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F-104 Starfighter


Dawes

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Considering it's record in total, could this aircraft be considred an overall failure, a success, or somewhere in between?

It was a good short range interseptor, but was extremely demanding on the pilot (that resulted in many crashes) then it was used as a low flying attack plane. As intersptor it was success as a ground attack plane it was a big failur.

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Considering it's record in total, could this aircraft be considred an overall failure, a success, or somewhere in between?

 

My understanding is that the F-104 was based off of the F-86 experience in Korea, i.e., it was designed to do well as a good weather, WVR dogfighter, which made it a pretty good clear weather interceptor as well. It's performance in this role was quite good and nations that seemed to use it in this role, maybe Spain (IIRC), maybe Italy, didn't experience the problems that people who tried to use it in poorer weather or at lower levels, had.

 

The problem, as I think others in this thread are alluding to, is that the world, including the USAF, were moving away from WVR optimized fighters to multirole, all weather aircraft. Trying to force the F-104 into that niche didn't go well. Kelly Johnson's work on the CL-1200 Lancer design may be a clue to what a more all weather, multi-role specification for the F-104's development might have produced.

 

Arguably the USAF got rid of the role filled by the F-86/F-104 and didn't try to fill it again till the YF-16.

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... It's performance in this role was quite good and nations that seemed to use it in this role...

 

What was a reason for the failure of the Pakistani ones, considering that Pakistan did OK with other types?

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I seem to remember an ex-post analysis that the Starfighter's safety record, once that the initial problems were resolved, were actually above average (but that didn't help its marred reputation). The few pilots I talked to, loved that bird. Overall I think it was a success for what it was supposed to be (interceptor), and mediocre (but not fatally flawed) in the strike role.

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IIRC Walt Bjorneby who used to post on rec.aviation.military (20+ years ago when usenet was still relevant) had been a USAAF 104 pilot in the 60's. He was convinced it was a world class air to air fighter, and could kill anything short of a F-14, F-15, F-16 to F/A-18, once it had been re-engined with later J-79 engines. Problem was it was pushed into the low altitude strike role for which it was not ideally suited. Even at that it was probably as good as its contemporaries in the long term.

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The USAF used it in the strike role briefly in Vietnam, and found it was inaccurate. So that was that. Althought you kind of wonder if it would have done better over North Vietnam in the Fighter role, than the F4. It seemed to come to similar conclusions as the F8, which did fairly well.

 

There was apparently a USAF plan to base F86's out of Udorn with long range drop tanks, so worried was the USAF about the ascendancy of the Mig21 and the Teen series Soviet fighters. I guess they reflected on how bad it would make them look, and it came to nothing.

 

The worst thing you can say about the F104 is that it paved the way for the F5 and the F16. There clearly was a market for lightweight fighters, just not in the USAF for a while.

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I was on the receiving end of both F104s and A7s in my conscript service - simulated of course, this was back in 92 when Greece still used the F104, I think they retired them a short time later.

 

They both made simulated attacks with rockets and dumb bombs on the hill we were defending. You could see the difference in their execution, the F104 came straight at you and fast! basically it was over you before you realised it was coming, you just saw a tiny Mercedes badge comming at you. The A7s used terrain to mask their aproach, got near and popped up to toss their bombs, you could not even get a feeling of where they were coming before they too were on top of you.

 

Lugging that MG3 all those hours... unforgetable :)

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... It's performance in this role was quite good and nations that seemed to use it in this role...

 

What was a reason for the failure of the Pakistani ones, considering that Pakistan did OK with other types?

 

 

Don't know; if I had to guess, I'd think that maybe the F-104 took a higher skill level to use properly, i.e., fighting in the vertical as opposed to turning engagements.

 

I'm basing my opinion about the F-104 as a dogfighter largely off of a long time ago post here, by Guy Acala, about the USAF's Featherduster trials. The pull quote from that was:

 

Project Featherduster was instigated by TAC to help develop
proper tactics against likely opponents that TAC aircraft
might face in SEA. The TAC aircraft of concern were the F-
100C/D/F, F-4C, F-105D and F-104C. Opponents included the
F-102A and F-106A (MiG-21), F-86H (MiG-17), F-8C/D (MiG-
19) and the F-5N (another story altogether). The TAC
aircraft were also flown against each other to practice
dissimilar air combat training (DACT) and to further evaluate
their individual strengths and weaknesses.
It should come as no surprise that the F-8s did pretty well
against the F-100s. It probably won't surprise too many to
learn that the F-4s generally beat up on the F-105s. The big
shock to most, however, was the fact that the F-104C ended
up at the top of the heap. It not only bested all the other
aircraft, but it did so regularly and by a surprising margin.

 

 

 

The USAF used it in the strike role briefly in Vietnam, and found it was inaccurate. So that was that. Althought you kind of wonder if it would have done better over North Vietnam in the Fighter role, than the F4. It seemed to come to similar conclusions as the F8, which did fairly well.

 

There was apparently a USAF plan to base F86's out of Udorn with long range drop tanks, so worried was the USAF about the ascendancy of the Mig21 and the Teen series Soviet fighters. I guess they reflected on how bad it would make them look, and it came to nothing.

 

The worst thing you can say about the F104 is that it paved the way for the F5 and the F16. There clearly was a market for lightweight fighters, just not in the USAF for a while.

 

F-104Cs served in SEA in 1965-66 and 1966-67 during two separate deployments. There's an interesting account on the International F-104 Society's page here. That site's spin is that F-104s flew top cover and escort for both F-4s and F-105s and were only pressed into close air support work when there weren't enough Migs to keep them busy. Numerically they had little to show for their time in SEA but anecdotally they kept Migs away just by their presence.

Edited by CaptLuke
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F-104Cs also flew VIZID for the Phantoms. ROEs required visual identification of hostile aircraft, so Starfighters were used for a short time to accelerate ahead of the F-4s to determine if contacts were hostile. If so, they broke away so the F-4s could take Sparrow BVR shots. A rather awkward process that was quickly abandoned.

 

I read. long ago, an article about NATO F-104s where one pilot described playing with Soviet MiGs over the Baltic Sea, and being able to quickly attain kill positions.

 

Lastly, the F-106 proved itself to be a remarkable dogfighter (an interceptor?!) in ACM experiments during the early '70s (AIMEVAL/ACEVAL ?) F-106s were subsequently re-equipped with canopies that had the heavy middle beam removed, as well as provision for a Vulcan cannon in the missile bay.

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... It's performance in this role was quite good and nations that seemed to use it in this role...

 

What was a reason for the failure of the Pakistani ones, considering that Pakistan did OK with other types?

 

 

Don't know; if I had to guess, I'd think that maybe the F-104 took a higher skill level to use properly, i.e., fighting in the vertical as opposed to turning engagements.

 

I'm basing my opinion about the F-104 as a dogfighter largely off of a long time ago post here, by Guy Acala, about the USAF's Featherduster trials. The pull quote from that was:

 

Project Featherduster was instigated by TAC to help develop
proper tactics against likely opponents that TAC aircraft
might face in SEA. The TAC aircraft of concern were the F-
100C/D/F, F-4C, F-105D and F-104C. Opponents included the
F-102A and F-106A (MiG-21), F-86H (MiG-17), F-8C/D (MiG-
19) and the F-5N (another story altogether). The TAC
aircraft were also flown against each other to practice
dissimilar air combat training (DACT) and to further evaluate
their individual strengths and weaknesses.
It should come as no surprise that the F-8s did pretty well
against the F-100s. It probably won't surprise too many to
learn that the F-4s generally beat up on the F-105s. The big
shock to most, however, was the fact that the F-104C ended
up at the top of the heap. It not only bested all the other
aircraft, but it did so regularly and by a surprising margin.

 

 

 

The USAF used it in the strike role briefly in Vietnam, and found it was inaccurate. So that was that. Althought you kind of wonder if it would have done better over North Vietnam in the Fighter role, than the F4. It seemed to come to similar conclusions as the F8, which did fairly well.

 

There was apparently a USAF plan to base F86's out of Udorn with long range drop tanks, so worried was the USAF about the ascendancy of the Mig21 and the Teen series Soviet fighters. I guess they reflected on how bad it would make them look, and it came to nothing.

 

The worst thing you can say about the F104 is that it paved the way for the F5 and the F16. There clearly was a market for lightweight fighters, just not in the USAF for a while.

 

F-104Cs served in SEA in 1965-66 and 1966-67 during two separate deployments. There's an interesting account on the International F-104 Society's page here. That site's spin is that F-104s flew top cover and escort for both F-4s and F-105s and were only pressed into close air support work when there weren't enough Migs to keep them busy. Numerically they had little to show for their time in SEA but anecdotally they kept Migs away just by their presence.

 

Yeah, im strangely not surprised by that. Its rate of roll must have been insane. Thanks, thats very interesting.

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The USAF used it in the strike role briefly in Vietnam, and found it was inaccurate. So that was that. Althought you kind of wonder if it would have done better over North Vietnam in the Fighter role, than the F4. It seemed to come to similar conclusions as the F8, which did fairly well.

 

There was apparently a USAF plan to base F86's out of Udorn with long range drop tanks, so worried was the USAF about the ascendancy of the Mig21 and the Teen series Soviet fighters. I guess they reflected on how bad it would make them look, and it came to nothing.

 

The worst thing you can say about the F104 is that it paved the way for the F5 and the F16. There clearly was a market for lightweight fighters, just not in the USAF for a while.

The RAAF had CAC Sabres (ie, with Avons and 30mm Adens) based at Butterworth in Malaysia from 1964 to 1967, and were called upon to deal with incursions by Indonesian MiG 21 on occasion but the MiGs always turned away. I have read that USAF and USN aircrews also had some visuals with the Sabres.

 

The history of Butterworth is of some interest, given its proximity to the air war over VN.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMAF_Butterworth

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... It's performance in this role was quite good and nations that seemed to use it in this role...

 

What was a reason for the failure of the Pakistani ones, considering that Pakistan did OK with other types?

 

 

The PAF F-104s did Ok in 1965, not so much in 1971 when they were confronted by the MiG-21 which was a more manouevrable opponent

 

https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/paf-f-104-starfighters.393536/

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The USAF used it in the strike role briefly in Vietnam, and found it was inaccurate. So that was that. Althought you kind of wonder if it would have done better over North Vietnam in the Fighter role, than the F4. It seemed to come to similar conclusions as the F8, which did fairly well.

 

There was apparently a USAF plan to base F86's out of Udorn with long range drop tanks, so worried was the USAF about the ascendancy of the Mig21 and the Teen series Soviet fighters. I guess they reflected on how bad it would make them look, and it came to nothing.

 

The worst thing you can say about the F104 is that it paved the way for the F5 and the F16. There clearly was a market for lightweight fighters, just not in the USAF for a while.

And the U-2

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The RCAF bought the 104 for the low level nuclear strike and recce role. It seems to have been reasonably well suited for that though it did have a high accident rate. Originally, they didn't have an air-to-air capability Later they gave up the nuclear role and became general purpose fighter-bombers, a role for which they were not as well suited.

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Perhaps of intrest.

May a good proportion of losses be do to high number of aircraft in use and high number of flying hours ?

 

 

http://www.916-starfighter.de/GAF_crashes.htm

A of the accidents were due to inexperienced pilots in hot, advanced aircraft.

Training techniques have advanced considerably...

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Then there were the maintenance casualties inflicted by the wings' leading edges. . . .

 

I remember it mentioned that sheaths were required to protect ground crew.
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Mine too, as its shape brings back memories. I remember building a model of one and mistaking a wing piece for the tail.

 

Incidentally, in its encounter with the USS Enterprise, the pilot survived.

Edited by Nobu
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