Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a single-engine, supersonic interceptor aircraft which was extensively deployed as a fighter-bomber during the Cold War.

Created as a day fighter by Lockheed as one of the Century Series of fighter aircraft for the United States Air Force, it was developed into an all-weather multirole aircraft in the early 1960s and produced by several other nations, seeing widespread service outside the United States.



This was the prototype aircraft; two examples were built and powered by Wright J65 engines (the J79 was not yet ready).

The second prototype was equipped with the M61 cannon as an armament test bed.

Both aircraft were destroyed in crashes.


The YF-104A was a pre-production aircraft used for engine, equipment, and flight testing; 17 were built, with the first flight taking place on 17 February 1956 and reaching Mach 2 for the first time on 27 April.


This aircraft was the initial production single-seat interceptor version, very similar to the YF-104A.


The NF-104A was used for three demilitarized versions with an additional 6,000 lbf (27 kN) Rocketdyne LR121/AR-2-NA-1 rocket engine, used for astronaut training at altitudes up to 120,800 ft (36,800 m).


A total of 24 F-104As (4 YF-104As, 20 early F-104As) were converted into radio-controlled drones and test aircraft.


The F-104B was a tandem two-seat, dual-control trainer version of the F-104A.


A fighter-bomber for USAF Tactical Air Command, the F-104C had improved fire-control radar (AN/ASG-14T-2), one centerline and two pylons under each wing (for a total of five), and the ability to carry one Mk 28 or Mk 43 nuclear weapon on the centerline pylon.


The F-104D designation was a dual-control trainer version of the F-104C.

Twenty-one examples were built.


This aircraft was a dual-control trainer version of the F-104J for the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).


The F-104F designation was given to a dual-control trainer based on the F-104D, but using the upgraded engine of the F-104G.


The F-104G was the most-produced version of the F-104 family, a multi-role fighter-bomber with a total of 1,127 aircraft built.

They were manufactured by Lockheed, as well as under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies that included Messerschmitt/MBB, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA.


The RF-104G was a tactical reconnaissance model based on the F-104G, usually with three KS-67A cameras mounted in the forward fuselage in place of the internal cannon.


A combat-capable trainer version of the F-104G, the TF-104G had no cannon or centre line pylon, and reduced internal fuel.


The F-104H was a projected export version based on the F-104G with an optical gunsight and simplified equipment.

It was cancelled prior to construction.


The F-104J was a specialized interceptor version of the F-104G for the Japanese ASDF, built under license by Mitsubishi for the air-superiority role; it was armed with cannon and four Sidewinders, but had no strike capability.


Three unarmed and lighter F-104Gs were delivered to NASA in 1963 for use as high-speed chase aircraft and given the designation F-104N.


FIAT built 246 of the final production version, the F-104S (one of these aircraft crashed prior to delivery and is often not included in the total number produced).

Forty of these aircraft were delivered to the Turkish Air Force and the rest to the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana).


(Aggiornamento Sistemi d’Arma – “Weapon Systems Update”)

This was an upgraded F-104S equipped with the Fiat R21G/M1 radar with frequency hopping and a look-down/shoot-down capability, new IFF system and weapon delivery computer, and provision for the AIM-9L all-aspect Sidewinder and Selenia Aspide missiles.


(Aggiornamento Sistemi d’Arma/Modificato – “Weapon Systems Update/Modified”)

Forty-nine airframes were upgraded from 1995 to 1997 to ASA/M standard with GPS, new TACAN, and Litton LN-30A2 INS, a refurbished airframe, and improved cockpit displays.


CF-104 was the designation applied to 200 Canadian-built versions, built under license by Canadair.


The CF-104D was a dual-control trainer version of the CF-104, built by Lockheed, but with Canadian J79-OEL-7 engines.

Thirty-eight were built, with some later being transferred to Denmark, Norway, and Turkey.





54 ft 8 in (16.66 m)


21 ft 9 in (6.63 m)


13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)

Wing area

196.1 sq ft (18.22 m2)


Biconvex 3.36% root and tip

Empty weight

14,000 lb (6,350 kg)

Max take-off weight

29,027 lb (13,166 kg)


1 × General Electric J79 afterburning turbojet, 10,000 lbf (44 kN) thrust dry, 15,600 lbf (69 kN) with afterburner


Maximum speed

1,528 mph (2,459 km/h, 1,328 kn)

Maximum speed

Mach 2

Combat range

420 mi (680 km, 360 nmi)

Ferry range

1,630 mi (2,620 km, 1,420 nmi)

Service ceiling

50,000 ft (15,000 m)

Rate of climb

48,000 ft/min (240 m/s) Initially



Wing loading

105 lb/sq ft (510 kg/m2)


0.54 with max. takeoff weight (0.76 loaded)



1 × 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling cannon, 725 rounds


7 with a capacity of 4,000 lb (1,800 kg),with provisions to carry combinations of:


4 × AIM-9 Sidewinder


Bombs, rockets, or other stores.



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