Small but agile, the Republic F-84 Thunderjet emerged as an American post-war design and played a pivotal role in the early years of the Cold War.
In Europe, the Thunderjet was even modified to have a nuclear deterrent against the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The F-84 appeared in three main forms – the base original F-84 Thunderjet, the improved swept-wing derivative in the F-84 Thunderstreak, and the dedicated reconnaissance bird in the F-84 Thunderflash.
Inspired by the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F-84 had a typical 1950s design. The fuselage was tubular in nature, with a stout center section and tapered forward and aft portions. The nose was dominated by the circular air intake that fed the single engine taking the middle and aft portions of the design. The pilot’s position consisted of a forward placement, sitting above the air intake vents and under a glass canopy with light forward framing.
The F-84 was armed with a combination of six 12.7mm M3 Browning heavy machine guns. Four of these were affixed to the upper forward fuselage while the remaining two were positioned at the wing roots. Additionally, the F-84 was cleared for using other munitions in the form of rockets, bombs and even the Mark 7 nuclear bomb. External munitions capacity was limited to 4,450lbs of ordnance.
The Thunderjet became the USAF’s primary strike aircraft during the Korean War, flying 86,408 sorties and destroying 60% of all ground targets in the war as well as eight Soviet-built MiG fighters. Thunderjets first encountered MiGs on January 21, 1952, when eight F-84s raiding Chongchan bridge were bounced by two flights of MiG-15s which shot an F-84 down
Over half of the 7,524 F-84s produced served with NATO nations, and it was the first aircraft to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team. The USAF Strategic Air Command had F-84 Thunderjets in service from 1948 through 1957. The F-84 was the first production fighter aircraft to utilize inflight refueling and the first fighter capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, the Mark 7 nuclear bomb.