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F-104 Starfighter

Design of the F-104 began in November 1952, as a result of the U.S. Air Force's requirement for a superior day fighter plane. The Air Force chose Lockheed's solution, the Starfighter.

The aircraft was quickly nicknamed "the missile with a man in it," since its long, thin fuselage and stubby wings resembled a missile more than a conventional aircraft. The F-104 was the first interceptor in service to be able to fly at sustained speeds above Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).

Lockheed F-104B Starfighter S/N 63719, Buzz Number FG-719, on flight deck

The Starfighter’s design was radical for its time, as it was a small, straight-wing aircraft while most contemporary designs were much larger and featured swept-back wings.

The first F-104A deliveries took place on January 26, 1958. The planes were delivered to the 83d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base, California. Soon afterward, pilots from this squadron set new world speed and altitude records.

On May 18, 1958, an F-104A set a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph, and on Dec. 14, 1959, an F-104C set a world altitude record of 103,395 feet. The Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb.

The major variants were the F-104B, a two-seat version of the F-104A, used as an operational trainer: the F-104C, modified for use by the Tactical Air Command with provision for inflight refueling: and the F-104D, a two-seat version of the F-104C.

Starfighters served in the Air Force until the early 1960s. A few saw service in Vietnam, and they were also used in Air National Guard units until 1975.

Technical Specifications of the F-104 Starfighter

Armament: One M-61 20mm cannon, two air-to-air missiles, nuclear or conventional bombs
Engine: General Electric J79 of 15,800 lbs. thrust with afterburner

Crew: One
Maximum speed: 1,320 mph
Cruising speed: 575 mph
Range: 1,250 miles
Ceiling: 58,000 ft.
Span: 21 ft. 11 in.
Length: 54 ft. 10 in.
Height: 13 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 27,853 lbs. maximum

Production Numbers and Surviving F-104 Aircraft

The USAF procured about 300 Starfighters in one- and two-seat versions. In addition, more than 1,700 F-104s were built in the United States and abroad under the military aid program for various nations including Canada, West Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Taiwan and Japan.

A number of F-104 aircraft are displayed in countries around the world, with about 26 displayed in the United States, including those shown in the photographs below.

Original F-104 Starfighter Photos from the Airplanes of the Past Collection

Lockheed F-104A Starfighter S/N 56733 at HAMM in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104A Starfighter S/N 56733 in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104A Starfighter in the markings of the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104A Starfighter in the markings of the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Buzz Number FG-733 in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Buzz Number FG-733 in Tyler, Texas
F-104 Starfighter at Pueblo, Colorado
F-104 Starfighter in Pueblo, Colorado
F-104 Starfighter, restored at Eglin AFB, Florida
F-104 Starfighter, restored at Eglin AFB, Florida
F-104 Starfighter at Eglin AFB
F-104 Starfighter
F-104A Starfighter 56-0753, Buzz Number FG-753, at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah
F-104A Starfighter 56-0753, Buzz Number FG-753
F-104 Starfighter restored and on display at the New England Air Museum
F-104 Starfighter restored and on display at the New England Air Museum
Lockheed F-104D Starfighter S/N 57-1323 in Tucson
Lockheed F-104D Starfighter S/N 57-1323


USAF F-104 Starfighter Photographs

Air Force XF-104 Starfighter S/N 37786, Buzz Number FG-786, landing
Air Force XF-104 Starfighter S/N 37786, Buzz Number FG-786, landing
Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter S/N 37786, Buzz Number FG-786, in flight
Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter S/N 37786, Buzz Number FG-786, in flight
USAF F-104A Starfighters FG-769 and FG-781 in flight
USAF F-104A Starfighters FG-769 and FG-781 in flight
Lockheed F-104B Starfighter S/N 63719, Buzz Number FG-719, on flight deck
Lockheed F-104B Starfighter S/N 63719, Buzz Number FG-719, on flight deck
Lockheed F-104C Starfighter S/N 60914, Buzz Number FG-914
Lockheed F-104C Starfighter S/N 60914, Buzz Number FG-914
U.S. Air Force F-104G Starfighter S/N 13240 in flight
U.S. Air Force F-104G Starfighter S/N 13240 in flight
U.S. Air Force F-104G Starfighter front view, with armament
U.S. Air Force F-104G Starfighter front view, with armament