The North American F-100 Super Sabre is an American supersonic jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard until 1979.
The first of the Century Series of USAF jet fighters, it was the first USAF fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight.
The F‑100 was designed by North American Aviation as a higher performance follow-on to the F-86 Sabre air superiority fighter.
In January 1951, North American Aviation delivered an unsolicited proposal for a supersonic day fighter to the United States Air Force. Named Sabre 45 because of its 45° wing sweep, it represented an evolution of the F-86 Sabre.
The mock-up was inspected on 7 July 1951, and after over 100 modifications, the new aircraft was accepted as the F-100 on 30 November 1951.
Extensive use of titanium throughout the aircraft was notable.
On 3 January 1952, the USAF ordered two prototypes followed by 23 F-100As in February and an additional 250 F-100As in August.
The YF-100A first flew on 25 May 1953, seven months ahead of schedule.
It reached Mach 1.04 on this first flight in spite of being fitted with a derated XJ57-P-7 engine.
The second prototype flew on 14 October 1953, followed by the first production F-100A on 9 October 1953.
The USAF operational evaluation from November 1953 to December 1955 found the new fighter to have superior performance, but declared it not ready for wide-scale deployment due to various deficiencies in the design.
These findings were subsequently confirmed during “Project Hot Rod” operational suitability tests.
Six F-100s arrived at the Air Proving Ground Command (APGC), Eglin Air Force Base, in August 1954.
The Air Force Operational Test Center (AFOTC) was scheduled to use four of the fighters in operational suitability tests and the other two were to undergo armament tests by the Air Force Armament Center.
The Tactical Air Division of the AFOTC was conducting the APGC testing under the direction of project office Lieutenant Colonel Henry W. Brown.
Initial testing was completed by APGC personnel at Edwards Air Force Base.
Particularly troubling was the yaw instability in certain flight conditions, which produced inertia coupling.
The aircraft could develop a sudden yaw and roll, which would happen too fast for the pilot to correct and would quickly overstress the aircraft structure to disintegration.
Under these conditions, North American’s chief test pilot, George Welch, was killed while dive testing an early-production F-100A (s/n 52-5764) on 12 October 1954.
Another control problem stemmed from handling characteristics of the swept wing at high angles of attack.
As the aircraft approached stall speeds, loss of lift on the tips of the wings caused a violent pitch-up.
This particular phenomenon (which could easily be fatal at low altitude with insufficient time to recover) became known as the “Sabre dance”.
Nevertheless, delays in the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak program pushed the Tactical Air Command (TAC) to order the raw F-100A into service.
TAC also requested that future F-100s be fighter-bombers, with the capability of delivering nuclear bombs.
The F-100 was one of the first aircraft with a stabilator (all-moving tailplane).
Unlike modern stabilators which use an anti-servo tab, springs were attached to the control stick to provide increasing resistance to pilot input.
The North American F-107 was a follow-on Mach 2 development of the F-100 with the air intake moved above and behind the cockpit.
It was not produced in favour of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
Prototype, model NA-180 two built, s/n 52-5754 and 5755.
Nine test unmanned drone version: two D-models, one YQF-100F F-model, DF-100F, and six other test versions.
Single-seat day fighter; 203 built, model NA-192.
RF-100A (“Slick Chick”)
Six F-100A aircraft modified for photo reconnaissance in 1954.
Unarmed, with camera installations in lower fuselage bay.
Used for over flights of Soviet Bloc countries in Europe and the Far-East.
Retired from USAF service in 1958, the surviving four aircraft were transferred to the Republic of China Air Force and retired in 1960.
Proposed interceptor version of F-100B, did not advance beyond mock-up.
Seventy Model NA-214 and 381 Model NA-217.
Additional fuel tanks in the wings, fighter-bomber capability, probe-and-drogue refuelling capability, uprated J57-P-21 engine on late production aircraft.
First flight: March 1954; 476 built.
One F-100C converted into a two-seat training aircraft.
Single-seat fighter-bomber, more advanced avionics, larger wing and tail fin, landing flaps.
First flight: 24 January 1956; 1,274 built.
Two-seat training version, armament decreased from four to two cannon.
First flight: 7 March 1957; 339 built.
This designation was given to one F-100F that was used as drone director.
Three F-100Fs used for test purposes, the prefix “N” indicates that modifications prevented return to regular operational service.
Specific Danish designation given to 14 F-100Fs exported to Denmark in 1974 in order to distinguish these from the 10 F-100Fs delivered 1959–1961.
Another 209 D and F models were ordered and converted to unmanned radio-controlled Full Scale Aerial Target drones and drone directors for testing and destruction by modern air-to-air missiles used by current U.S. Air Force fighter jets.
Unbuilt all-weather export version for Japan
Unbuilt design study for a two-seat F-100F powered by a J57-P-55 engine
Unbuilt design study for a single-seat F-100D powered by a J57-P-55 engine
Unbuilt version with simplified avionics for NATO customers
Proposed French-built F-100F with Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engine