" LeVier was to do the initial testing. Taxiing runs began on February 27, 1954. On February 28, 1954, the XF-104 made an scheduled short hop of about five feet off the ground during a high speed taxiing run. Its first official flight took place on March 4, 1954. During that flight, the landing gear would not retract. After a low-speed flight of about 20 minutes, Tony LeVier landed. Some adjustments were made, and LeVier took off again, but the landing gear still would not retract. The problem turned out to be low pressure in the hydraulic system, which was fairly easy to correct. However, inclement weather kept the XF-104 on the ground until March 26, when flights three and four were carried out with the landing gear retracting adequately.

The XF-104's original yaw damper was ineffective, allowing the nose to wander left and right. This problem was corrected by revising the rudder-centering device.

The XF-104 could not exceed the speed of sound in level flight when powered by the non-afterburning J65-B-3 turbojet. However, Mach 1 could be easily exceeded during a slight descent, and the transition to supersonic speed was quite smooth.

In July of 1954, the J65-B-3 non-afterburning engine was replaced by the long-awaited afterburning J65-W-7 turbojet rated at 7800 lb.s.t. dry and 10,200 lb.s.t. with afterburner. In that same month, 17 more service test aircraft were ordered. They were also to be powered by the J65-W-7.

With the afterburning engine installed, the performance of the XF-104 was markedly improved. Maximum level speed was Mach 1.49 at 41,000 feet, and an altitude of 55,000 feet could be attained in a zoom climb. Mach 1.6 could be attained in a dive.

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                     XF / YF-104                   Wooden Mockup

The second prototype (53-7787) flew on October 5, 1954. It was fitted with the afterburning J65 from the start. Since it was to be the armament test bed, it was fitted with the 20-mm Vulcan cannon and was equipped with an AN/ASG-14T-1 fire control system. Initial aerial firing tests with the Vulcan cannon were successful, but on December 17, there was an explosion during a firing burst, and the J65 engine started to run rough. Test pilot Tony LeVier immediately shut down his engine and glided back to make a successful dead-stick landing at Rogers Dry Lake. An investigation later showed that one of the 20-mm cannon rounds had exploded in the breech, blowing the bolt out the rear of the gun and into the forward fuselage fuel cell. Jet fuel gushed into the gun bay, and leaked out of the gun bay door joints and into the left engine air intake. The engine immediately flooded with fuel, choking it to death. Tony LeVier was lucky to be alive.

XF-104 number one achieved a top speed of Mach 1.79 at 60,000 feet on March 15, 1955. Lockheed test pilot J. Ray Goudey was at the controls. This was the highest speed achieved by either of the XF-104 prototypes.

The second prototype (53-7787) was lost on April 14, 1955 when test pilot Herman R. "Fish" Salmon was forced to eject during gun-firing trials at 50,000 feet. The gun malfunctioned during a test firing, and severe vibrations began to build up which knocked loose the ejection hatch on the belly of the plane. Cabin pressure was immediately lost, and Salmon's pressure suit pumped up and covered his face so that he could not see. Recalling Tony LeVier's harrowing experience with the exploding cannon shell the previous December, Salmon believed that the same thing had happened to him and that he had no option but to eject. This he did. He later found out that he could have saved 53-7787 by simply bringing it down to a lower altitude and waiting for his pressure suit to deflate.

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With the loss of the armament testbed, Lockheed engineers were forced to find an alternative. Armament trials were continued on a modified Lockheed F-94C Starfire.

The first XF-104 was accepted by the USAF in November of 1955. XF-104 number 1 was lost in a crash on July 11, 1957, when it developed an uncontrollable tail flutter while flying chase for F-104A flight tests. The entire tail group was ripped from the airframe, and Lockheed test pilot Bill Park was forced to eject.

Consequently, no XF-104 prototype survives today.

Serials of Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter

53-7786/7787 	Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter 
			c/n 083-1001/1002 

 

 

The Lockheed YF-104A Starfighter

 

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In July of 1954, the USAF decided to purchase 17 service test aircraft under the designation YF-104A. This was done under a "fly-before-you-buy" philosophy, under which these aircraft would participate in development tests before any commitment to large-scale production was made. If large-scale production was actually undertaken, these YF-104As could later be brought up to full production standard and delivered to operational units.

Fearing that the General Electric J79 turbojet might not be ready in time, the first service test Starfighters were to be powered by the afterburning J65 turbojet. However, the J79 engine was flight tested by the Navy in a borrowed Navy XF4D in December of 1955, and it was concluded that early versions of the General Electric J79 engine should be available by the time that the YF-104A was ready, and the service test aircraft were built with the General Electric engine in mind.

The seventeen YF-104A service test aircraft (serials 55-2955/2971) were powered by early experimental versions of the General Electric J79 engine instead of the J65 engine which powered the XF-104s. The YF-104A aircraft were initially fitted with the General Electric XJ79-JE-3 turbojet, rated at 9300 lb.s.t. dry and 14,800 lb.s.t. with afterburning. The YF-104A differed from the XF-104 in having a 5 feet 6 inch extension in the length of the fuselage to accommodate the new J79 engine. The vertical fin was slightly taller, raising the overall height from 12.7 feet to 13.49 feet. A forward-retracting nose-wheel replaced the rearward-retracting unit of the XF-104, in order to provide improved ejection seat clearance out of the bottom of the aircraft. A narrow dorsal spine was added to the upper fuselage. Two additional fuel cells were installed in the fuselage. The air intakes were modified in shape and were fitted with half-cone center bodies which had been omitted from the two XF-104s. The fixed-geometry central intake shock cone had an internal bleed slot which exhausted some intake air through the fuselage for afterburner cooling and helped to reduce the aircraft's base drag. An AN/ASG-14T1 fire control system was fitted, plus AN/ARN-56 TACAN. There were provisions for four under-wing and one under-fuselage stores pylon.

With an empty weight increased only slightly to 12,561 pounds, the YF-104A maximum takeoff weight (clean) rose to 15,700 pounds for the XF-104 to 18,881 pounds. With provision for four under-wing and one fuselage stores pylon, the maximum takeoff weight was 24,584 pounds.

The first YF-104A (55-2955) was completed in February of 1956, and was trucked out in high secrecy to Edwards AFB. It made its first flight there on February 17, 1956, with Lockheed test pilot Herman "Fish" Salmon at the controls.

On February 16, 1956, the second YF-104A (55-2956) was used for a media-covered official rollout ceremony at Lockheed's Burbank factory. This was the first display of the Starfighter to the public. Before that, there had been only rumors in the aviation press about the existence of a truly revolutionary new fighter aircraft, plus a few speculative drawings. The engine air intakes were covered with temporary fairings, since the Air Force didn't want people to see the half-cones in the air intakes.

The first Starfighter photographs were released in the spring of 1956. These were limited to air-to-air shots of the prototype and ground photos of YF-104A 55-2956 with the intake fairings still fitted. It was not until mid-1956 that the J79-engined F-104 lateral intakes were finally revealed to the public.

The J79 engine provided a spectacular improvement in performance. 55-2955 reached Mach 2 on February 28, 1956, becoming the first fighter aircraft capable of double-sonic speed in level flight.

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An initial order for production F-104As was issued on October 14, 1956.

Together with the first 35 production F-104As, all seventeen YF-104As were used for flight-test and to evaluate early versions of the J79 (the -3, -3A, and -3B) engine, the Vulcan cannon, the AIM-9 (formerly GAR-8) Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the wingtip-mounted fuel tanks. Airframe strengthening and local redesign were progressively introduced. Various forms of flap blowing were tested, and a ventral fin was introduced to improve directional stability at supersonic speed. Some YF-104As were also used to test wingtip racks for either 170 US-gallon drop tanks or Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles.

On May 7, 1958, Major Howard C. Johnson reached an altitude of 91,249 feet in a zoom climb at Edwards AFB in California, setting a new altitude record. On May 16, 1958, Captain Walter W. Irwin flying a YF-104A set a new world's air speed record of 1404.19 mph flying over a 15/25 kilometer course at Edwards AFB. For the first time in history, the same aircraft type held both the world speed and altitude records at the same time.

A large percentage of the seventeen YF-104As were lost in crashes during the test program. At the end of this program, the surviving YF-104As were brought up to F-104A production status and were turned over to USAF squadrons for duty. Following the withdrawal of the F-104A from active service in 1960, at least four of the ex-YF-104As (55-2956, 2957, 2969, 2971) were converted into unmanned QF-104A target drones. They were all most likely shot down during tests.

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Of the seventeen YF-104As built, only two are known to survive today. The first survivor is the seventh YF-104A (55-2961). This aircraft was transferred to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in August of 1956. It was initially numbered 018, which was later changed to a civilian registration of N818NA. In 1958, NACA was reorganized as NASA, and the YF-104A remained with NASA until November of 1975. This aircraft is now hanging in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. I saw it there in October of 1993. The other survivor is the thirteenth YF-104A (55-2967). It is now on display at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I remember seeing it sitting outside the Chapel when I visited the Air Force Academy in 1971.

 

Serials of Lockheed YF-104A Starfighter

55-2955/2971 	Lockheed YF-104A Starfighter 
			c/n 183-1001/1017 

 

The Lockheed F-104A Starfighter

 

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The F-104A (company designation Model 183-92-02) was the initial production version of the Starfighter. In a contract approved on March 2, 1956, the USAF ordered 146 production F-104As. This brought the total F-104A procurement to 170 aircraft, including the service test YF-104As.

As compared to the service-test YF-104As, production F-104As featured a strengthened airframe that was stressed for 7.33-G maneuvers. An aft-mounted ventral fin was fitted on the centerline to improve directional stability at high speeds and high altitudes. Various flap-blowing boundary layer control systems were fitted. The interim AN/ASG-14T-1 radar fire control system was installed, which was later replaced by the more capable AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system.

Because of its boundary layer control system, the landing speed of the F-104A was only five percent higher than that of earlier fighters. The boundary layer system operated in connection with the wing flaps. When the flaps passed the fifteen-degree mark during extension, the bleed air valves began to open and reached the fully open position when the flaps are all the way down at 45 degrees. The highly-compressed air needed to operate the system was taken from the 17th compressor stage of the engine and ducted into the wing and out over the upper flap surfaces via a set of slots lined up along the trailing edge flap hinge line. This air flow reduced air turbulence in the boundary layer due to flow separation, thus decreasing the stalling speed and making lower landing speeds possible.

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Full-span leading-edge flaps operated in conjunction with the trailing edge flaps for takeoff, landing, and low-speed maneuvering. The aileron system was interconnected with the flap system in such a way that when the flaps were fully up, aileron travel was limited to 65 percent. The entire horizontal stabilizer was pivoted aft of the fin mid-chord line and moved as a single unit. There was no elevator. A speed brakes was located on each side of the aft fuselage.

An automatic pitch control system provided advance warning of an impending stall. As the stall approached, the system energized a stick shaker to warn the pilot. Should the pilot ignore the warning and persist in maintaining the same attitude, the system would automatically apply a forward stick force.

The first 35 F-104As delivered to the USAF were involved in a protracted series of flight tests during which changes and improvements were progressively introduced on successive batches coming off the production line.

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The F-104A had originally been scheduled to replace the F-100 Super Sabres of the TAC beginning in 1956. However, by the time that the F-104A was finally ready for delivery, Air Force requirements had changed. The Starfighter's relatively low endurance and its lack of ability to carry a significant offensive weapons load made it no longer suitable for the TAC. Consequently the TAC lost all interest in the F-104A even before it was scheduled to enter service. This might ordinarily have been the end of the line for the F-104A. However, delays in the delivery of the Convair F-106 Delta Dart Mach 2+ interceptor to the Air Defense Command had at that time become worrisome, and the USAF decided to go ahead and accept the F-104As originally destined for the TAC and assign them to the ADC as a stopgap measure. The selection of the F-104A for the ADC was sort of curious, since it had not been originally designed as an interceptor and it lacked an adequate endurance and had no all-weather capability. However, its high climb rate made it attractive to the ADC and it was hoped that the Starfighter could fill in until the F-106 became available.

First to get the F-104A was the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton AFB in California, which became operational with the type on February 20, 1958. Next to acquire the F-104A were the 56th FIS at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, the 337th FIS at Westover AFB in Massachusetts, and the 538th FIS at Larson AFB in Washington.

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The F-104A was initially powered by the J79-GE-3 or -3A turbojet. These engines proved to be quite unreliable in service and were responsible for several crashes and in-flight emergencies during testing. Among the engine problems were flameouts, oil depletions, roughness, backfires, and ignition failures. These engine problems resulted in the grounding of all F-104As in April of 1958 after only a few months of service. Most of the failures were traced to problems with the J79's variable afterburner nozzle. When the afterburner was turned on, it would often get stuck in the open position after it was turned off, which restricted engine power to not much above idle thrust, which was insufficient to maintain level flight, forcing the pilot to make a hasty exit from the aircraft. The early F-104As also lacked modulated afterburning, which meant that they could only be operated full on or full off, which effectively meant a level speed choice of either Mach 1 or Mach 2.2.

A more reliable version of the J79, the -3B rated at 9600 lb.s.t. dry and 14,800 lb.s.t. with afterburning, was developed and retrofitted into existing F-104As beginning in April of 1958. The F-104As were returned to flight status in July of 1958. However, the safety record of the F-104A continued to compare unfavorably with other "Century Series" fighters, and crashes remained fairly frequent.

In June of 1958, English Electric test pilot Roland Beaumont test flew an F-104A. He was quite critical of the Starfighter. He found the aircraft to have inadequate directional damping, evidenced by a persistent low-amplitude short-period oscillation throughout most of the flight regime. The use of a thin, highly-loaded wing had a severe adverse effect on the turning maneuverability. There were excessive break-out forces of the power-controlled ailerons. At high angles of attack, the high-set stabilator would tend to stall in the wing downwash, and a departure into a flat spin was often the result. Recovery from such a flat spin was usually possible only if there was sufficient height so that increased engine power could be applied to accelerate the aircraft back into controlled flight. Beaumont found that subsonic handling properties were unpleasant and particularly dangerous in take-off and landing configuration and were not compatible with bad weather operation. He predicted that the F-104 was likely to suffer a high accident rate in operation.

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The M61 Vulcan cannon initially fitted to the YF-104A suffered from excessive vibration during firing and from occasional premature detonation of its 20-mm shells. The cannon also had a problem with handling high-G stresses during its early development stages. Things got so bad that on November 1, 1957 the Air Force decided that these cannon should not be installed in any more production F-104As and should be removed from existing F-104As until the problems could be fixed. Consequently, for a long time USAF Starfighters actually served without any cannon armament being installed, relying on the wingtip-mounted Sidewinders as their sole armament. In 1964, after the improved and vastly more reliable M61A1 was made available, the F-104As finally got their full armament.

The first F-104As were fitted with Lockheed-designed downward-firing ejector seats. Lockheed engineers had feared that upward-firing ejections would not be safe at the speeds at which the F-104 would be flying, the seat supposedly being unable to clear the tall vertical tail at such high speeds. Consequently, they opted for a downward-firing ejection system. The system was the first fully-automatic downward-firing ejection system ever employed in a production fighter. When the pilot initiated the ejection sequence by pulling the ejection ring, an automatic sequence of events was initiated. First, the cockpit depressurized and the flight control stick retracted. The parachute shoulder harness then tightened and the pilot's feet were pulled together and clamped into place. The escape hatch was then blown off the bottom of the aircraft and the seat fired, ejecting the pilot out the bottom of the airplane. This system proved to be unsafe in service, since it was useless for emergencies that occurred during landings, takeoffs, or anywhere near the ground. In order to eject safely at low altitudes, the pilot would first have to roll his aircraft inverted and then eject upward out of the bottom of the plane. This was of course not always feasible, and the famous test pilot Iven C. Kincheloe was among 21 F-104 aircrew to be killed by the deficiencies in this escape system. Consequently, the downward ejection system was quite unpopular with F-104A pilots and was replaced in the field by the more conventional Lockheed C-2 upward-firing ejector seat.

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A total of 153 F-104As were built in seven production blocks-- F-104A-1-LO to F-104A-30-LO. The last F-104A was delivered in December of 1958. The number built was far less than originally planned. Only 170 F-104As and YF-104As were ultimately acquired out of the 722 originally planned. Shortages of funds due to the needs of other programs accounted for some of the reduction, whereas the decision by TAC not to acquire the F-104A accounted for the rest of the shortfall.

The YF-104A had already set the world altitude and speed records. In December of 1958, an F-104A flown alternately by Lt William T. Smith and Einar K. Enevoldson over a two-day period at NAS Point Mugu, California set several time-to-climb records: 3000 meters (9842 feet) in 41.35 seconds, 6000 meters in 51.41 seconds, 9000 meters in 81.14 seconds, 15,000 meters (49,212 feet) in 131.1 seconds, 20,000 meeters in 222.99 seconds, and 25,000 meters (82,020 feet) in 266.03 seconds.

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In October 1958, twelve F-104As of the 83rd FIS at Hamilton AFB were crated and airlifted by C-124 transport to Taiwan, where they served temporarily with the Republic of China Air Force during the Quemoy crisis. The crisis was peacefully resolved, and the aircraft were returned to the USA.

As one might have expected, the F-104A was not very well suited for service as an interceptor. Its low range was a problem for North American air defense, and its lack of all-weather capability made it incapable of operating in conjunction with the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) system. Service with the ADC was consequently quite brief, and the F-104As of the ADC were replaced by the end of 1960 by more heavily-armed all-weather McDonnell F-101B Voodoos and Convair F-106A Delta Darts.

The ADC's F-104As were then transferred in 1960 to three Air National Guard squadrons, the 151st FIS of the Tennessee ANG, the 157th FIS of the South Carolina ANG, and the 197th FIS of the Arizona ANG. These three ANG F-104A squadrons were called up for active duty during the Berlin crisis of 1961 and were deployed to Europe. Following the defusing of the Berlin crisis, these squadrons all returned to the USA by June of 1962 and reverted to state control. However, their F-104As were retained by the USAF and were transferred to two other ADC units, the 319th and 331st FIS at Homestead AFB in Florida as part of the 32nd Air Division. For some odd reason, these two squadrons exchanged their all-weather F-102s and F-106s for these day-only F-104As, which would seem at first sight to make no sense.

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These ADC F-104As remained in service for several years. From late 1967, 26 aircraft of the 319th FIS were retrofitted with the more powerful J79-GE-19, rated at 17,900 lb.s.t. with afterburner, which was the same type of engine fitted to the F-104S version developed for Italy. The last USAF squadron to operate the F-104A, the 319th FIS, was disbanded in December of 1969, marking the final end of service of the F-104A with active duty squadrons.

In 1960, after the decision to withdraw the Starfighter from ADC, twenty-four YF-104A and F-104A aircraft (exact ratio uncertain) deemed surplus to USAF requirements were modified as QF-104A radio-controlled target drones. They were painted pillar-box red overall and were operated by the 3205th Drone Squadron at Eglin AFB in Florida. These planes could be flown by onboard pilots or they could be flown by remote control from the ground or from other aircraft. Most of them were expended in missile firing tests.

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The unsuitability of the F-104A for air defense duties with the USAF led to the release of some F-104As for export. The air forces of Taiwan, Pakistan, and Jordan were provided with several F-104As from surplus USAF stocks. Most of the other F-104As which had not been lost to attrition or transferred to foreign air forces went to the bone-yards at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona.

One F-104A (serial number 56-770) was lent to the Royal Canadian Air Force as the model aircraft for the Canadian version of the Starfighter. Its Canadian serial number was 12700.

Three F-104As (serial numbers 56-756, -760, and -762) were modified as NF-104A aerospace pilot trainers. These will be described more fully in a later article.

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Two F-104As (serial numbers 56-734 and 56-749) were transferred to NACA in October of 1957. They served as high-speed chase aircraft. 56-749 crashed in December of 1962. A third F-104A (56-790) was transferred to NASA in December of 1966.

Design work on an unarmed photographic reconnaissance version of the Starfighter was begun in November of 1954. The designation was RF-104A, with the company designation being Model 383-93-04. However, a contract for eighteen aircraft (56-939/956) was cancelled in January of 1957 before anything could be completed.

A proposed unarmed two-seat training version of the Starfighter, the TF-104A, was not proceeded with, since the Air Force preferred the combat-capable F-104B.

 

Serials of the F-104A:

56-0730/0736		Lockheed F-104A-1-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1018/1024
56-0737/0747		Lockheed F-104A-5-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1025/1035
56-0748/0763		Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1036/1051
56-0764/0788		Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1052/1076
56-0789/0825		Lockheed F-104A-20-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1077/1113
56-0826/0877		Lockheed F-104A-25-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1114/1165
56-0878/0882		Lockheed F-104A-30-LO Starfighter
				c/n 183-1166/1170
56-0939/0956		Cancelled contract for Lockheed RF-104A Starfighter

 

Specification of the F-104A:

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Engine: One General Electric J79-GE-3A/3B turbojet, 9600 lbs. t. dry and 14,800 lbs. t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed 1037 mph at 50,000 feet. Stalling speed 198 mph. Initial climb rate 60,395 feet per minute. Combat ceiling 55,200 feet. Service ceiling was 64,795 feet. Normal range 730 miles. Maximum range with external drop tanks 1400 miles. Fuel: Internal fuel capacity was 897 US gallons, and maximum fuel capacity with two wingtip tanks and two under-wing tanks was 1627 US gallons. Dimensions: Wingspan 21 feet 9 inches, length 54 feet 8 inches, height 13 feet 5 inches, wing area 196.1 square feet. Weights: 13,184 pounds empty, 17,988 pounds combat, 22,614 pounds gross, 25,840 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: Armament consisted of a single 20-mm M61A1 cannon in the fuselage with 725 rounds, plus a pair of wingtip-mounted AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared homing air-to-air missiles. Alternatively, these wingtip shoes could carry a 141.5 or a 166.5 Imp. gall. drop-tank.

 

 

The F-104 In Combat

 

The only combat seen by the F-104A/B was in foreign hands. Ten ex-USAF F-104As and two F-104Bs were transferred to the Pakistani Air Force in 1961. They were provided to Pakistan in response to proposed Indian Air Force Mach 2 fighter acquisition, later to be fulfilled by acquisition of the Soviet MiG 21. India had actually attempted to buy 36 F-104s from the US in September of 1961 in response to Chinese border attacks, but had been rebuffed.

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The Pakistani F-104s were supplied to No 9 Squadron based at Sargodha, replacing the piston-engine Hawker Furys previously serving with this squadron. They were initially delivered without their Vulcan cannon, which were fitted later. Some reports indicate that before delivery, these aircraft were retrofitted with the more powerful and stall-free J79-GE-11A engine rated at 15,800 lb.s.t. with afterburner. In addition, a retractable hook was fitted beneath the rear fuselage to engage emergency runway arrestor wires.

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By the time of the 1965 war with India, such was the fearsome reputation of the F-104 that during an early encounter between a pair of PAF Starfighters with IAF Folland Gnats, one of these diminutive Indian fighters immediately surrendered, lowering its wheels and landing at the nearest Pakistani airfield without a shot being fired. On September 6, a PAF F-104A flying at 600 knots shot down an IAF Mystere IVA with a Sidewinder missile, and next day another IAF Mystere was shot down by the Vulcan cannon of another F-104. However, the F-104 pilot making the kill make the mistake of slowing down to dogfight with another IAF Mystere, which out-turned him and scored cannon hits on his F-104, forcing him to eject.

The F-104A was able to make at least one successful non-visual interception of a high-flying IAF Canberra, which took place on September 21.

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The first encounter in history between Mach 2 fighters took place on September 11, 1965. A single PAF F-104A encountered four IAF MiG-21s from Halwara. The F-104 managed to escape by exiting the combat at tree-top height and Mach 1.1, which the MiG-21s were unable to match. No blood was drawn during this encounter.

When it found itself confronted with the Indian Air Force's diminutive Folland Gnats, the Pakistani F-104As often found themselves outmaneuvered. This was especially true if the Starfighter pilot chose not to use his Mach 2 speed advantage and decided instead to engage in low-speed dogfights with his opponents. In addition, since most of the air-to-air fighting occurred at low altitudes, the Starfighter's Sidewinder air-to-air missiles were often unable to distinguish between target aircraft and ground clutter and a lot of missiles missed their targets. However, the Starfighter's afterburner enabled it to break off combat at will and get out of trouble in a hurry.

During the 1965 war with India, the PAF F-104s flew 246 sorties, including 42 at night and claimed four IAF aircraft destroyed for the loss of two F-104As. Two F-104As were delivered from Taiwan as attrition replacements following the 1965 war.

A US arms embargo imposed on both India and Pakistan after the 1965 war had prevented further PAF expansion, and by the early 1970s the PAF's Mach 2 fighter strength was down to only seven single-seat Starfighters with No. 9 Squadron, plus a single Mirage III unit.

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War between Pakistan and India broke out again on December 7, 1971. By this time the Indian MiG force was formidable, with eight squadrons operationally ready. During the 1971 war with India, No 9 Squadron of the Royal Jordanian Air Force with about 10 F-104As was transferred to Pakistan to help out. It is not certain if the Jordanian F-104As were actually used in combat and if they were, whether they were flown by Pakistani or Jordanian pilots.

Both sides have published wildly differing figures for air victories and losses during this war, although it appears that the F-104 came off second-best in the few encounters that occurred with IAF MiG-21s--with the F-104s scoring no confirmed victories and suffering at least two losses. Indian air historians claim that five PAF Starfighters were lost in combat, and they also claim that two Jordanian Starfighters were shot down by MiG-21s on the last day (December 17) of the 1971 war. The PAF has admitted that two PAF Starfighters were lost in combat with IAF MiG-21s during the 1971 war, plus another one lost to ground fire. According to Pakistani sources, nine IAF MiG-21s were shot down on the Western front, with two of them being shot down by PAF fighters (one by an Chinese-built F-6 and another by a F-86 Sabre). The PAF has admitted that the maneuverability of the F-104 was poor during close-in combat and that the F-6 and F-86 were far better in a dogfight.

These losses would have left the PAF with only four of its original F-104As, although these may have supplemented by retention of some of the RJAF F-104As after the end of the war. No. 9 Squadron of the PAF continued to operate these F-104As until re-equipping with Mirage 5PAs in 1975. F-104A 56-0798 still sits on display at Sargodha. This was an ex-RoCAF machine.

 

 

The Lockheed NF-104A Starfighter

 

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In 1963, three ex-USAF F-104As (56-756, -760, and -762) were taken out of storage at Davis Monthan AFB and modified as NF-104A aerospace training aircraft. All of the military equipment was removed and the original F-104A vertical fin was replaced by the larger fin that was used on the F-104G. The wingspan was increased by four feet (to 25.94 feet) and a set of hydrogen peroxide control thrusters were mounted at the nose, tail, and wingtips. A 6000 pound thrust Rocketdyne LR121/AR-2-NA-1 auxiliary rocket engine was mounted on the tail above the jet exhaust pipe. This rocket engine could be throttled from 3000 to 6000 pounds of thrust, and the burn time was about 105 seconds.

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The first NF-104A was delivered on October 1, 1963, with the other two following a month later. They were operated by the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, which was commanded at that time by Colonel Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager.

On December 6, 1963, the first NF-104A set an unofficial world altitude record of 118,860 feet for aircraft taking off under their own power. The official record at that time was 113,829 feet, set by the Mikoyan/Gurevich Ye-66A, an experimental version of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Later, the same NF-104A flown by Major R. W. Smith reached an altitude of 120,800 feet.

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On December 10, 1963, the second NF-104A (56-762), with Chuck Yeager at the controls, went out of control at an altitude of 104,000 feet and fell in a flat spin to 11,000 feet. Yeager managed to eject successfully at that altitude, although he was badly burned on his face by the rocket motor of his ejector seat. The aircraft was destroyed in the ensuing crash. An investigation later showed that the cause of the crash was a spin that resulted from excessive angle of attack and lack of aircraft response. The excessive angle of attack was not caused by pilot input but by a gyroscopic condition set up by the J79 engine spooling after shut down for the rocket-powered zoom climb phase. So it wasn't Chuck's fault.

In June of 1971, the third NF-104A, with Capt. Howard C. Thompson at the controls, suffered an in-flight explosion of its rocket motor. Although Thompson was able to land safely, the aircraft's rocket motor and half its rudder were blown away. Since the program was about to end in any case, this aircraft was retired.

                                                 

Chuck Yeager & The NF-104A

 

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 The number one NF-104A is currently on display on top of a pylon in front of the  USAF Test Pilot School.
 
OFFICE OF INFORMATION,
AIR FORCE FLIGHT TEST CENTER, 
AIR FORCE SYSTEMS COMMAND
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA

Lockheed NF-104A


MISSION: Aerospace Trainer
POWER PLANT: J-79 Jet Engine
ADDITIONAL POWER PLANT: LR-1212/AR2 Rocket Engine of 6,000 lbs. thrust
WEIGHT, FULLY SERVICED: 22,000 pounds
MAXIMUM ALTITUDE: over 120,000 feet
CONTRACTOR: Lockheed (airframe and modification)
USING AGENCY: Aerospace Research Pilot School

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The NF-104 aerospace trainer is a modified F-104A airplane, incorporating a liquid fuel rocket engine in addition to the conventional turbojet engine. The modification was done to allow flight in regimes and under conditions not obtainable with available operational airplanes. The aircraft is used to provide spaceflight training at a fraction of the cost of fully rocket-powered research aircraft.

The NF-104's extra power comes from a 6,000-pound thrust rocket engine built into the tail of the aircraft which allows the plane to reach altitudes of over 120,000 feet where the atmospheric pressure is only one-one hundredth that of the earth's surface. Control at these altitudes is accomplished through the use of hydrogen peroxide controls which are used to maneuver the craft just as is the case with the X-15 and manned space capsules orbiting the earth.

 Other modifications to the aircraft include the extension of the wing tips 24 inches to house the reaction control jets that act as ailerons to control roll in the thinner air and the substitution of a larger vertical tail and the forward extension of the engine air inlet cone for better pressure recovery and thrust. The nose cone also contains reaction control jets for pitch and yaw control at high altitudes.

The aircraft enables pilots to experience the effects of zero gravity flight in addition to the previously mentioned operational advantages. This zero gravity or zero "Gs" as it is commonly called, is accomplished through what is called a zoom maneuver whereby the aircraft flies a ballistic arc, and in going "over the top" the pilot experiences over a minute of weightlessness or no gravity.

 

 

More On The NF-104-A

The F-104 Ejection Seat

 

The Lockheed F-104C Starfighter

 

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The F-104C (Lockheed Model 483-04-05) was the tactical strike version of the Starfighter. It was designed to meet the needs of the Tactical Air Command (TAC), which had earlier found the F-104A to be unacceptable because of its low endurance and its inability to carry significant offensive payloads.

The choice of the F-104C by the TAC after it had found the F-104A to be unsuitable seems sort of odd, but the TAC felt that it needed a supersonic tactical strike fighter to fill the void between the forthcoming F-100C and the Mach 2-capable Republic F-105 Thunderchief. On March 2, 1956, a contract was approved for the initial procurement of 56 F-104Cs. The order was later increased to 77 when a second order for 21 more F-104Cs was approved on December 26, 1956. Planned orders for another 363 F-104Cs were later cancelled when the USAF terminated all of its Starfighter production plans.

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The first F-104C, unofficially designated YF-104C, took off on its maiden flight on July 24, 1958. The F-104C was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-7 engine rated at 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,800 lb.s.t. with afterburner. This thrust was almost a thousand pounds greater than the -3A/3B of the F-104A/B. This increase in power was made possible by increasing the diameter of the turbine by 3 inches.

The F-104C could also be equipped with a fixed but removable in-flight refueling probe attached to the port side of the fuselage.

The F-104C was designed mainly for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons, which it could carry on a centerline pylon attachment which had a 2000-pound capacity. It could carry the Mark 28 and Mark 43 nuclear weapons. Although some references claim that a 225 US gallon drop-tank could be carried on this centerline pylon, it was exclusively a weapons pylon and was not plumbed to take fuel ports.

The F-104C was equipped with the improved AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system which replaced the F-104A's AN/ASG-14T-1. It made the F-104C capable of operating in clear night as well as in day conditions, although the F-104C was not truly capable of all-weather operations.

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The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on under-wing and fuselage points. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry a Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip. It has been reported that the F-104C was not actually equipped with an internal cannon until the improved M61A1 became available, but this appears to be wrong since the F-104C was equipped with the M61 from its first delivery to the 479th TFW.

The first F-104Cs began to reach the TAC in September of 1958. It served with four squadrons (434th, 435th, 436th, and 476th) of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing based at George AFB. It was primarily intended for nuclear strike, but it could also carry out ground attack missions with conventional weapons.

On December 14, 1959, an F-104C flown by Captain Joe B. Jordan boosted the world's altitude record to 103,395.5 feet. This was the first time that an aircraft taking off under its own power exceeded the 100,000-foot mark. During the flight, the aircraft also reached a speed of Mach 2.36 and established a time-to-height record to 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) of 15 minutes 4.92 seconds from brake release.

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In October 1961, F-104Cs were subjected to Project Grindstone, a program in which the Lockheed factory modernized the fighter. Among the changes made was the addition of a catamaran-shaped device which enabled another pair of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to be mounted underneath the fuselage. When this device was attached, the nuclear weapon could not be carried. The device was not popular in the field as it had an extremely high drag and the glass seeker heads of the Sidewinder missiles tended to get badly pitted by dust and debris kicked up by the nose wheel. The aircraft was also given the ability to carry and deliver a larger variety of air-to-ground weapons, including 2.75-inch rockets, napalm, and gravity bombs.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, the 479th TFW's F-104Cs were deployed to Key West, Florida to carry out air strikes against targets in Cuba in case an invasion proved to be necessary. Fortunately, the crisis was peacefully resolved.

The F-104C had a number of operational problems with various components. The major offender was the J79-GE-7 engine--forty serious mishaps occurred over a five-year period, destroying 24 aircraft and killing 9 pilots. This led to Project Seven Up, a General Electric modification program for the engine which began in May of 1963 and ended in June of 1964.

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During the early days of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese fighter aircraft became a problem for attacking USAF and US Navy strike aircraft. On April 3, 1965, three North Vietnamese Mig-17s attacked a strike package near the Dong Phuong Thong bridge and damaged a Crusader and then escaped unscathed. The next day, two MiG-17s attacked a flight of four F-105s and shot two of them down. In order to meet this new threat, an EC-121D College Eye unit was dispatched to extend radar warning coverage over NVN, and TAC was asked to deploy F-104s to escort the EC-121s over the Gulf of Tonkin and to provide a MiG screen for USAF strike aircraft over NVN.

In April of 1965, a single squadron (the 476th TFS) of the 479th TFW deployed with their F-104Cs to Kung Kuan AB in Taiwan, with regular rotations to the forward base at Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. Their job was to fly MiG combat air patrol (MiGCAP) missions to protect American fighter bombers against attack by North Vietnamese fighters. They flew these missions armed with their single M61A1 20-mm cannon and four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The effect of F-104 deployment upon NVN and PRC MiG operations was immediate and dramatic--NVN MiGs soon learned to avoid contact with USAF strikes being covered by F-104s. During the entire deployment of the 476th only two fleeting encounters between F-104Cs and enemy fighters occurred.

 As the MiG threat abated, the 476th TFS was tasked with some weather reconnaissance and ground attack missions. A few of these were against targets in North Vietnam, but most of them were close air-support missions against targets in the South under forward air controller direction. The F-104s were fairly successful in this role, gaining a reputation for accuracy in their cannon fire and their bombing and capable of quite rapid reaction times in response to requests for air support. During this period, the 476th F-104s maintained an in-commission rate of 94.7%, a testimony both to the quality of 476th maintenance personnel and to the simplicity and maintainability of F-104 systems. However, an F-104 went down during a sortie 100 nm SSW of DaNang on June 29. The pilot was rescued with minor injuries.

The 436th TFS assumed the 476th's commitment in DaNang on 11 July, and the 436th began flying combat sorties the next day. Although a few MiGCAP missions were flown, the majority of the missions were quick-reaction close-air support missions in support of ground troops. On July 23, Capt. Roy Blakely attempted to crash-land his battle-damaged F-104C at Chu Lai. Blakely successfully set his aircraft down gear-up, but died when his F-104 swerved off the runway into a sand dune.

The 436th TFS had a bad day on September 20, 1965. F-104C pilot Major Philip E. Smith managed to get lost while flying an EC-121 escort mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. After several equipment failures and incorrect steering commands, he managed to wander over Hainan Island and was shot down by a pair of Chinese MiG-19s (J-6s). He ejected and was taken prisoner. While the rest of the squadron was out looking for Major Smith, two other F-104s had a midair collision while returning to their base. Both pilots ejected and were recovered unharmed.

A week later, another F-104C was shot down by enemy AAA, and its pilot was killed.

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 After these four losses, the remnants of the 435th were rotated back to George AFB in November of 1965 and the F-4Cs of the 390th TFS assumed the 435th's escort mission at DaNang. Although the F-104s had not shot down a single MiG, their mere presence as escort aircraft had diminished MiG activity to the point where MiGs were no longer considered as a primary threat to USAF aircraft flying missions over North Vietnam.

In the early months of 1966, the MiG threat began to re-emerge, with the supersonic MiG-21 beginning to appear. In response, a new contingent of F-104Cs returned to Vietnam in June of 1966 and were assigned to the Udorn base in Thailand. In the first deployment, eight F-104Cs of the 435th TFS landed at Udorn, Thailand on June 6, 1966. At the time of the F-104's second deployment to SEA, TAC was in the process of phasing-out the type, and the 479th TFW was in the process of converting to F-4 aircraft and they were attached to PACAF's 8th TFW. An additional 12 F-104Cs joined the 8th TFW on July 22.

They 8th TFW F-104s were initially involved in escort missions in support of F-105D strike aircraft hitting targets in North Vietnam. They were involved in escorts of EF-105F Wild Weasel. One of the problems was that the F-104Cs were not initally equipped with electronic countermeasures gear, and had to rely on F-105s for warnings of lock-ons from enemy radar facilities. However, once again the mere presence of these F-104Cs managed to keep enemy MiGs away from the strike packages.

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On August 1, two F-104Cs were lost to enemy SAMs in a single day, and it was concluded that it was too dangerous to operate the F-104C in support of Wild Weasel missions, especially when they were not equipped with ECM gear. It was decided to withdraw the F-104C from support of strike missions over North Vietnam, unless and until the MiG threat reappeared. By late August, these F-104Cs were involved in air-strikes against targets in both Laos and South Vietnam, exchanging its role of air superiority for that of ground attack. However, losses were heavy, with three F-104s being downed by ground fire and SAMs in the next couple of months. The F-104C was not very well suited for the ground attack role, being incapable of carrying an adequately large offensive load. In addition, it could not carry out operations in bad weather and could not sustain a lot of battle damage.

By late 1966, all F-104s in Southeast Asia had received APR-25/26 RHAW gear under Project Pronto, and once again began flying escort missions over North Vietnam. The Starfighter took part in Operation Bolo on January 2, 1967, which was a successful attempt to lure North Vietnamese fighters into combat. However, the F-104s were not used to actively entice and engage MiGs, but were used instead to protect the egressing F-4 force. The F-4 Phantoms scored heavily during this engagement.

The Air Force decided to replace these F-104Cs by more efficient McDonnell F-4D Phantoms starting in July of 1967. The 435th was then rotated back to George AFB for the last time.

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I don't believe that the F-104C ever destroyed a single enemy fighter during its tour of duty in Southeast Asia. In addition to the loss to MiGs over Hainan, two F-104s fell to SAMs, six to AAA and six were lost to non-combat causes.

Following the withdrawal of the F-104C from Southeast Asia in 1967, surviving F-104Cs were transferred to the 198th TFS of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. The F-104Cs replaced that unit's elderly F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. This ANG unit operated the Starfighter until it converted to LTV A-7Ds in July of 1975.

 

Serials of F-104C Starfighter:

56-0883/0938		Lockheed F-104C-5-LO Starfighter
				c/n 383-1171/1226
57-0910/0930		Lockheed F-104C-10-LO Starfighter
				c/n 383-1227/1247
57-0931/1293		Cancelled contract (believed for F-104C)

 

Specification of the F-104C:

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Engine: One General Electric J79-GE-7 turbojet, 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,800 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speeds as high as 1588 mph at 50,000 feet have been quoted, while equipped with wingtip launch rails. Stalling speed 167 mph with gear and flaps down. Initial climb rate 54,000 feet per minute. Service ceiling 58,000 feet. Normal range 850 miles. Maximum range with four drop tanks was 1500 miles. Fuel: Internal fuel capacity was 897 US gallons, and maximum fuel capacity with two wingtip tanks and two under-wing tanks was 1627 US gallons. A 195 US gallon drop tank could be carried on each of the under-wing pylons, plus a 170 US gallon drop tank at each wingtip. Dimensions: wingspan 21 feet 9 inches, length 54 feet 8 inches, height 13 feet 6 inches, wing area 196.1 square feet. Weights: 12,760 pounds empty, 19,470 pounds combat, 22,410 pounds gross, 27,853 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: One 20-mm M61A1 cannon with 725 rounds in the fuselage, plus a pair of wingtip-mounted AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared homing air-to-air missiles. Up to 2000 pounds of external ordinance (bombs, rockets, napalm, drop tanks) could be carried on under-wing and under-fuselage attachment points. Later, an additional pair of Sidewinder missiles could be carried underneath the fuselage.

 

 

The Lockheed F-104D Starfighter

 

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The F-104D (Lockheed Model 383-04-06) was the two-seat combat trainer version of the F-104C. It bore the same relationship to the F-104C as the F-104B did to the F-104A.

The D model was quite similar to the F-104B, but with the refinements of the F-104C. Like the F-104B, it had the large-area vertical fin with the extensive overhang behind the tailpipe. In order to make room for the second crewman, the nose-wheel once again had to be made to retract rearwards, and the 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104C had to be removed, limiting the air-to-air armament to a pair of wingtip-mounted AIM-9B Sidewinders (although provisions were later made for the mounting of another pair of Sidewinders underneath the fuselage). The provision for two under-wing and two wingtip drop tanks was retained, boosting total fuel capacity by 730 US gallons. The AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system of the F-104C was retained. The provision for the removable port-mounted in-flight refueling probe of the F-104C was also retained.

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Very soon after delivery of the F-104Ds, the Lockheed C-1 downward-firing ejection seats were replaced with C-2 upward-firing ejection seats. Since the ejection was originally downward, the cockpit canopy of the F-104D had not been designed to be blown off the plane during the ejection sequence. The canopy had to be extensively redesigned so that this could be done. Among the changes was the addition of a stationary, fixed transparent central section separating the two individual jettisonable canopies to ensure clean canopy separation during ejection. In every case of the old-style canopy, you will see the early downward-firing ejection seat without upward guide rails. In every case of the new canopy, you will see the structure for the upward ejection seat rails. Also, the middle section of the new style canopy had a clear separator that formed a windshield for the aft cockpit if the forward canopy section was lost in flight or damaged by a bird strike. This canopy modification was later retrofitted to F-104Bs as well, so the mere presence of a fixed, transparent canopy center section is not by itself an indication of an F-104D as opposed to an F-104B.

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 Provisions were made for the possibility of removing the rear seat of the F-104D, fitting the 20-mm rotary cannon, and flying the aircraft as a single-seater if the need should ever arise. However, I don't know if this was ever done in practice.

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The performance of the F-104D was almost identical to that of the F-104C, but the reduced internal fuel capacity reduced its effective range considerably.

The F-104D was the last version of the Starfighter to built for the USAF. 21 F-104Ds were delivered between November 1958 and August 1959. They all went to the four squadrons of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing that had already been equipped with F-104Cs. A further 83 F-104Ds ordered under FY 1957 funding were later cancelled when the USAF terminated all its Starfighter procurement plans.

Along with the F-104C, ADC F-104Ds were transferred to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 1967. The ANG operated these F-104C and D Starfighters until July 1975, when they were replaced by LTV A-7Ds. Most of the F-104Ds joined their single-seat F-104C cousins in the bone-yards at Davis Monthan AFB, although six were transferred to Taiwan. At least 8 are now on display in various museums.

Serials of F-104D:

57-1314/1320		Lockheed F-104D-5-LO Starfighter
				c/n 483-5026/5032		
57-1321/1328		Lockheed F-104D-10-LO Starfighter
				c/n 483-5033/5040
57-1329/1334		Lockheed F-104D-15-LO Starfighter
				c/n 483-5041/5046
57-1335/1417		Cancelled contract (believed for F-104D)

 

The Deal Of The Century

 

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The Lockheed Starfighter was not really well-suited to USAF needs, being deficient in range, endurance, and offensive capability. In addition, it lacked true all-weather capability. Consequently, it quickly became surplus to USAF requirements and its service with the Air Defense Command and the Tactical Air Command was relatively brief, most examples soon being transferred over to the Air National Guard. or being exported to overseas customers in Taiwan, Pakistan, and Jordan. Out of the total of 722 Starfighters originally ordered for the USAF, only 296 were actually delivered, the remainder being cancelled.

By the late 1950s, it would appear that the Starfighter was doomed to be only a relatively minor footnote in the history of military aviation, yet another example of a combat aircraft which ended up serving only briefly and in small numbers before being quickly relegated to the bone-yards. However, the Starfighter was rescued from oblivion by its unexpected win of a major multinational contract.

In the mid-1950s, the NATO air forces in Europe, apart from Britain and France, began shopping around for a new supersonic multi-role fighter capable of delivering the US-supplied B-43 tactical nuclear weapon. In particular, the new West German Luftwaffe was in need of a supersonic replacement for its Canadair Sabres and Republic F-84F Thunderstreak combat aircraft, and that service issued a request for proposals. With a potential market for more than 2000 aircraft, numerous aircraft industries became highly interested, and the requirement became known as the "sale of the century". Ten separate entries were made by aircraft manufacturers in England, France, Sweden, and the USA. These were the English Electric Lightning, the Saunders-Roe SR.177, the Dassault Mirage III, the SAAB J-35 Draken, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, the Convair F-106 Delta Dart, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, the Vought F8U Crusader, the Grumman F11F-1F Tiger, and the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.

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The Lockheed entry was designated F-104G (G for Germany). It was proposed as a multi-role, all-weather aircraft. It was based on the F-104C, but was to be upgraded to have full all-weather capability, carrying an Autonetics F15A NASARR (North American Search and Ranging Radar). The fuselage, wing, and empennage were strengthened to enable the aircraft to carry an increased load and to handle the stresses of low-altitude combat missions at high speeds. Five hard-points were to be fitted (four underneath the wings and one underneath the fuselage), enabling up to 4000 pounds of external stores to be carried. The internal fuel tanks was revised to increase the fuel load from 1624 to 1784 US gallons. The Starfighter had metamorphosed from an air-superiority day fighter into a multi-role all-weather strike fighter.

The F-104G was declared the winner of the contest on November 6, 1958, in an announcement made by German Federal Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss in Bonn. It was never made quite clear how a paper project based on a design with a poor accident record which was being rejected by the USAF could have actually won the contest. Nevertheless, an initial contract for 66 F-104Gs was awarded to Lockheed on February 6, 1959, which was later increased to 96.

Herr Strauss also indicated that the German aircraft industry would build 210 F-104Gs under license. On March 18, 1959, a consortium of German aircraft manufacturers acquired a license to manufacture the Starfighter. License production and associated technology transfers to expand the German national aircraft industry were key features of the program.

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Canada was the second NATO country to select the F-104G as its next generation combat aircraft. On July 2, 1959, plans were announced for the co-production of 200 CL-90 or CF-104 (originally CF-111) versions by Canadair Ltd, plus 38 two-seat CF-104Ds to be bought separately from Lockheed. The J79 engine would be produced under license by Orenda Engines Ltd of Malton, Ontario.

Other European NATO nations quickly jumped onto the Starfighter bandwagon. The Netherlands completed a licensing agreement on April 20, 1960. On June 20, Belgium signed a similar agreement. On March 2, 1962 Italy announced that it too would participate in the Starfighter program. By now the Starfighter was the Free World's premiere fighter aircraft, and the project became known as the "aircraft deal of the century". In December of 1960, licensing agreements were concluded with Lockheed for international co-production on a major scale.

 

 

The Lockheed F-104F Starfighter

 

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For some odd reason, the designation F-104E was never assigned, and the next designation in the series was the F-104F. The F-104F was the initial training version of the multi-role Starfighter designed for service with European air forces.

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Before European production of the F-104G could get underway, it was felt that the Luftwaffe should get some two-seat trainer Starfighters that could be used to train Luftwaffe instructors. The result of this project was the F-104F (company Model 483-04-08), which was a minimum- change version of the F-104D two-seat combat trainer. It was powered by the G's J79-GE-11A turbojet, but lacked the all-weather NASARR fire-control system of the F-104G and was not considered as being combat-capable. It did not have the G's strengthened airframe. It was equipped with Martin-Baker upward ejector seats. 30 examples were built for the Luftwaffe. The first example was accepted at Palmdale in October of 1959. However, they were initially used in the United States and carried standard USAF markings and were provided with USAF serial numbers (59-4994/5023). They were used to train an initial cadre of German instructors. After this task was completed, they were handed over to the Luftwaffe's Waffenschule 10 based at Norvenich in Germany, at which time they were given Luftwaffe serial numbers (BB360/BB389). In January of 1968, these Luftwaffe serial numbers were changed to 2901/2930.

The F-104F Starfighter trainers were withdrawn from Luftwaffe service in December of 1971, being superseded by the combat-capable TF-104G two-seater.

 

 

The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter

 

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The F-104G (Lockheed Model 683-10-19) was the European-built version of the Starfighter, designed for the air forces of the USA's NATO allies. Externally, the F-104G looked quite similar to the earlier F-104C day fighter, but differed in being a multi-role, all-weather aircraft rather than a daylight strike fighter. The Starfighter had metamorphosed from an air-superiority day fighter into a multirole all-weather strike fighter.

The F-104G had full all-weather capability, carrying an Autonetics F15A-41B NASARR (North American Search and Ranging Radar) fire control system. The fire control system was optimized in two basic air-to-ground and air-to-air modes--these were for bombing/navigation and target interception, respectively. In the air-to-air mode, it provided radar search, acquisition, and automatic tracking of aerial targets to make it possible to to carry out lead-collision attacks with automatic missile release. The NASAAR acted in conjunction with the director-type gun-sight for the M-61 Vulcan cannon. The director gun-sight gave the pilot an optical line-of-sight indication after the NASARR had computed the required lead angle. The weapons sight incorporated a basic infrared facility with common optics developed by Lockheed, which gave the aircraft some night-sighting capability. For air-to-ground modes, the NASAAR provided the pilot with range information for visual bombing computation, ground mapping for all-weather bombing and navigation, contour mapping for navigation, and terrain avoidance for low-level combat missions. The caged sight could also be used as an aiming reference for visual dive-bombing.

The F-104G was also equipped with a Litton LN-3 inertial navigator which provided the pilot with continuous optical indication of direction and distance to a pre-selected target. The F-104G was one or the first combat aircraft to make use of such a system. However, the LN-3 was to encounter major development problems in meeting its specified design goals. 

The fuselage, wing, and empennage were strengthened to enable the aircraft to carry an increased offensive weapons load and to handle the stresses of low-altitude combat missions flown at high speeds. A total of 36 new forgings were needed to reinforce the fuselage mainframes, wing fittings and beams, fuselage longerons, joints, and tail frames, empennage beams and ribs, plus some fuselage skins. Some reinforcement was made to the trailing-edge flap fittings to allow partial deflections of up to 15 degrees during combat maneuvers, allowing reductions of up to 33 percent in turning radius at altitudes of 5000 feet.

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Like the F-104C, seven hard-points were fitted to the F-104G--one on the fuselage centerline, two under the wings, and two at the wingtips--enabling up to 4000 pounds of external stores to be carried.

The internal fuel tanks was revised to increase the total fuel load from 1624 to 1784 US gallons.

The length of the fuselage of the F-104G was the same as that of the earlier versions, but the F-104G had the enlarged and broader vertical tail of the F-104B/D two-seater, which provided a considerable improvement in longitudinal stability at high Mach numbers. In addition, the F-104G was equipped with the fully-powered rudder of the F-104B/D. With the extra area, the irreversible hydraulically-powered rudder of the F-104G provided both directional control and yaw damping, eliminating the separate yaw damper tab of the earlier Starfighters. and providing the characteristic rudder overhang, first seen on the F-104B/D, above the afterburner nozzle. The tailplane servo-mechanism was modified to afford increased hinge movement as demanded by the increased control power required by low-altitude operations at increased gross weights. and the amount of power for the horizontal stabilizer control system booster was increased. The hinge and operating controls were contained within the empennage contours, avoiding external fairings.

The F-104G had a slightly higher maximum takeoff weight than the F-104C. In order to cope with the extra weight and the higher landing speeds, larger wheels were fitted. The wheel brakes were improved and were made fully powered and were equipped with anti-skid capability. The tail braking parachute increased in diameter from 16 to 18 feet.

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The Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted upward-firing ejector seat was standard for the F-104G, and was cleared for use at all altitudes down to ground level at speeds between 90 knots and 550 knots.

The engine of the F-104G was the General Electric J79-GE-11A, rated at 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,600 lb.s.t. with afterburning. The J79 engines were co-produced under license by MAN-Turbo in Germany, by the Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, and by Fiat in Italy.

A F-104A-15-LO (serial number 56-0770) was modified by Lockheed with the bigger tail surfaces to become the aerodynamic prototype of the F-104G, although it lacked the internal airframe strengthening and many of the internal systems of the definitive F-104G. It flew for the first time at Palmdale on September 1, 1960. It was intended as the prototype CF-104, and flew in RCAF colors.

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The first true F-104G (Werke Number 2001) was flown by Lockheed for the first time on October 5, 1960, and was the first of the initial German order for 66 examples. Production deliveries started in May of 1961.

European production sites were clustered into four groups, based generally on geographical location. The South Group included Dornier at Munich, Heinkel at Speyer, Messerschmitt at Augsburg (later reorganized as Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, or MBB), and Siebel at Donauworth, plus BMW at Koblenz for J79 production. The North Group included the Dutch companies Fokker at Schipol and Dordrech and Aviolanda at Papendrecht, plus the German companies Focke Wulf at Bremen, Hamburger Flugzeugbau in Hamburg and Weserflugzeugbau at Einswarden. The West Group consisted of SABCA (Societe Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aeronautiques) and Fairey S.A. of Belgium, which operated a joint facility at Gosselies near Charleroi, along with Fabrique Nationale in Brussels for J79 production. The Italian Group consisted of Fiat at Turin as the prime contractor, with Aerfer-Macchi, Piaggio, SACA, and SIAI-Marchetti as subcontractors. Canadair in Canada was contracted to supply 121 sets of wings, aft fuselage, and tail assemblies to the FRG and the Netherlands, and 40 sets to Lockheed.

Lockheed itself remained heavily involved in the license production programs, and supplied small numbers of complete F-104Gs along with knock-down kits of parts to the licensees to help them in the launch of their own individual programs. In addition, Lockheed built the first 66 F-104Gs for the Luftwaffe and built 84 for USAF Mutual Aid contracts.

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The initial production schedule called for 210 aircraft to be built by the South Group, 350 by the North Group, 188 by the West Group, and 199 by the Italian group. There was lot of cross-flow of components, parts, and even complete airplanes between the various Groups. The Luftwaffe eventually received 700 single seaters from five different nations.

In order to assure early service introduction, it was agreed that Lockheed was to build the initial lot of F-104Gs while the European consortium got up to speed. Lockheed eventually built 139 F-104Gs, which were delivered to the air forces of Germany, Greece, Norway, and Turkey, plus pattern aircraft delivered to manufacturers in Belgium and Italy. In addition, Lockheed also built a number of two-seat TF-104G combat trainers. The first Lockheed-built F-104G took off on its maiden flight on June 7, 1960.

The South Group's first F-104G flew on October 5, 1960. The South Group of companies eventually built 210 aircraft, all of them destined for the West German Luftwaffe. South Group Starfighters were identified by construction numbers in the 7000 range.

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 The West Group's first F-104G flew on August 3, 1961. West Group Starfighters were identified by construction numbers in the range 9002 to 9189. West Group Starfighters went both to the Force Aerienne Belge and to the Luftwaffe.

The North Group's first F-104G flew on November 11, 1961. The North Group eventually built 231 aircraft for the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force) as well as the Luftwaffe. The North Group F-104Gs were identified by construction numbers between 8001 and 8350. F-104Gs were produced in parallel with RF-104Gs.

The Italian Group flew its first Starfighter on June 9, 1962, and delivered 169 aircraft to Dutch, German, and Italian air forces. The F-104Gs built by the Italian Group (with Fiat as major contractor) had company numbers in the range between 6502 and 6700. F-104Gs were interspersed with RF-104Gs on the line.

Once the European F-104G program was well underway, the USAF ordered 140 F-104Gs to be built by Canadair for various NATO nations under the MAP program. They were intended for Norway, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, and Spain. They followed the Canadian-built CF-104s off the production line. Canadair-built F-104Gs differed from European-built versions primarily in the type of NASARR installed--the F-15AM-11 which was optimized for both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. Canadair-built F-104Gs were identified by construction numbers in the range between 6001 and 6140. The first of these Canadair-built F-104Gs (c/n 6001, USAF serial number 62-12302) made its maiden flight on July 30, 1963, and deliveries to NATO began before the end of the year.

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The ejector seat initially fitted was the Lockheed Model C-2 upward-firing seat, but beginning in 1967 it was replaced by a Martin-Baker Mk GQ7(F) "zero-zero" ejector seat.

When the F-104G program finally ended with the delivery of the last example by MBB in 1973, 1122 aircraft had been built, representing nearly 44 percent of Starfighter production.

Some of the F-104Gs built were purchased with MAP funds and were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes even though they never carried USAF insignia. In addition, many F-104Gs owned by the West German Luftwaffe actually operated at training bases in the USA where they sported USAF insignia and carried USAF serial numbers.

 

Specification of the F-104G:

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Engine: One General Electric J79-GE-11A turbojet, 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,600 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed 1146 mph at 50,000 feet, 1328 mph at 35,000 feet. Stalling speed 216 mph. Initial climb rate 48,000 feet per minute. Service ceiling 50,000 feet, and absolute ceiling 90,000 feet. Normal range 1080 miles. Maximum range with four drop tanks was 1630 miles. Fuel: Internal fuel capacity was 897 US gallons, and maximum fuel capacity with two wingtip tanks and two under-wing tanks was 1784 US gallons. Dimensions: Wingspan 21 feet 9 inches, length 54 feet 8 inches, height 13 feet 6 inches, wing area 196.1 square feet. Weights: 13,996 pounds empty, 20,640 pounds combat, 29,038 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: One 20-mm M61A1 cannon with 725 rounds in the fuselage, plus up to four AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared homing air-to-air missiles. Up to 4000 pounds of external ordinance (bombs, rockets, napalm, drop tanks) could be carried on under-wing and under-fuselage attachment points.

 

 

The Lockheed RF-104G Starfighter

 

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The RF-104G (Lockheed Model 683-04-10) was the tactical reconnaissance version of the F-104G. The RF-104G was more-or-less similar to the F-104G, but had the 20-mm cannon and its 725-round magazine removed and replaced by a camera system. Lockheed built 40 examples of the RF-104G, the North Group delivered 119, and the Italian Group manufactured 30. Most of the RF-104Gs had three KS-67A cameras mounted in the forward fuselage, although the aircraft for Holland's Koninklijke Luchtmacht had their cameras carried in an external ventral camera pack. The machines carrying internal cameras could be recognized by the presence of a small bump underneath the forward fuselage which included part of the nose wheel doors. In addition, they could be identified by the presence of camera windows in the side of the fuselage and by the fairing over of the cannon port bulge. In service, many RF-104Gs were subsequently modified to standard armed F-104G standard, although the reverse also happened as well.

Some RF-104Gs were purchased by MAP funds and were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes although they never served with the USAF. Other RF-104Gs were owned by the West German Luftwaffe but actually ended up operating at bases in the USA. These planes were painted in USAF insignia and carried USAF serial numbers.

 

 

The Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter

 

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The TF-104G (Lockheed Model 583-10-20) was the combat-capable two-seat version of the F-104G. It had a cockpit canopy similar to that of the F-104D, with a fixed transparent area separating the two separate leftward-opening canopies. It was fitted with the NASARR fire control system of the single-seat F-104G and was equipped with under-wing racks which could accommodate many of the same offensive weapons that the single-seat F-104G could carry. However, the TF-104G did not have the centerline bomb rack of the single seat F-104G version. As in the case of the F-104B and D two-seaters of the USAF, the 20-mm Vulcan cannon that the single-seat F-104G carried had to be deleted, some internal equipment had to be rearranged, and the internal fuel capacity had to be reduced.

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All of the TF-104G two-seaters were built by Lockheed, although some used components supplied by the European Starfighter consortium. Since the TF-104G aircraft was so similar to the F-104D two-seater of the USAF, no prototype was built and the first machine was actually a production machine. Including 48 aircraft assembled from components supplied by the European Starfighter consortium, Lockheed built a total of 220 TF-104Gs in six versions, generally distinguished from each other by the nation which was to receive them. These versions were identified by adding a letter after their Model 583 company designations. Models 583C through H were respectively versions destined for MAP delivery to Germany and Italy, and for direct delivery to Holland, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.

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One of the Model 583Ds was retained by Lockheed as a demonstrator. It carried the civil registration number N104L and was nicknamed *Free World Defender*. It was used by the well-known aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran to set three women's world's speed records. On May 11, 1964, she averaged 1429.3 mph over a 15/25 km course, on June 1 she flew at an average speed of 1303.18 mph over a 100-km closed-circuit course, and on June 3 she flew at an average speed of 1127.4 mph over a 500-km closed-circuit course. Ms. Cochran's Model 583D was eventually delivered to the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) with the Dutch serial number D-5072.

Two ex-Luftwaffe TF-104Gs were acquired by NASA in July of 1975 and were given the civilian registration numbers N824NA and N825NA.

Many of the TF-104Gs were purchased with MAP funds, and those that were were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes, even though they never carried USAF insignia. In addition, numerous Luftwaffe TF-104Gs operated with training units in the USA and carried USAF insignia and serial numbers even though they remained German property.


 

The Lockheed RTF-104G1 Starfighter

 

The RTF-104G1 was an all-weather day and night reconnaissance development of the TF-104G which was proposed to meet a Luftwaffe requirement. The RTF-104G1 was to carry photographic cameras, infrared sensors, and was to be equipped with sideways-looking radar. The RTF-104G1 was not proceeded with because the Luftwaffe selected the McDonnell RF-4E Phantom II for this mission.

 

The Lockheed F-104H Starfighter

 

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The F-104H was a projected simplified version of the F-104G with less sophisticated and less costly equipment. It was designed for export to nations which wanted a Mach 2-capable fighter but which could not afford the full-blown all-weather F-104G version. An optical gunsight was to be fitted in place of the NASARR of the F-104G. A two-seat version was also proposed, which was to be designated TF-104H.

Very little interest was expressed by anyone for the F-104H or the TF-104H, and neither version ever got past the initial design stage.

 

 

 

The Starfighters With NASA

 

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Over the years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has operated no less than eleven Starfighters for flight test purposes.

In August of 1956, the seventh YF-104A (serial number 55-2961) was transferred to NACA (later reorganized as NASA). It was initially numbered 818, but was later renumbered with the civilian registration N818NA (the "NA" standing for NASA). This airplane was used by NASA for various test flight purposes until it was finally retired in November of 1975. It is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

In October of 1957, NASA acquired two ex-USAF F-104A single seaters (USAF serials 56-0734 and 56-0749) for use in flight testing. So far as I am aware, these planes were never assigned NASA serial numbers F-104A 56-749 crashed in 1962.

In December of 1959, F-104B serial number 57-1303 was transferred to NASA. It was assigned the NASA number of 819. It served until 1978, when it was finally retired.

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Between August and October of 1963, Lockheed delivered three single-seat F-104G Starfighters to NASA, these planes being designated F-104N (N for NASA). They were to serve as high-speed chase aircraft. These three planes were the only purpose-built Starfighters produced by Lockheed for NASA--all other Starfighters operated by NASA were transferred to it from the USAF.

These three NASA F-104Ns were initially numbered 011, 012, and 013. 013 was lost on June 8, 1966 when it became involved in a mid-air collision with the second North American XB-70A Valkyrie during a General Electric-sponsored advertising publicity photographic flight. The pilot flying the F-104N, the experienced test pilot Joseph A. Walker, was killed. The XB-70A pilot, Alvin S. White ejected with injuries, but the XB-70A copilot, Major Carl S. Cross, went down with the Valkyrie and was killed.

The two surviving F-104Ns were later given the civilian registrations N811NA and N812NA. 811 was for a while in open storage for the USAF Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB, but is now on display at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ.

In December of 1966, NASA acquired another ex-USAF F-104A (serial number 56-0790) as a replacement for NASA 813. It was assigned the NASA number 820, and was withdrawn from use on October 30, 1983. 820 is now on outdoor display at Edwards AFB pending the creation of the USAF Flight Test Center Museum.

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Later, NASA also received some additional F/TF-104Gs from military sources. In 1975, NASA received two tandem-seat TF-104Gs and one single-seat F-104G, giving them the civilian numbers N824NA, N825NA, and N826NA respectively. N824NA and N825NA are ex-Luftwaffe TF-104G two-seaters (carrying USAF serials 61-3065 and 66-13628), whereas N826NA was originally a Fokker-built single-seat RF-104G which had originally been built for the Luftwaffe but which had been serving with the Luftwaffe training unit at Luke AFB in Arizona (original German serial number was KG200). All of their military equipment was removed, and they were used by NASA for various flight test purposes.

 N824NA have been reported in some of my references to have been retired to the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB, although Mary Shafer reports that 824 is still out on the ramp. 825 and 826 are kept at Ames/Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards AFB in California, where they are currently being used for various NASA-related flight test programs. These are the only Starfighters still flying in US service.

Thanks go to Mary Shafer for her report on the status of the NASA F-104Gs.

 

 

 

The Lockheed CL-1200 Lancer

 

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The Lockheed CL-1200 Lancer was a late 1960s company-funded proposal for a new and improved Starfighter. It was intended for the export market and was in direct competition with the Northrop F-5E Tiger II.

The CL-1200 retained the basic F-104 fuselage but was fitted with a shoulder-mounted wing of larger area which was moved further aft. The new wing had a span of 29 feet and still featured leading- and trailing-edge flops plus inner strakes. The tailplane was moved from the tip of the vertical fin to the base of the rear fuselage. in order to avoid the downwash effects from the high set wings at high angles of attack and to eliminate the Starfighter's inherent pitch-up problems.

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The first version was to be the CL-1200-1, still with the now well- proven J79-GE-19 engine. The more advanced CL-1200-2 was to have had a redesigned rear fuselage that could accommodate a modern turbofan engine rather than the J79 turbojet. This turbofan engine was to be either the Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 or the F100-P-100. These engines offered an increase of 60 percent in thrust at maximum power. The air intakes were located in the same place that they were on the F-104, but they incorporated translating shock cones with four-inch movement in place of the F-104's fixed cones.

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The Lancer retained the 20-mm General Electric M-61A1 cannon as its primary built-in armament, although a 30-mm DEFA gun could be fitted as an alternative if the customer so desired. Nine weapons stations were provided, one under the fuselage, three under each wing, and one at each wingtip. Up to 12,000 pounds of ordinance could be carried.

The estimated gross weight was 35,000 pounds and a top speed of 1700 mph at 35,000 feet was envisaged. The takeoff run was 1450 feet in the intercept configuration, only 52 percent of that required for the F-104G. Kelly Johnson projected that the CL-1200-2 would be superior in air-to-air combat to any known fighter.

At one time, the USAF had considered acquiring one or more examples of the Lancer. The USAF planned to buy at least one experimental Lancer under the experimental designation X-27. The X-27 was to be similar in overall configuration to the Lancer but was to feature modified engine air intakes having a rectangular shape. However, the X-27 program was terminated due to lack of funds before anything could be built.

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The CL-1200 was entered in the International Fighter Aircraft competition to find a replacement for the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter in the international market. It was projected that CL-1200 deliveries could begin in 1974. However, in November 1970 the Northrop F-5-21 was named the winner of the competition, and the primary market for the Lancer was lost. The project was then terminated.

Another stillborn Starfighter derivative was the CL-704 VTOL strike and reconnaissance aircraft originally proposed in 1962. For VTOL operations, it was to have had seven vertically-mounted Rolls Royce RB.181s in each of the enlarged wingtip pods. The main forward propulsion was to have been provided by a fuselage-mounted Rolls Royce RB.168.

A larger-winged F-104 derivative was proposed as an alternative to the MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) then being designed as a multi-national European project. Nothing ever emerged, and the MRCA eventually emerged as the Panavia Tornado.

 

Specification of the Lockheed CL-1200-2 Lancer:

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Engine: One Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 turbofan, rated at 15,000 lb.s.t. dry and 25,000 lb.s.t. with afterburner. Performance: Maximum speed 1700 mph at 35,000 feet (Mach 2.57), 920 mph (Mach 1.21) at sea level. Initial climb rate 60,000+ feet per minute. 420 miles combat radius with 4000-pound bombload. Takeoff run was 1450 feet to liftoff, landing run was 2060 feet. Dimensions: length 57 feet 3 inches, wingspan 29 feet 2 inches, height 17 feet 2 inches, wing area 300 square feet. Weights: 16,640 pounds empty, 24,385 pounds normal loaded, 35,000 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: One 20-mm General Electric M61A1 cannon with 725 rounds. An external offensive load of up to 12,000 pounds could be carried on nine external weapons hard-points.

By Joe Baugher

Sources:

  1. The Lockheed F-104G/CF-104, Gerhard Joos, Aircraft in Profile No. 131, Doubleday, 1969.
     
  2. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery Books, 1989.
     
  3. Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Steve Pace, Motorbooks International, 1992.
     
  4. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987.
     
  5. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.
     
  6. The World's Fighting Planes, William Green, Doubleday 1968.
     
  7. American Combat Planes, Ray Wagner, Third Enlarged Edition, Doubleday, 1982.
     
  8. Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, John Fricker, Wings of Fame, Vol 2, Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1996.
     
  9. E-mail from Tom Delashaw, correcting some errors.
     
  10. Description of F-104C service in SEA from Mark Bovankovich and Tom Delashaw, The F-104 in SEA

 

 

Lockheed F-104A Starfighter

 

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The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was nicknamed "the missile with a man in it," since its long, thin fuselage and stubby wings resembled a missile more than a conventional aircraft. The F-104 was the first interceptor in our nation’s service to be able to fly at sustained speeds above Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).

The Starfighter’s design was radical for its time, as it was a small, straight-wing aircraft while most contemporary designs were much larger and featured swept-back wings. The wingspan is only 21 feet, 11 inches, and the wings themselves have a 100 negative dihedral. The razor-sharp leading edge requires a specialty fitted cover when on the ground to protect the ground crew. A narrow fuselage fits tightly around the power plant, and its forward portion curves down slightly to allow maximum pilot visibility.

Wingspan 6.68 m (21 ft. 11 in.)
Length 16.61 m (54 ft. 9 in.)
Height 4.11 m (13 ft. 6 in.)
Weight 9,980 kg (22,000 lb.) gross

The F-104 featured the General Electric 14,800-pound-thrust J79 turbojet engine and afterburner, which occupied more than half the length of the fuselage. The fuel tanks and cockpit took up much of the remainder, so that insufficient space remained for the necessary electronics systems. A series of self-contained electronics packages were

developed which could be ‘plugged in" to suit the individual mission. Basic armament consisted of an M-61 Vulcan 20-mm gun in the fuselage and a Sidewinder GAR-8 missile on each wingtip. The M61 was a Gatling type with multiple rotating barrels and an extremely high rate of fire.

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Design of the F-104 began in November 1952. The U.S. Air Force had a requirement for a superior day fighter, and Lockheed began work on its Model 83. Two prototypes, powered by the Wright J65 engine, were ordered by the Air Force in March 1953. On February 7,1954, Lockheed test pilot Tony Le Vier made the first flight in the XC-104. Fifteen YF-104A aircraft, powered by the GE J79 engine, were ordered for testing.

The first F-104A deliveries took place on January 26, 1958. They were delivered to the 83d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base. California. Soon afterward, pilots from this squadron set new world speed and altitude records. Maj. Howard C. Johnson established a world airplane altitude record of 91,249 feet on May 7. 1958. On May 16, 1958, Capt. Walter W. Irvin established a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph. The F-104 also established seven climb-to-height records. Four of these replaced old records: the 15000 meter, 20.000 meter. and 25.000 meter climbs set completely new records.

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The major variants were the F-104B, a two-seat version of the F-104A, used as an operational trainer: the F-104C, modified for use by the Tactical Air Command with provision for inflight refueling: and the F-104D, a two-seat version of the F-104C.

The majority of Starfighters were used in foreign service. Most of the F-l04Gs, F-l04Js, and CF104s were built under license in NATO and SEATO countries. The basic Starfighter was modified to be a multi-mission fighter with considerably strengthened structure and different operational equipment.

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On October 12. 1959. the Starfighter protect was awarded the Collier Trophy.

Starfighters served in the Air Force until the early 1960s. A few saw service in Vietnam. and they were also used in Air National Guard units until 1975. Their European counterparts stayed in service even longer.

The museum’s specimen is a Lockheed F-104A, military serial number 55-2961, the seventh F-104A produced (formerly a YF-104A). It was procured by the NASA Flight Research Center (then NACA High Speed Flight Station) at Edwards Air Force Base. California. on August 23. 1956. It was first flown by NASA on August 27. 1956, and logged 1.439 flights over a period of nineteen years.

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The airplane. NASA number 818. was used in a number of research programs at Edwards It was used in the evaluation program of the Starfighter at first and was later used to help confirm wind tunnel data in actual flight, as a flying test-bed, and as a chase plane. It was a part of the research program that led to the X-15 airplane program; a particularly important phase was the testing of reaction type controls.

Nineteen pilots flew the 818. Among them were three Apollo astronauts. including Neil Armstrong seven X-15 pilots, including Joe Walker: and six lifting body pilots. It made its last operational flight on August 26. 1975. and was flown to Andrews Air Force Base. near Washington D.C.. for transfer to the National Air and Space Museum later that year.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

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The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

A Short History
 

By Jirka Wagner

 
 
XF-104 prototype
 

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The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the result of an attempt to reverse the trend towards ever-increasing weight and complexity in fighter aircraft. When it first appeared in the mid-1950s, it had a futuristic look about it, and its small wing area and needle-nose earned it the appellation of "missile with a man in it". The F-104 was the first operational interceptor capable of sustained speeds above Mach 2 and was the first aircraft ever to hold the World Speed and Altitude records simultaneously.
The Starfighter was destined to serve only briefly and in relatively small numbers with the air force of its country of origin. It was to be in the service with the air forces of other nations that the Starfighter was to achieve its reputation. The Starfighter won a large contract for NATO's next-generation multi-role fighter capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and was built in large numbers by a European consortium of aircraft manufacturers from Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and Canada as well as the USA. The Starfighter became an important part of NATO's nuclear deterrent during the 1960s and 1970s, and served with the air forces of Denmark, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Canada, Spain, and Norway. It was also built under license in Japan. The Starfighter also served with the air forces of Jordan, Taiwan, and Pakistan. Although the Starfighter has been superseded by later types in most of the air forces with which it was originally associated, the Starfighter still serves in fairly large numbers with the air forces of Greece, Taiwan, and Italy, A total of 2580 of all Starfighter types were produced, making the aircraft one of the most important Western postwar military aircraft. However, in the mid-1960s when the Starfighter first entered service in significant numbers, the aircraft was involved in a large number of accidents. Because of the high accident rate, the Starfighter became a controversial aircraft and there were charges that the aircraft was an intrinsically flawed and dangerous design. However, in retrospect, the Starfighter was not intrinsically any more dangerous to fly than lots of other military aircraft of the day, and the high accident rate can be blamed more on inadequate and insufficient crew training rather than on any flaw with the basic design.
 

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The Starfighter had its origin in a November 1952 unsolicited proposal by Lockheed's Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson for a lightweight and relatively unsophisticated air-superiority fighter. Weight and complexity would be minimized in the pursuit of unmatched speed, altitude, and maneuverability. Johnson had visited Korea in December of 1951, and while there he had talked to fighter pilots then flying in combat over North Korea. He asked them what kind of fighter plane would be ideal. Their general consensus was that the trend toward ever-increasing weight and complexity had gotten completely out of hand, and they would gladly trade in their existing fighters for a lighter, less costly fighter with clearly superior speed, ceiling, climb rate, and maneuverability. Following his return to the USA, Johnson tried to convince Lockheed management that they should design a new type of fighter plane, one that was uncomplicated, lightweight, and inexpensive but one that would be able to outperform any other fighter in the world.
 
Lockheed's head start was just too much for the competitors to overcome, and in January of 1953, Lockheed's proposal was selected. On March 12, 1953 a letter contract for two prototypes was issued under Weapon System 303A (WS-303A). The designation XF-104 was assigned. Lockheed assigned the aircraft the company designation of Model 083-92-01.

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The first XF-104 (53-7786) was ready in early 1954, and was trucked out to Edwards AFB in high secrecy during the night of February 24-25. Veteran Lockheed test pilot A. W. "Tony" LeVier was to do the initial testing. Taxiing runs began on February 27, 1954. On February 28, 1954, the XF-104 made an scheduled short hop of about five feet off the ground during a high speed taxiing run. Its first official flight took place on March 4, 1954. During that flight, the landing gear would not retract. After a low-speed flight of about 20 minutes, Tony LeVier landed. Some adjustments were made, and LeVier took off again, but the landing gear still would not retract. The problem turned out to be low pressure in the hydraulic system, which was fairly easy to correct. However, inclement weather kept the XF-104 on the ground until March 26, when flights three and four were carried out with the landing gear retracting adequately.

 
The XF-104's original yaw damper was ineffective, allowing the nose to wander left and right. This problem was corrected by revising the rudder-centering device.
The XF-104 could not exceed the speed of sound in level flight when powered by the non-afterburning J65-B-3 turbojet. However, Mach 1 could be easily exceeded during a slight descent, and the transition to supersonic speed was quite smooth.
 

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In July of 1954, the J65-B-3 non-afterburning engine was replaced by the long-awaited afterburning J65-W-7 turbojet rated at 7800 lb.s.t. dry and 10,200 lb.s.t. with afterburner. In that same month, 17 more service test aircraft were ordered. They were also to be powered by the J65-W-7.
With the afterburning engine installed, the performance of the XF-104 was markedly improved. Maximum level speed was Mach 1.49 at 41,000 feet, and an altitude of 55,000 feet could be attained in a zoom climb. Mach 1.6 could be attained in a dive.
 
The second prototype (53-7787) flew on October 5, 1954. It was fitted with the afterburning J65 from the start. Since it was to be the armament test bed, it was fitted with the 20-mm Vulcan cannon and was equipped with an AN/ASG-14T-1 fire control system. Initial aerial firing tests with the Vulcan cannon were successful, but on December 17, there was an explosion during a firing burst, and the J65 engine started to run rough. Test pilot Tony LeVier immediately shut down his engine and glided back to make a successful dead-stick landing at Rogers Dry Lake. An investigation later showed that one of the 20-mm cannon rounds had exploded in the breech, blowing the bolt out the rear of the gun and into the forward fuselage fuel cell. Jet fuel gushed into the gun bay, and leaked out of the gun bay door joints and into the left engine air intake. The engine immediately flooded with fuel, choking it to death. Tony LeVier was lucky to be alive.

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XF-104 number one achieved a top speed of Mach 1.79 at 60,000 feet on March 15, 1955. Lockheed test pilot J. Ray Goudey was at the controls. This was the highest speed achieved by either of the XF-104 prototypes.

The second prototype (53-7787) was lost on April 14, 1955 when test pilot Herman R. "Fish" Salmon was forced to eject during gun-firing trials at 50,000 feet. The gun malfunctioned during a test firing, and severe vibrations began to build up which knocked loose the ejection hatch on the belly of the plane. Cabin pressure was immediately lost, and Salmon's pressure suit pumped up and covered his face so that he could not see. Recalling Tony LeVier's harrowing experience with the exploding cannon shell the previous December, Salmon believed that the same thing had happened to him and that he had no option but to eject. This he did. He later found out that he could have saved 53-7787 by simply bringing it down to a lower altitude and waiting for his pressure suit to deflate.
 
With the loss of the armament test-bed, Lockheed engineers were forced to find an alternative. Armament trials were continued on a modified Lockheed F-94C Starfire.

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The first XF-104 was accepted by the USAF in November of 1955. XF-104 number 1 was lost in a crash on July 11, 1957, when it developed an uncontrollable tail flutter while flying chase for F-104A flight tests. The entire tail group was ripped from the airframe, and Lockheed test pilot Bill Park was forced to eject.
 
Consequently, no XF-104 prototype survives today.
 
In July of 1954, the USAF decided to purchase 17 service test aircraft under the designation YF-104A. This was done under a "fly-before-you-buy" philosophy, under which these aircraft would participate in development tests before any commitment to large-scale production was made. If large-scale production was actually undertaken, these YF-104As could later be brought up to full production standard and delivered to operational units.
 
Fearing that the General Electric J79 turbojet might not be ready in time, the first service test Starfighters were to be powered by the afterburning J65 turbojet. However, the J79 engine was flight tested by the Navy in a borrowed Navy XF4D in December of 1955, and it was concluded that early versions of the General Electric J79 engine should be available by the time that the YF-104A was ready, and the service test aircraft were built with the General Electric engine in mind.

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The seventeen YF-104A service test aircraft were powered by early experimental versions of the General Electric J79 engine instead of the J65 engine which powered the XF-104s. The YF-104A aircraft were initially fitted with the General Electric XJ79-JE-3 turbojet, rated at 9300 lb.s.t. dry and 14,800 lb.s.t. with afterburning. The YF-104A differed from the XF-104 in having a 5 feet 6 inch extension in the length of the fuselage to accommodate the new J79 engine. The vertical fin was slightly taller, raising the overall height from 12.7 feet to 13.49 feet. A forward-retracting nose-wheel replaced the rearward-retracting unit of the XF-104, in order to provide improved ejection seat clearance out of the bottom of the aircraft. A narrow dorsal spine was added to the upper fuselage. Two additional fuel cells were installed in the fuselage. The air intakes were modified in shape and were fitted with half-cone center bodies which had been omitted from the two XF-104s. The fixed-geometry central intake shock cone had an internal bleed slot which exhausted some intake air through the fuselage for afterburner cooling and helped to reduce the aircraft's base drag. An AN/ASG-14T1 fire control system was fitted, plus AN/ARN-56 TACAN. There were provisions for four under-wing and one under-fuselage stores pylon.
 
With an empty weight increased only slightly to 12,561 pounds, the YF-104A maximum takeoff weight (clean) rose to 15,700 pounds for the XF-104 to 18,881 pounds. With provision for four under-wing and one fuselage stores pylon, the maximum takeoff weight was 24,584 pounds.
 

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The first YF-104A (55-2955) was completed in February of 1956, and was trucked out in high secrecy to Edwards AFB. It made its first flight there on February 17, 1956, with Lockheed test pilot Herman "Fish" Salmon at the controls.
 
On February 16, 1956, the second YF-104A (55-2956) was used for a media-covered official rollout ceremony at Lockheed's Burbank factory. This was the first display of the Starfighter to the public. Before that, there had been only rumors in the aviation press about the existence of a truly revolutionary new fighter aircraft, plus a few speculative drawings. The engine air intakes were covered with temporary fairings, since the Air Force didn't want people to see the half-cones in the air intakes.

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An initial order for production F-104As was issued on October 14, 1956.
Together with the first 35 production F-104As, all seventeen YF-104As were used for flight-test and to evaluate early versions of the J79 (the -3, -3A, and -3B) engine, the Vulcan cannon, the AIM-9 (formerly GAR-8) Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the wingtip-mounted fuel tanks. Airframe strengthening and local redesign were progressively introduced. Various forms of flap blowing were tested, and a ventral fin was introduced to improve directional stability at supersonic speed. Some YF-104As were also used to test wingtip racks for either 170 US-gallon drop tanks or Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles.

On May 7, 1958, Major Howard C. Johnson reached an altitude of 91,249 feet in a zoom climb at Edwards AFB in California, setting a new altitude record. On May 16, 1958, Captain Walter W. Irwin flying a YF-104A set a new world's air speed record of 1404.19 mph flying over a 15/25 kilometer course at Edwards AFB. For the first time in history, the same aircraft type held both the world speed and altitude records at the same time.

 

The F-104A, The first production version
 
The F-104A (company designation Model 183-92-02) was the initial production version of the Starfighter. In a contract approved on March 2, 1956, the USAF ordered 146 production F-104As. This brought the total F-104A procurement to 170 aircraft, including the service test YF-104As.
As compared to the service-test YF-104As, production F-104As featured a strengthened airframe that was stressed for 7.33-G maneuvers. An aft-mounted ventral fin was fitted on the centerline to improve directional stability at high speeds and high altitudes. Various flap-blowing boundary layer control systems were fitted. The interim AN/ASG-14T-1 radar fire control system was installed, which was later replaced by the more capable AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system.
 
Because of its boundary layer control system, the landing speed of the F-104A was only five percent higher than that of earlier fighters. The boundary layer system operated in connection with the wing flaps. When the flaps passed the fifteen-degree mark during extension, the bleed air valves began to open and reached the fully open position when the flaps are all the way down at 45 degrees. The highly-compressed air needed to operate the system was taken from the 17th compressor stage of the engine and ducted into the wing and out over the upper flap surfaces via a set of slots lined up along the trailing edge flap hinge line. This air flow reduced air turbulence in the boundary layer due to flow separation, thus decreasing the stalling speed and making lower landing speeds possible.
 
Full-span leading-edge flaps operated in conjunction with the trailing edge flaps for takeoff, landing, and low-speed maneuvering. The aileron system was interconnected with the flap system in such a way that when the flaps were fully up, aileron travel was limited to 65 percent. The entire horizontal stabilizer was pivoted aft of the fin mid-chord line and moved as a single unit. There was no elevator. A speed brakes was located on each side of the aft fuselage.
 

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An automatic pitch control system provided advance warning of an impending stall. As the stall approached, the system energized a stick shaker to warn the pilot. Should the pilot ignore the warning and persist in maintaining the same attitude, the system would automatically apply a forward stick force.
 
The first 35 F-104As delivered to the USAF were involved in a protracted series of flight tests during which changes and improvements were progressively introduced on successive batches coming off the production line.
 
The F-104A had originally been scheduled to replace the F-100 Super Sabres of the TAC beginning in 1956. However, by the time that the F-104A was finally ready for delivery, Air Force requirements had changed. The Starfighter's relatively low endurance and its lack of ability to carry a significant offensive weapons load made it no longer suitable for the TAC. Consequently the TAC lost all interest in the F-104A even before it was scheduled to enter service. This might ordinarily have been the end of the line for the F-104A. However, delays in the delivery of the Convair F-106 Delta Dart Mach 2+ interceptor to the Air Defense Command had at that time become worrisome, and the USAF decided to go ahead and accept the F-104As originally destined for the TAC and assign them to the ADC as a stopgap measure. The selection of the F-104A for the ADC was sort of curious, since it had not been originally designed as an interceptor and it lacked an adequate endurance and had no all-weather capability. However, its high climb rate made it attractive to the ADC and it was hoped that the Starfighter could fill in until the F-106 became available.

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First to get the F-104A was the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton AFB in California, which became operational with the type on February 20, 1958. Next to acquire the F-104A were the 56th FIS at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, the 337th FIS at Westover AFB in Massachusetts, and the 538th FIS at Larson AFB in Washington.

A total of 153 F-104As were built in seven production blocks-- F-104A-1-LO to F-104A-30-LO. The last F-104A was delivered in December of 1958. The number built was far less than originally planned. Only 170 F-104As and YF-104As were ultimately acquired out of the 722 originally planned. Shortages of funds due to the needs of other programs accounted for some of the reduction, whereas the decision by TAC not to acquire the F-104A accounted for the rest of the shortfall.
 
The YF-104A had already set the world altitude and speed records. In December of 1958, an F-104A flown alternately by Lt William T. Smith and Einar K. Enevoldson over a two-day period at NAS Point Mugu, California set several time-to-climb records: 3000 meters (9842 feet) in 41.35 seconds, 6000 meters in 51.41 seconds, 9000 meters in 81.14 seconds, 15,000 meters (49,212 feet) in 131.1 seconds, 20,000 meters in 222.99 seconds, and 25,000 meters (82,020 feet) in 266.03 seconds.
 
As one might have expected, the F-104A was not very well suited for service as an interceptor. Its low range was a problem for North American air defense, and its lack of all-weather capability made it incapable of operating in conjunction with the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) system. Service with the ADC was consequently quite brief, and the F-104As of the ADC were replaced by the end of 1960 by more heavily-armed all-weather McDonnell F-101B Voodoos and Convair F-106A Delta Darts.
 
The ADC's F-104As were then transferred in 1960 to three Air National Guard squadrons, the 151st FIS of the Tennessee ANG, the 157th FIS of the North Carolina ANG, and the 197th FIS of the Arizona ANG. These three ANG F-104A squadrons were called up for active duty during the Berlin crisis of 1961 and were deployed to Europe. Following the defusing of the Berlin crisis, these squadrons all returned to the USA by June of 1962 and reverted to state control. However, their F-104As were retained by the USAF and were transferred to two other ADC units, the 319th and 331st FIS at Homestead AFB in Florida as part of the 32nd Air Division. For some odd reason, these two squadrons exchanged their all-weather F-102s and F-106s for these day-only F-104As, which would seem at first sight to make no sense.
 
These ADC F-104As remained in service for several years. From late 1967, 26 aircraft of the 319th FIS were retrofitted with the more powerful J79-GE-19, rated at 17,900 lb.st. with afterburner, which was the same type of engine fitted to the F-104S version developed for Italy. The last USAF squadron to operate the F-104A, the 319th FIS, was disbanded in December of 1969, marking the final end of service of the F-104A with active duty squadrons.
 

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In 1960, after the decision to withdraw the Starfighter from ADC, twenty-four YF-104A and F-104A aircraft (exact ratio uncertain) deemed surplus to USAF requirements were modified as QF-104A radio-controlled target drones. They were painted pillar-box red overall and were operated by the 3205th Drone Squadron at Eglin AFB in Florida. These planes could be flown by onboard pilots or they could be flown by remote control from the ground or from other aircraft. Most of them were expended in missile firing tests.
 
The unsuitability of the F-104A for air defense duties with the USAF led to the release of some F-104As for export. The air forces of Taiwan, Pakistan, and Jordan were provided with several F-104As from surplus USAF stocks. Most of the other F-104As which had not been lost to attrition or transferred to foreign air forces went to the bone-yards at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona.
 
 
The F-104B two-seat combat trainer
 
The F-104B (company Model 283-93-03) was a two-seat, dual-control, combat trainer version of the F-104A. A second seat was provided underneath an extended canopy, with each crewmember being provided with a separate hatch which opened to the left. A full set of controls was provided for both crewmembers.

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It was intended that the F-104B two seater would have the same performance and combat capability of the F-104A single seater. However, in order to provide space for the second seat, the 20-mm cannon of the single-seater had to be removed, some internal electronics had to be relocated, the internal fuel capacity had to be reduced from 897 to 752 US gallons, and the nose-wheel once again had to be made to retract rearwards. However, the provision for two under-wing and two wingtip drop tanks was retained, boosting total fuel capacity by 730 US gallons. The armament was limited to a pair of wingtip-mounted AIM-9B Sidewinders, although the AN/ASG-14T-1 fire control system was retained.

The first of an initial batch of six F-104Bs took off on its maiden flight on January 16, 1967. It had been literally built by hand out of an F-104A airframe, and the larger area vertical tail, the automatic pitch control system, and the fire control system of later F-104Bs were not installed. It was unofficially designated YF-104B, although it was later brought up to production F-104B standards. This airplane was later used to test Lockheed's downward-firing ejection seat that was initially fitted to the F-104A.

 
 
The NF-104A aerospace trainer
 
In 1963, three ex-USAF F-104As (56-756, -760, and -762) were taken out of storage at Davis Monthan AFB and modified as NF-104A aerospace training aircraft. All of the military equipment was removed and the original F-104A vertical fin was replaced by the larger fin that was used on the F-104G. The wingspan was increased by four feet (to 25.94 feet) and a set of hydrogen peroxide control thrusters were mounted at the nose, tail, and wingtips. A 6000 pound thrust Rocketdyne LR121/AR-2-NA-1 auxiliary rocket engine was mounted on the tail above the jet exhaust pipe. This rocket engine could be throttled from 3000 to 6000 pounds of thrust, and the burn time was about 105 seconds.
 
The first NF-104A was delivered on October 1, 1963, with the other two following a month later. They were operated by the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, which was commanded at that time by Colonel Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager.
 
On December 6, 1963, the first NF-104A set an unofficial world altitude record of 118,860 feet for aircraft taking off under their own power. The official record at that time was 113,829 feet, set by the Mikoyan/Gurevich Ye-66A, an experimental version of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Later, the same NF-104A flown by Major R. W. Smith reached an altitude of 120,800 feet.
 

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On December 10, 1963, the second NF-104A (56-762), with Chuck Yeager at the controls, went out of control at an altitude of 104,000 feet and fell in a flat spin to 11,000 feet. Yeager managed to eject successfully at that altitude, although he was badly burned on his face by the rocket motor of his ejector seat. The aircraft was destroyed in the ensuing crash. An investigation later showed that the cause of the crash was a spin that resulted from excessive angle of attack and lack of aircraft response. The excessive angle of attack was not caused by pilot input but by a gyroscopic condition set up by the J79 engine spooling after shut down for the rocket-powered zoom climb phase. So it wasn't Chuck's fault.
 
In June of 1971, the third NF-104A, with Capt. Howard C. Thompson at the controls, suffered an in-flight explosion of its rocket motor. Although Thompson was able to land safely, the aircraft's rocket motor and half its rudder were blown away. Since the program was about to end in any case, this aircraft was retired.
 
The number one NF-104A is currently on display on top of aa pylon in front of the USAF Test Pilot School.
 

 

The F-104C strike fighter
 

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The F-104C (Lockheed Model 483-04-05) was the tactical strike version of the Starfighter. It was designed to meet the needs of the Tactical Air Command (TAC), which had earlier found the F-104A to be unacceptable because of its low endurance and its inability to carry significant offensive payloads.
The choice of the F-104C by the TAC after it had found the F-104A to bu unsuitable seems sort of odd, but the TAC felt that it needed a supersonic tactical strike fighter to fill the void between the forthcoming F-100C and the Mach 2-capable Republic F-105 Thunderchief. On March 2, 1956, a contract was approved for the initial procurement of 56 F-104Cs. The order was later increased to 77 when a second order for 21 more F-104Cs was approved on December 26, 1956. Planned orders for another 363 F-104Cs were later cancelled when the USAF terminated all of its Starfighter production plans.
 
The first F-104C, unofficially designated YF-104C, took off on its maiden flight on July 24, 1958. The F-104C was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-7 engine rated at 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,800 lb.s.t. with afterburner. This thrust was almost a thousand pounds greater than the -3A/3B of the F-104A/B. This increase in power was made possible by increasing the diameter of the turbine by 3 inches.
 
The F-104C could also be equipped with a fixed but removable in-flight refueling probe attached to the port side of the fuselage.
 
The F-104C was designed mainly for delivery of Mk 12 and later US tactical nuclear weapons, which it could carry on a centerline pylon attachment which had a 2000-pound capacity. This centerline pylon could also carry a 225-US gallon droptank.
 
The F-104C was equipped with the improved AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system which replaced the F-104A's AN/ASG-14T-1. It made the F-104C capable of operating in clear night as well as day conditions, although the F-104C was not truly capable of all-weather operations.
 
The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on under-wing and fuselage points. For nuclear strike, an MK-28 "special store" could be carried on a pylon underneath the fuselage. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry a Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip. However, the 20-mm cannon was not actually installed until 1964, when the improved M61A1 became available.
 

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The first F-104Cs began to reach the TAC in September of 1958. It served with four squadrons (434th, 435th, 436th, and 476th) of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing based at George AFB. It was primarily intended for nuclear strike, but it could also carry out ground attack missions with conventional weapons.
 
On December 14, 1959, an F-104C flown by Captain Joe B. Jordan boosted the world's altitude record to 103,389 feet. This was the first time that an aircraft taking off under its own power exceeded the 100,000-foot mark. During the flight, the aircraft also reached a speed of Mach 2.36 and established a time-to-height record to 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) of 15 minutes 4.92 seconds from brake release.
In October 1961, the F-104C was subjected to Project Grindstone, a program in which the Lockheed factory modernized the fighter. Among the changes made was the addition of hard points which enabled another pair of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to be mounted underneath the fuselage. The aircraft was also given the ability to carry and deliver a larger variety of air-to-ground weapons, including 2.75-inch rockets, napalm, and gravity bombs.
 
During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, the 479th TFW's F-104Cs were deployed to Key West, Florida to protect against Cuban or Russian aircraft trying to attack targets in the United States. These planes would also have carried out air strikes against targets in Cuba in case an invasion proved to be necessary. Fortunately, the crisis was peacefully resolved.
 
The F-104C had a number of operational problems with various components. The major offender was the J79-GE-7 engine--forty serious mishaps occurred over a five-year period, destroying 24 aircraft and killing 9 pilots. This led to Project Seven Up, a General Electric modification program for the engine which began in May of 1963 and ended in June of 1964.

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In April of 1965, a single squadron of the 479th TFW deployed with their F-104Cs to Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. Their job was to fly MiG combat air patrol (MiGCAP) missions to protect American fighter bombers against attack by North Vietnamese fighters. They flew these missions armed with their single M61A1 20-mm cannon and four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Unfortunately, the range of the F-104C was too short to make it a useful escort fighter, a fact which the North was soon to discover. All they had to do was wait for the F-104s to turn back before launching their own fighters in safety.

The 479th had a bad day on September 20, 1965, when F-104C pilot Major Philip E. Smith was shot down over Hainan Island by a pair of Chinese MiG-19s (F-6s). His navigation system had failed while he was on MiG-CAP over the Gulf of Tonkin and he had gotten lost. He ejected and was taken prisoner. While the rest of the squadron was out looking for Major Smith, two other F-104s had a midair collision while returning to their base and both their pilots were killed. A week later, another F-104C was shot down by enemy AAA, and its pilot was killed.
 
After these four losses, the remnants of the 479th were rotated back to George AFB. However, a new contingent of F-104Cs returned to Vietnam in May of 1966. This time, all four squadrons of the 479th TFS were involved and were assigned to the Udorn base in Thailand. These F-104Cs were soon involved in air strikes against targets in both South and North Vietnam, exchanging its role of air superiority for that of ground attack. The Starfighter took part in *Operation Bolo*, which was a successful attempt to lure North Vietnamese fighters into combat. However, the F-104s failed to engage whereas F-4 Phantoms scored heavily.

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The F-104C was not very well suited for the ground attack role, having a relatively low range and being incapable of carrying an adequately large offensive load. As a result, the Air Force decided to replace these F-104Cs by more efficient McDonnell F-4D Phantoms starting in July of 1967. The 479th was then rotated back to George AFB for the last time.
 
I don't believe that the F-104C ever destroyed a single enemy fighter during its tour of duty in Southeast Asia. In addition to the MiG loss over Hainan, two F-104s fell to SAMs, six to AAA and six were lost to non-combat causes
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Following the withdrawal of the F-104C from Southeast Asia in 1967, surviving F-104Cs were transferred to the 198th TFS of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. The F-104Cs replaced that unit's elderly F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. This ANG unit operated the Starfighter until it converted to LTV A-7Ds in July of 1975.
 

Jirka Wagner

 

 

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