F-104 Starfighter Fighter Bomber
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was developed with feedback from pilots flying in the Korean War. The number one request was for a simple high performance aircraft. Lockheed created a design that wrapped the lightest, most aerodynamically efficient airframe possible around the General Electric J79 engine. The F-104 first flew in March 1954 and became operational in 1958. The Starfighter was a very innovative aircraft. It featured a radical wing design, a very small, straight, mid-mounted, trapezoidal wing that was extremely thin. The wing's leading edges were so thin and sharp that they presented a hazard to ground crews and protective guards had to be installed during ground operations. The top speed of the Starfighter was limited more by the aluminum airframe structure and the temperature limits of the engine compressor than by thrust or drag. The Starfighter was the first combat aircraft capable of sustained Mach 2 flight and its speed and climb performance remain impressive even by current standards. The F-104 was continually improved over it’s production run and the basic interceptor evolved into a fighter-bomber. While the F-104 was phased out of USAF service in the late 1960s, the German Luftwaffe was looking for a multirole combat aircraft. The Starfighter was reworked to convert it from an interceptor to an all weather ground attack, reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft, the F-104G. The new version of the F-104 was a success and 2,578 were built. International service of the F-104 began to end in the late 1970s however the last F-104 G was not retired from the Italian Air Force until October 31, 2004. F-104s were built in or used by the USAF, NASA, Canada, West Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Pakistan, the Republic of China and Japan. The F-104 Starfighter was armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling cannon, two wingtip hard points for the AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs or fuel tanks and could carry 4,000 lbs. of ordinance. This model shows a plane flown by the German Navy and armed with Kormoran anti-ship missiles. Also see the F-104 A.