The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was an American single-engined, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1958 until 1967. One of the Century Series of aircraft, it continued in service with Air National Guard units until it was phased out in 1975. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) flew a small mixed fleet of F-104 types in supersonic flight tests and spaceflight programs until they were retired in 1994. Several two-seat trainer versions were produced, the most numerous being the TF-104G.
The F-104C was used in combat with the USAF during the Vietnam War, and F-104A aircraft were deployed by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani wars. Republic of China Air Force F-104s also engaged the People's Liberation Army Air Force over the disputed island of Kinmen.
The poor safety record of the Starfighter brought the aircraft into the public eye, especially in Luftwaffe service; the subsequent Lockheed bribery scandals surrounding the original purchase contracts caused considerable political controversy in Europe and Japan. However, a USAF study of other Century Series fighters revealed that the F-100 Super Sabre had an accident rate far worse than the F-104's.
The F-104G version sold well amongst NATO air forces, where these high-speed fighter-bomber variants continued in service with most operators until the late 1980s. Lockheed developed the final and most advanced version, the F-104S, for use by the Italian Air Force which was designed to carry AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. The Italian Air Force was the last remaining Starfighter operator, retiring their fleet in 2004. Many F-104s were eventually replaced with F-16 or Panavia Tornado aircraft. A projected, highly-modified version of the F-104, known as the CL-1200 Lancer, did not proceed; the project was cancelled at the mock-up stage. A civilian demonstration team based in Florida operates the last three of four airworthy Starfighters. The other, a CF-104D, is owned and operated by Mark Sherman out of Williams Gateway airport in Phoenix, Arizona.
Orthographically projected diagram of the F-104 Starfighter.
Data from Quest for Performance
* Crew: 1
* Length: 54 ft 8 in (16.66 m)
* Wingspan: 21 ft 9 in (6.36 m)
* Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.09 m)
* Wing area: 196.1 sq ft (18.22 m²
* Airfoil: Biconvex 3.36% root and tip
* Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
* Loaded weight: 20,640 lb (9,365 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 29,027 lb (13,170 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× General Electric J79-GE-11A afterburning turbojet
o Dry thrust: 10,000 lbf (48 kN)
o Thrust with afterburner: 15,600 lbf (69 kN)
* Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0172
* Drag area: 3.37 sq ft (0.31 m²
* Aspect ratio: 2.45
* Maximum speed: 1,328 mph (1,154 knots, 2,125 km/h)
* Combat radius: 420 mi (365 NM, 670 km)
* Ferry range: 1,630 mi (1,420 nm, 2,623 km)
* Service ceiling 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
* Rate of climb: 48,000 ft/min (244 m/s)
* Wing loading: 105 lb/sq ft (514 kg/m²
* Thrust/weight: 0.54 with max. takeoff weight (0.76 loaded)
* Lift-to-drag ratio: 9.2
* Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan gatling gun, 725 rounds
* Hardpoints: 7 with a capacity of 4,000 lb (1,800 kg),with provisions to carry combinations of:
o Missiles: 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder* Other: Bombs, rockets, or other stores