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  • Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Single-Seat High-Speed Fighter / Interceptor Aircraft

    The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter served a greater role with air forces abroad than it did with the USAF, though its operational service was not without issues.

     Updated: 6/18/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Lockheed F-104 was in many ways an engineering marvel whose legacy suffered terribly due to several internal and external circumstances, so much so, in fact, that the aircraft was dubbed the unflattering name of "Widowmaker". Despite its setbacks, the aircraft was a record-setter and found a home with many an air force around the globe. The Starfighter was conceived of by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, fabled Lockheed engineer at its "Skunk Works" facility. From the outset, the F-104 was designed as a daytime supersonic air superiority fighter.

    The F-104 Starfighter came about after discussions Johnson had with United States Air Force pilots and their experiences in the Korean Air War. At the time, the Soviet Union had unveiled their feisty little jet-powered fighter - the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot" - while the USAF and its NATO allies had to make do with early and outclassed jet-powered forms until the introduction of the North American F-86 Sabre. Though air superiority eventually found its way back into NATO control, the USAF was still left without a capable and dedicated intercepting platform to combat the new Soviet fighter types effectively. As a result, Johnson set to work in 1952 to design a new aircraft based wholly on performance. This aircraft would mate the smallest (and therefore lightest) airframe to the most technologically advanced and powerful engine available. The resulting creation became the basis for the F-104 Starfighter.

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    Lockheed F-104G Starfighter Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1958
    Type: Single-Seat High-Speed Fighter / Interceptor Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Lockheed Aircraft Corporation - USA / Mitsubishi - Japan / Canadair - Canada / FIAT - Italy
    Production Total: 2,578

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 54.66 feet (16.66 meters)
    Width: 20.87 feet (6.36 meters)
    Height: 13.42 feet (4.09 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 13,995 lb (6,348 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 29,055 lb (13,179 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x General Electric J79-GE-11A turbojet engine developing 15,800 lb of thrust with afterburner.

    Maximum Speed: 1,320 mph (2,124 kph; 1,147 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,081 miles (1,740 km)
    Service Ceiling: 58,005 feet (17,680 meters; 10.99 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 48,000 feet-per-minute (14,630 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 20mm cannon multi-barrel M61 Vulcan cannon

    4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range, air-to-air missiles
    2 x AIM-7 SParrow medium-range, air-to-air missiles
    2 x Selenia Aspide medium-range, air-to-air missiles
    Conventional Bombs
    Rocket Pods
    Nuclear Weaponry
    External Fuel Tanks

    Up to 4,000lbs of external stores fixed to a centerline and multiple underwing hardpoints.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Belgium; Canada; Denmark; West Germany; Italy; Greece; Norway; Netherlands; Spain; Taiwan; Jordan; Pakistan; Turkey; Japan; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XF-104 - Two prototype examples; fitted with interim Wright XJ65-W-6 series turbojet engines of 10,200lbs thrust; both lost to accidents.

    YF-104A - Seventeen pre-production examples for flight testing of various systems; later converted to F104A production standard.

    F-104A - Initial production models; fitted with General Electric J79-GE-3 engines of 14,800lbs thrust; lacking all-weather capability.

    QF-104A - Radio-controlled drones of F-104A models; 22 examples converted as such.

    F-104B - Two-Seat Dual Control Combat-Capable Trainer based on F-104A models; enlarged tail surfaces; sans cannon; lighter fuel load.

    F-104C - Fighter-Bomber Variant; AN/ASG-14T-2 series fire-control system; two wing and centerline pylons for external stores; nuclear capable; in-flight refueling capability.

    F-104D - Two-Seat Dual Control Trainer based on the F-104C models; 21 examples.

    F-104DJ - Two-Seat Dual Control Trainer based on Japanese-produced Mitsubishi F-104J models; 20 examples.

    F-104F - Two-Seat Dual Control Trainer based on the F-104D models; fitted with powerplant of the F-104G series; sans radar systems; 30 examples produced.

    F-104G - Fighter-Bomber Variant produced for the German Luftwaffe; 1,122 examples produced; reinforced fuselage, wings and undercarriage; increased fuel capacity; new flaps; upgraded avionics suite.

    RF-104G - Tactical Reconnaissance Models of the F-104G series; sans cannon but fitted with three camera systems.

    TF-104G - Two-Seat Dual Control combat-capable trainers based on the F-104G; 220 examples.

    F-104H - Proposed export model based on the F-104G series; never produced.

    F-104J - Japanese license-production Starfighter under Mitsubishi label; interceptor/air superiority model; 210 examples.

    UF-104J - Radio-Controlled Target Drone conversions based on Mitsubishi-produced F-104J series.

    F-104N - Based on F-104G; NASA use as high-speed chase aircraft.

    NF-104A - Demilitarized Models for astronaut training; 1 x Rocketdyne LR121/AR-2-NA-1 rocket engine installed.

    F-104S - Italian production models built under FIAT label.

    F-104S-ASA - FIAT production models based on F-104S models; fitted with FIAT radar; AIM-9L Sidewinder and Selenia Aspide missile capability.

    F-104S-ASA/M - Italian Starfighter; upgraded models; rebuilt airframes; new instrument panels; strike capability removed.

    CF-104 - Canadian produced Starfighters; 200 examples; nuclear capability; increased fuel capacity; Canadian J79-OEL-7 series engines.

    CF-104D - Two-Seat Dual Control trainers based on CF-104 models; 38 examples.

    CL-1200 "Lancer" - Proposed modified version of the F-104.