The Lockheed F-104A Starfighter was the first American fighter capable of reaching twice the speed of sound. It was designed by Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson. The first test flight was made on March 5, 1954; Mach 2 was exceeded on February 28, 1956. Production began in 1957, and the first F-104A's entered service in 1958.
Notable features of the aircraft include extremely thin flight surfaces, short straight wings with negative dihedral, irreversible hydraulically powered ailerons, and a controllable horizontal stabilizer.
The United States Air Force deployed four Starfighter variants: the single-seat F-104A (pictured) the two-seat trainer F-104B, the F-104C, and the F-104D.
During its service life, the F-104 shielded American allies from possible Communist aggression in West Germany and Taiwan and augmented Air Defense Command squadrons in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis, amongst other "jobs." On May 7, 1958, an F-104A set a new altitude record of 91,249 feet. Later that month, an F-104A set a new world's air speed record of 1,404.19 mph. For the first time in aviation history, the same aircraft type held both the world speed and altitude records at the same time.
Due to the Starfighter's high accident rate, however, the aircraft did not remain in American service for long. It was withdrawn from active service in the USAF in 1960, but remained a valuable aircraft for other air forces in Europe and Asia into the 1990's.
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This page was last updated on 01/06/2013.