F-104 Starfighter

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The History of Aviation


US Post War Aircraft

F-104 Starfighter

F-104 aircraft were 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.

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


Seventeen YF-104A service test aircraft were built with the improved General Electric J79 turbojet. The YF-104A exceeded Mach 2 on Feb. 28, 1956. The pre-production Block 1 F-104As, 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. A large percentage of the 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.

On May 7, 1958, the aircraft reached an altitude of 91,249 feet in a zoom climb at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., setting a new altitude record. Later that month, a YF-104A set a new world's air speed record of 1404.19 mph flying over a 15/25 kilometer course at Edwards. For the first time, the same aircraft type held both the world speed and altitude records at the same time.


The F-104A was withdrawn from active service in 1960.

General Characteristics


* Primary function: fighter
* Span: 21.94 feet
* Length: 54.77 feet
* Height: 13.49 feet
* Weight: 25,300 pounds (tip tanks and pylon tanks); 19,600 pounds gross weight 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 pounds static sea-level thrust with afterburner (-19 rated at 17,500 pounds max. thrust)
* Crew: One
* Cost: $1,471,000
* 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 minute time-to-climb, 26,000 feet initial, 39,000 feet final at approximately .85 Mach for 3 hours 35 minutes
* Service ceiling: 58,000 feet

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