Star Fighter: The fighter Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

The Korean War has once again clearly demonstrated the already obvious truth. To provide advantages over the enemy military equipment should not only have the best properties. Often, the use of new technologies and new solutions. Without this unlikely turn of success achieved. In the context of aviation early 50-ies of the last century, this meant a huge speed and altitude, as the best maneuverability. Need to see, while the aircraft had just started to develop supersonic velocity and velocity spectrum M> 1 was faster mysterious novelty, if the usual "situation". Specifically attack the immense speed of 50's first thought up the company's engineers Lockheed. According to their idea, the new plane had to overtake sound twice and, later will, the entire project will be subject to exactly this purpose.

The birth of the "Star fighter"

The idea of creation dvuhmahovogo fighter was offered the head of the department of hidden lokhidovskogo developments Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, another first in 1950. But while the future department Skunk Works — this title will be in 10 years — has been busy with other projects and new fighter began to create only 18 months. The fact is that at first the idea seemed Johnson administration and the military are very bold. But by the middle of the Korean War, it became clear that the available technology is no longer povoyuesh and fighter aircraft just have to change your own view. At the same time, Johnson's team did not prohibit the conduct of research on the subject of prospects fighters. Later that benefit the timing of implementation of the concept.

The pursuit of speed has identified a number of key design features of the aircraft L-246 (this was the designation of the project in the design office.) To achieve the speed of M = 2 "builders of the Lockheed" immediately began to implement two ideas. First concerned the installation engine power is very likely, and the second involves ensuring low resistance glider. Since the creation of the motor for dvuhmahovogo L-246 was not in charge of the design of Kelly Johnson, we still consider only the wind and the weight of the project. As in the first years of aviation, the construction of L-246 makes it very easy, of course, without loss of strength. In a similar way, and tried to make the outer contour of the airplane. So, on the surface of the fuselage and wings of the designers have tried to quit just the right amount of little technical hatches, etc. The larger units, such as the fuselage, wing or tail, made in the form of a typical trade-off between the least resistance and effective work. Because of the new fighter wing in the end was not habitually small. Then it will lead to the emergence of a nickname «The missile with a man in it» («The missile with a man inside").

Need to see a similar approach to the aerodynamics of aircraft was not only positive. Yes, high-potential fighter was still higher than that of the "traditional" for as long aircraft. But the highest top speed badly affected maneuverability. However, the customer in the face of the U.S. Air Force did not mind. Assumed that the L-246 will interceptor traditional realization of this term. It will soar, promptly leave the area intercept storm rapidly target and vorachivatsya on base. Maneuverable dogfight this concept came only as a little too far and not the main additions. So the military is not outraged about the specific features created by the aircraft.

Relatively bad maneuvering properties L-246 had a few circumstances. The most important of them touched the wing. Several experimental aircraft series «X» and a number of tests in the NACA to the top of the creation of a new fighter flight characteristics have allowed to learn at a rate exceeding twice the speed of sound. Among other, at speeds loses effectiveness swept wing. More comfortable and looked promising triangular or trapezoidal plane. Huge speed also sought more narrow wings than before. In the end, the designers "Lockheed" braked on tapered wing with an extension of about 2.45, and for the finest long profile — only 3.4%. The small thickness wing has resulted in that the radius of curvature of the leading edge of the wing does not exceed 0.5 mm. All it sought new materials and new technologies to ensure the proper production of precision parts. Then the techniques of combat units had even cover the wings of the F-104 is specially made with tarpaulin covers Myagenko inserts. Without them you could just destroy edge of the wing, and even injury. But the thin wing of small aspect ratio just fine at high speeds. To ensure normal takeoff and landing characteristics Johnson companions had to equip the wing deflected toed across the length and slotted flaps large area.

Savings amount claimed from the fuselage engineers to equip F-104 T-tail. Other methods to give the aircraft all-moving stabilizer was not simple. It should be noted that the effectiveness of the stabilizer, to function as the elevator was sufficient for the moment to dive Parry, who appears in the transonic speed range. Go with this tendency to nose down in some measure compensated by the highest thrust-to-weight — the plane could quickly "jump" through the terrible range of speeds to fly farther and more measured. The rudder is positioned at the rear of the keel. For its size it is not something perceptible.

As the power plant for the upcoming F-104 engine was elected as General Electric J79-GE-3. This turbo-boosted engine was created directly with the aircraft. Calculated thrust turbojet exceed 4500 kg, which, coupled with the design take-off weight of 10 tons fighter gave a pretty good thrust. Development of the motor was pretty hard, which is why in the process of testing the aircraft there were some problems, but a few of them later.

Armament Project L-246 was in its own part of a six-barrel automatic M61 Vulcan cannon and two nodes for the suspension of guided missiles. It was assumed that 2-missiles would be enough to intercept enemy aircraft. By modern standards this is not enough, but first the 50's decided that two missiles dvuhmahovaya and speed are fully applicable for a promising interceptor. In the end, the gun "Volcano" was a giant for long in the rate of four thousand rounds per minute. In light of the lack of decent production of missiles "air-air" a combination of 2-guided munitions and high-velocity gun looked the best solution to the stepping stone for a couple of years.

In the end, in accordance with the latest requirements for aviation safety, the team at Johnson foresaw the L-246 ejection seat. Since the form of the means of salvation in the 50s have not yet been worked out, ejection seat with the pilot did not take place up, as it is at the moment, but down. Such a method of saving the pilot was chosen for several reasons. In 1-x, downward ejection was easier from a technical point of view, in-2, because of the impossibility of collision chair with a tail could reduce the rate of release, and in-3, the pilot almost risked compression injury backbone. Once all three plus compensated sufficiently severe shortcomings. For example, when shooting of the pilot seats down had a large negative overload, which in itself is far not good for health and well being. In addition, before the opening of the parachute seat with the pilot lost more
than 400-450 meters in height. So Makarov, taking off or landing at a severe tragedy puts pilots a difficult choice: to eject and to be "shot" into the ground or fall along with the plane. And well, if you had the opportunity to plan and aggressively take on the belly …

Phalanx pilots are unlikely to approve such a feature of the rescue system. But the U.S. military government, seeing the results of air combat over Korea, more attention is paid to features of the flight and tactical advantages of the new aircraft, if the pilot ejection. The fall of the 52nd project L-246 was approved by the Commission and the Air Force March 12, 1953 claimed by Lockheed to build two prototypes of a fighter XF-104. Coupled with the Army designation new aircraft and received its own name — Starfighter («Star Fighter"). The assembly of the first 2-copies now F-104 took the least year. With all of this before the start of the test the Pentagon — apparently considering the prospects of a fighter — has made an order for an additional 17 pre-production aircraft YF-104 and 6 F-104 serial version of "A". In general, the gentlemen of the Pentagon's attitude to the project with great optimism. For example, it was planned that the first "Starfighter" will go to the troops already in its 59th year. The company Lockheed did not share this optimism. The difficulties began at the stage of assembly of the prototype. When the first XF-104 was at a sufficiently high level of readiness, it became clear that "General Electric" did not have time to finish the new engine to the previously-discussed term. Since the "Lockheed" did not want to disrupt timing, even on someone else's fault, urgently necessary to alter the design of experimental aircraft engines for installation Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. He had a slightly lower properties than the J79-GE-3, but the choice was almost out of nothing.

From theory to practice

In February 1954, as stipulated, the first XF-104 was delivered to Edwards AFB. February 27 began taxiing. Just a few days — March 4 — T. Levier pilot for the first time pulled the stick back and raised "Starfighter" in the air. Satisfaction with the first flight was marred by a descent with 2 problems. At first, failed to remove the chassis, and then there were interruptions in the operation of the fuel pump. The aircraft has been painstakingly studied and background problems, however, are gone. Yet, over the next few flights at times problems with the chassis and the pump was allowed to know about themselves. At ultimate phase took several months. Immediately eliminated from this and other design flaws. As a result, with the help of non-native engine from the "Armstrong-Siddeley" plane XF-104 25 March 55 th climbed to a height of 15 km and has a top speed, a 1.79 times greater than the speed of sound.

In April, the 54th began testing tools. 20-mm six-gun was serving great expectations. Have not yet started shooting. During the first volley revealed that fly out of the mouth of the sleeve gilzosbrosa with very high speed. After a few turns in the casing liner struck a fighter rather big hole. By coincidence, the joyous event the fuel line, which took place in the construction site, was not injured. After that incident was reinforced paneling in the "danger zones." Gain a broker, but still a test aircraft was lost. At the time of departure to the site April 25, 1954 with the shooting of a big return M61 gun fell to the fixtures. While the pilot G. Salomon responded and released the trigger, the instrument has had time to spread practically nose of the aircraft. Hopes of saving machine was not and the pilot ejected. Specifically so sad and started a list of losses, which later will be to blame the F-104.

After the loss of the most experienced test aircraft has halted 10 months. During this period, now YF-104 received the "native" engine J79-GE-3 is also adjustable cones vozduhopoglotiteley. On the XF-104 they were stationary, and as it turns out, unable to provide a measured motor to run in all flight modes. Movable cones had a specific and unique configuration of a moving mechanism. Because of this, during the celebration of the first roll-out fighter YF-104 (Feb. 16 '56) input devices were closed vozduhopoglotiteley special covers of metal. YF-104 also had a very long fuselage. The fact that Position TRD "Sapphire" had significantly revise the design of the aircraft. This engine was the smallest size — to set the GE J79-GE-3 had to "ramp up" the fuselage is almost two meters. In addition to a number of other external configurations (new hatches for maintenance, etc.) has changed the look of the aircraft because of the placement on the wingtip pylons for missiles or mounted fuel tanks.

YF-104 tests confirmed absolutely correct choice motor, although the properties of the interceptor were still missing. First, the issues of utmost takeoff and landing distance. There needed not so long ago, shows a system blowing boundary layer with the flaps. From the compressor engine bleed air and redirected to the flaps. Their effectiveness has increased significantly: landing speed decreased by 20% to 260-270 km / h, and the landing distance was reduced by a quarter. During the tests had izderzhat lot of time and effort perfecting not only the aircraft. Engine from General Electric was still quite "raw".

At the company "Lockheed" collected pre-series batch of YF-104 aircraft, and the Pentagon has already placed an order for 155 fighters, 18 scouts and 26 training aircraft based on the F-104 project. With all of this last version is still in the early stages of development. Such a "fat" contract was signed in December 55th, two months before the first flight of the YF-104. It is necessary to see that it was not the best idea and most military realized it pretty quickly. After the start of the tests on-board electronics of the new aircraft, many engineers and the military did not hide his doubts about the prospects for F-104. So, on-board radar to the top flight is no longer meet the requirements of the Pentagon, and electronic telemeter sight at high speeds very beginning to avoid huge mistakes. In conjunction with the bad maneuverability at supersonic speeds, it is not normally allowed to storm the enemy with built "Vulcan." In addition, there were problems, and specifically with the gun. Big payoff bad acting on the aircraft structure, gunpowder smoke got into the air intake, and at a speed of more than M = 1.5, under certain circumstances, the plane could almost catch up with their own shells. As a result, serial F-104A integrated lost the gun, and in its place was established to preserve the load balancing. So Macarena, all the weapons of the first mass-produced "Starfighter" consisted only of 2-guided missiles.

In the ranks

Until the end of 1957 built 52 aircraft were used during testing at Edwards. Initial plans to start deliveries in the 56th year have been thwarted, but even a year after which time the fighter was still not ready. Management features, weapons and Performance F-104 is not completely satisfied with the military. As a result Starfighter was not considered as the primary interceptor for the coming couple of years. Now he is only just a temporary measure pending the F-106 Delta Dart. In late winter, the 57th Pentagon declined to purchase reconnaissance RF-104. Order for F-104, in turn, reduced to 146 cars. About the plans of old times at
650-700 machines are no longer remembered.

January 26, 1958 was the beginning of a career, "Starfighter". In this day come true festive ceremony of transfer of the first front-line aircraft 83rd Air Defense Squadron. The pilots reacted to the latest technology with enthusiasm. However, the optimism soon disappeared: in a couple of months had been lost half a dozen cars. F-104 proved to be very serious, even for the most experienced pilots. At the same time, as noted by those who are fortunate enough not to break with the aircraft, Starfighter not "warned" about the wrong piloting. He immediately go into a tailspin. Because of accidents in the 58 Squadron from April to June '58 flights on the F-104 was suspended. Yet, the creation of new aircraft and they lasted as ever went to pieces. In other compounds, the development of new aircraft was too far away than the usual. Fighters often fought and sometimes took the lives of pilots. The possibility of death and the pilot increased the catapult. Since the remodel it was too late, the pilots when flying at low altitude recommended to turn the aircraft "belly up" and eject. Of course, not always been able to do this maneuver.

Army wits quickly invented "Starfighter" new nickname. At various bases F-104 became known as a "flying coffin» («Flying Coffin»), then the "Leave widows» («Widowmaker»). Against this background, nicknamed "Pregnant pin» («The Pregnant Hatpin») looked not so sad. Meanwhile, the company "Lockheed" proposed new uses and equipping the aircraft. For example, began the development of missiles "air-air" with a nuclear warhead. But the missile with kiloton warhead would not let her hang on the wings. Under the fuselage "Starfighter" it is impeding on the rise and is not allowed to sit down, without dropping it. But were made and mass-produced fighter aircraft carried out several modifications:
— F-104A. The base version;
— F-104B. Training two-seat fighter. In addition to enhancing the cabin and some electronics similar to the variant "A";
— F-104C. It is a basic "Starfighter" from the new engine, GE J79-GE-7, the latest sighting equipment and ventral pylon for the suspension arms;
— F-104D. Upgraded training F-104B;
— F-104G, F-104J, F-104S — export versions F-104A, made for deliveries to Germany, Japan and Italy respectively. From each other and from the initial composition of different fighter aircraft equipment.

In serednie 60s outlook "Starfighter" was pretty clear. Because for 22 production aircraft were dismantled some of the avionics, and in return they are installed cameras and remote control equipment. Under the symbol QF-104, these planes were used to test anti-aircraft missiles as a radio-controlled targets.

Notwithstanding the fact that F-104 rose up to the Vietnam War, special success in the battle, they had not. In 1965, the 476 th Wing was sent to South Vietnam. According to reports, there were F-104C with the ability to attack ground targets. Implementation details have never been published, from which it is often concluded that there is no any success. A couple of months South American airmen have worked in Vietnam, then they were transferred to Taiwan to work in the defense of the island. September 20th is one of the F-104 case (according to the official U.S. version) entered the air space of the PRC, which was shot down by a Chinese MiG-19. South American pilot died.

At a time when the 476 th Wing worked in Taiwan, modify F-104A and F-104B started shooting with weapons. Their work is now trusted Options «C» and «D», respectively. Specifically, these aircraft flew the part of the 476 th Wing, which in the 66th sent back to Vietnam. Aircraft based in Thailand during the year participated in the raids. Catchy, it is clear that only the number of flights and total flight time. About the effectiveness of these flights or no dropouts. Low benefit indirectly confirmed by the fact that after returning to the 67th home in the States all the "Starfighter" squadrons were sent to storage. In 1975 they wrote off and recycled.

Aircraft 476 th Wing were the last F-104 in the United States. For a couple of years of operation of nearly three hundred serial F-104 was lost quarter. Killed two 10-ka pilots. In 1966, a batch creation for their own use was discontinued.


Soon after the start of the serial production F-104A new fighter interested in Canada. On request, the official Ottawa to "Lockheed" have started to work on the remake of the aircraft under the Canadian needs. 19 September 61 th for the first time flew prototype of CF-104. According to his ability, he was a cross between F-104A and F-104C. On the CF-104 was not the gun (in its place established tank of fuel), the other radar and avionics, special for ground targets. The initial agreement of Canada and the "Lockheed" involves the construction of the prototype and a series of 38 fighters. Further creation was deployed in Canada. For their own needs, this country has gathered 200 fighters and 140 more were sold to third countries.

A similar situation exists with the export F-104G, with the difference that it ordered the Federal Republic of Germany. Since 1962, the German troops began to receive the first F-104G, collected on the ground in Germany. For 18 months in the latest technology, "transplanted" 12 regiments of the Luftwaffe. Differences from F-104G Starfighter initial were essentially the same as and CF-104. On the basis of F-104G, virtually without changes in the design and equipment, was created by modification of F-104J for the Land of the Rising Sun. Like other countries, Japan has received several aircraft from the United States, while others made their own.

Besides the implementation of special modifications for the U.S. friendly countries have been trading second-hand aircraft. For example, in the 65th Pakistan got a pair of 10-s "b / u» F-104A. In the same year, Pakistan tried to apply the acquired aircraft in combat with India. Special success, however, the Pakistani pilots did not have gained. At each downed Indian plane accounted for downed "Starfighter".

While serving outside the United States, F-104 different modifications have maintained their higher accident rate. Thus, of the 900 available to the Federal Republic of Germany with redundant machines were lost almost three hundred. Broke 116 pilots. At the time, Germany had a big row over the need for a fighter is so unsafe. Active and alternate enemy "Starfighter" was a famous German pilot E. Hartmann. But a huge number and the financial side substitution is not allowed time to retire all F-104 and replace them with something more benign. Much less lucky Canadian pilots. At the time of withdrawal of fighters with weapons were missing 45% of the cars. Specifically service in Canada was the "record" for the F-104. With all of this it should be noted that none of the 20 Spanish F-104G (for 7-8 years all together flew 17 thousand hours) was not lost.


Fighter Lockh
eed F-104 Starfighter was a breakthrough for its time. He was the first in the world able to achieve 2-speed of sound, it was unique for its time wing, etc. But the highest requirements for the aircraft eventually led to the harsh dilemmas. Curiously, it was similar to most airplanes, "Lockheed" developed in the department of Clarence Johnson. The group of designers, now called Skunk Works, always adept to make unenforceable. Only almost always it was done quite a big price. Thus, the U-2 spy with amazing figures of height and distance was very awkward for takeoff and landing. SR-71 flew three times faster sound, but the operation was very expensive and difficult. In the end, F-104 flight satisfied the requirements of the original requirements specification, but fly it was very difficult and dangerous.

The moral of the story of the ordinary. Evaluation techniques for the greatest features — is fundamentally the wrong way. Score features and setting the "cost-effectiveness" is not always useful. The fact that the F-104 at the design stage was able to bypass several aircraft competing on price indices. South American military and designers in the pursuit of speed forgotten about usability. All together this was the premise that the F-104 remained in the history of world aviation is not only the "Starfighter", and "Leave a widow."

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