Even before he could fight the MiG, F-104 fighter has fallen himself. It was the US Air Force that admitted that at least 6 out of 14 F-104s lost in Vietnam were self-falling.

Hi guys, today we will see the F-104 Starfighter – a type of American interceptor aircraft used by the US Air Force in the late 1960s. The F-104 Starfighter was a single-engine, single-seat supersonic interceptor fighter developed by Lockheed. The F-104 Starfighter received great expectations that will give the US Air Force an advantage in the sky all over the world.

But its days of activity brought shame to the US Air Force, especially during the Vietnam War. Relocated to Vietnam from 1965, the F-104 did not give a complete advantage to the US Air Force before the MiG-17 was considered the “old-fashioned” of the North Vietnamese air force. Even before he could fight the MiG, F-104 fighter has fallen himself. It was the US Air Force that admitted that at least 6 out of 14 F-104s lost in Vietnam were self-falling.

The last F-104, which the US lost in the Vietnam War on May 14, 1967, when it had an engine crash at the time of fighting in the skies of Cambodia, then it flew to Thailand for emergency landing. Shortly thereafter, all F-104 aircraft in Vietnam were banned from flying because of their weak technical skills and were eventually withdrawn to make room for F-4 Phantom.

The fate of the Starfighter was decided only two years later, it was removed from the US Air Force in 1969. The F-104 became a mass production fighter with the fastest payroll type US Air Force in history, only 11 years (1958-1969).

Although not used in the United States, the F-104 still exists in some US allies in both Asia and Europe but is badly criticized. In Pakistan, during the war with India in 1971, F-104 was knocked down by MiG-21.

In Western Europe, Germany bought 916 F-104s from the US but they quickly realized that they had made a serious mistake when buying faulty stars. During use from 1970 to 1991, 292 out of 916 Starfighter were shot down, killing 115 elite pilots.

The Italian Air Force purchased a total of 360 F-104s and entered the equipment from 1964, as of 1997, the country lost a total of 137 aircraft because of the accident.

The reason why the F-104 is unsafe has many ways to explain, but generally the problem lies in its design from the beginning with its long body, but the pair of “slightly small” triangle wings. This affects the stability of flight, it is recommended that pilots always maintain flight speed everywhere at all times.

J79 jet engine encountered a design error. Accordingly, this engine is designed to automatically change the angle of the stator compression automatically based on the pitch and temperature. A condition known as “T-2 reset” (a common function that changes the stator compression angle) caused many engine failures when taking off. It has been discovered that a sudden and high temperature change (such as from a parked position in the sun to take off) caused the propeller to compress the stator wrongly and stop the engine.

In addition, the emergency ejection seat of the F-104 pilot is too unique – instead of shooting upwards, head down to place the pilot at a dangerous situation when an emergency jump.

Although the engine and ejection seat problem was later fixed on many versions, the original design error still caused the F-104 aircraft to suffer extremely high accident rates.

The aircraft achieving several speed, climb-rate and operational flight records despite its setbacks and found a home with a lot of air force around the globe. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, fabulous Lockheed engineer at his “Skunk Works” facility, designed the Starfighter. Lockheed approved his team’s design on Oct. 31, 1952, as Model 83. The Air Force ordered two prototypes for testing on March 1, 1953.

Externally, the F-104 Starfighter was really a distinct aircraft design. The platform presented a streamlined aerodynamic fuselage design holding all the vital components (weapons, avionics, undercarriage, engine, etc…) in a cramped internal layout. The power plant, like the fuel, made up most of the internal space, covering about half of the tubular shape. The front end was tapered to a sharp point while the cockpit tub was well placed in the forward part of the design, offering extremely good visibility when flying or taxiing. The canopy consisted of three major components— a forward framed section, a portside opening center section, and a rearward section. Two small half-circle intakes fed the single engine along the sides of the fuselage just behind the cockpit. The intake openings were fixed and not variable and were equipped with cones to regulate the high speed turbojet airflow. The undercarriage was fully allocated to the fuselage with the two main gears retracting into the portion of the fuselage near the wing roots and the nose wheel retracting under and behind the cockpit into the portion of the fuselage.

The aircraft was quickly called “the missile with a man in it,” as its long, thin fuselage and stubby wings looked more like a missile than a conventional aircraft. The F-104 was the first interceptor in service capable of flying above Mach 2 at sustained speeds.

For its time, the design of the Starfighter was radical as it was a small, straight-wing aircraft while the majority of contemporary designs were much larger and featured swept-back wings. Sweepback was used only on the leading edges and there was a slight anhedral to help fight “Dutch Roll,” an aerial phenomenon that forces the aircraft sway or rock from side-to-side. The wings constituted a large component of the supersonic capabilities of the aircraft and were found so sharply with edges that they presented dangers to the ground crews serving the aircraft to the point that special protective devices had to be issued to these areas.

The empennage finished the design and spun its stabilizer to the top edge of the vertical fin. The horizontal surfaces were a smaller smidgeon than the main wings themselves, forcing engineers to make the main wings add anhedral. Other dangerous aerial phenomena consistent with high-speed flight, the top-mounted horizontal surfaces also combated inertia coupling.

The basic armament of the F-104 was the 20mm M61 Vulcan autocannon. The cannon, mounted in the lower part of the port fuselage, was fed by a 725-round drum behind the pilot’s seat. With its firing rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, the cannon would empty the drum after just over seven seconds of continuous fire. The gun’s location was advantageous as gun-flash was not in the pilot’s line of sight, and so would not interfere with night-adjusted vision.

Two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles could be carried on the wingtip stations, which could also be used for fuel tanks. The F-104C and later models added a centerline pylon and two underwing pylons for bombs, rocket pods, or fuel tanks; the centerline pylon could carry a nuclear weapon. A “catamaran” launcher for two additional Sidewinders could be fitted under the forward fuselage, although the installation had minimal ground clearance and rendered the seeker heads of the missiles vulnerable to ground debris. The F-104S models added a pair of fuselage pylons beneath the intakes available for conventional bomb carriage and an additional pylon under each wing, for a total of nine.The final production version of the fighter model was the F-104S, an all-weather interceptor designed by Aeritalia for the Italian Air Force, and equipped with radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. An advanced F-104 with a high-mounted wing, known as the CL-1200 Lancer, was considered, but did not proceed past the mock-up stage.


  1. Most of this article is incorrect! 916 Starfigthers were not shot down! The reason the German Air Force lost so many aircraft and pilots was because they received very little time flying the high performance F-104 (one to two hours a month) and the enlisted men performing the maintenance were not in the military long enough to become experienced F-104 mechanics. I know this because a retired USAF General friend was in charge a team that went to Germany and determined why so many F-104s were being lost. He was responsible for setting up the training program at Luke AFB in Arizona to retrain all the German F-104 pilots. He also convince the German government to hire Lockheed to maintains the aircraft. Losses of aircraft and pilots were reduced to near zero.

    You are also wrong about American pilots being afraid to fly the F-104. I’ve know many F-104 pilots and each and every one of them loved flying the Starfighter. Your saying they were afraid of it is not true! Two of them I know are still living and one of them was a test pilot of the F-104. The both say the airplane was safe to fly in the hands of pilots experienced in flying high performance aircraft.

    Your article is totally misleading!

  2. You have NO CLUE what you are talking about!
    Seriously, you have not done enough research to even form an opinion much less post one.
    Feel free to respond if you want to be educated about the F-104- because your “article” shows just how lacking your knowledge is regarding this aircraft!


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