|This page is about the jet fighter F-104A. For other versions, see F-104 (Family).|
- 1 Description
- 2 General info
- 3 Armaments
- 4 Usage in battles
- 5 History
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
The first production version of the Starfighter series was the F-104A. 140+ F-104A Starfighters were ordered by the USAF and in total 170 Starfighters were in service (some YF-104As were converted to production standard). The F-104A had a stronger airframe as well as additions made to the airframe for stability. The F-104A was planned to replace the aging F-100 Super Sabre but later didn't fit the requirements set by the USAF. It was stuck in limbo until problems with the production of the Convair-built F-106 let the Starfighter live on in another role, interdiction. At this time, the F-104A was powered by the J79-GE-3A which was riddled with issues. The F-104As were grounded shortly after to resolve the issues with the -3A until the J79-GE-3B came into fruition. Even after the engine change, the USAF still found the F-104A to be lacklustre for air interception due to the lack of all-weather capability and low endurance. Many surplus Starfighters were sent to other countries.
Introduced in Update "Starfighters", the F-104A Starfighter is quite a capable aircraft thanks to its J79 engine, cannon, and missiles. The F-104A regularly faces subsonic aircraft like the F-86 and Yak-38 so players should stick to using its immense speed and boom and zooming targets. The F-104A struggles with manoeuvrability so dogfights are highly discouraged, especially against subsonic aircraft. Furthermore, the F-104A can easily outrun many of its opponents so there is no point in staying slow to try and acquire a kill. In addition to the cannon, the F-104A also comes equipped with two AIM-9B Sidewinders which are mainly helpful in forcing an opponent to turn or against slow targets. The AIM-9B is a very situational missile and depends on a lot of factors. Overall, the F-104A Starfighter is one of the most feared aircraft at its battle rating.
The F-104s are generally very fast and the F-104A is no exception. Even when it is stock, the climb rate can be comparable to that of both the MiGs and the Phantoms. Its max speed of 2,079 km/h is just as good, if not better, than other top-tier jets. The acceleration of the F-104A is amazing so even when you are at low speeds it can quickly gain back the lost energy. However, the jet's manoeuvrability leaves much to be desired. Although it can out-turn other jets at its BR, it can only do so when it is going above Mach 1. At low speeds, any other top-tier jet can easily out-turn you.
|Characteristics|| Max Speed
(km/h at 10,668 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run|
|Combat flaps||Take-off flaps||Landing flaps||Air brakes||Arrestor gear||Drogue chute|
|Wings (km/h)||Gear (km/h)||Flaps (km/h)||Max Static G|
|Optimal velocities (km/h)|
|< 720||< 950||< 800||N/A|
|Engine name||Number||Wing loading (full fuel)|
|General Electric J79-GE-3B||1||6,112 kg||509 kg/m2|
|Engine characteristics||Mass with fuel (no weapons load)|| Max Takeoff|
|Weight (each)||Type||10m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||35m fuel|
|1,750 kg||Afterburning axial-flow turbojet||6,915 kg||7,624 kg||8,380 kg||8,789 kg||24,000 kg|
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)|
|Condition||100%||WEP||10m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||35m fuel||MTOW|
|Stationary||4,190 kgf||6,571 kgf||0.95||0.86||0.78||0.75||0.27|
|Optimal|| 4,190 kgf
| 8,584 kgf
Survivability and armour
There is no armour on the F-104A. Since the F-104A relies on high speed, it wouldn't need armour as that would reduce the speed and manoeuvrability of the plane. The F-104A is a very long plane and it is not very manoeuvrable, making it a large, easy target for enemy guns. As such, the only characteristic that should be relied upon for survivability is the plane's speed. It is very quick, and as such is hard to catch.
- No armour
- Self-sealing fuel tanks
Modifications and economy
The F-104A is armed with:
- 1 x 20 mm M61A1 cannon, chin-mounted (750 rpg)
The F-104A can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
- Without load
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles
Usage in battles
The F-104A is a high speed, high altitude fighter-bomber/interceptor. It performs well in high altitude flights meant to intercept fighters and mainly bombers at high altitudes. When the F-104A is fighting at low altitudes with a slower plane, the pilot should consider a hit and run technique to out-speed and return to the target to avoid getting shot back. If you need to turn, be sure to extend your combat flaps as they significantly decrease your turn time.
The F-104A has a decent stock turn time of 33 seconds which is the average or decent turn time of most supersonic jets at rank VI for Soviet jets. The F-104A will have difficulties when trying to hit an enemy less than 1 or 2 km away using the 20 mm M61 cannon since this cannon will take some time to warm-up before shooting and turn fights will also be difficult due to high speed manoeuvres causing an average 8 or more Gs rendering the pilot unconscious for most of the time.
Using the F-104A's M61 cannon against helicopters would be very easy since they're slow and most of the time are in constant direction and speed, while you are attacking from the side or back with speeds almost or higher than mach 1, the helicopter won't notice until you strafe at them.
Unfortunately, the AIM-9B sidewinder missiles the F-104A carries are lacking at its BR. Most other jets at top tier have much better air-to-air missiles which travel, lock and turn better than the AIM-9B. Therefore, they should only be used in situations where they cannot effectively turn or dodge, or don't know its coming.
The F-104A isn't carrying any flares, so you would have to rely on the planes decent manoeuvrability, and high speed, and maybe turn off the afterburner and maybe even the engine to reduce the incoming AAMs chance to hit the plane. Always remember the insane climb rate for the plane, this means you can also face the incoming AAM at the sun even when the sun is at a steep angle. This in turn would spend more fuel since you would need to use afterburners to efficiently climb at steep angles, out-running short-range anti-air missiles are tricky since some go mach 1.7, while others go mach 2.5, do not expect all missiles to be outrun.
The F-104A is equipped with an AN/ASG-14 search and tracking radar. The radar is mounted in the nose of the aircraft.
|AN/ASG-14 - Target Detection Radar|
| 37,000 m
|AN/ASG-14 - Target Tracking Radar|
|18,500 m||150 m||±10°||±10°|
Pros and cons
- Great top speed
- Great rate of climb
- Good roll rate
- Decent high-speed manoeuvrability
- Powerful M61 Vulcan cannon with a very high fire rate, great ballistics and high damage
- Very poor overall manoeuvrability and terrible low-speed manoeuvrability
- Bleeds energy quickly in sustained turnfights
- The cannon's high rate of fire requires trigger discipline
- Air-to-air missiles are weak compared to analogues of the rank
- No ground attack payloads whatsoever
- Lacks RWR or countermeasures
The brainchild of famed Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, after having spoken to USAF pilots about their experience in the Korean Air War, the F-104 Starfighter was innovative in both its design and speed. Developed from the start as a daytime air-superiority fighter with speed in mind, the Starfighter began life at Lockheed's famous "Skunk Works" facility in 1952 to combat the Soviet's new age of supersonic jet fighters. The aircraft would incorporate the smallest airframe, combined with the most technologically advanced turbojet at the time, to create the base of what would become the F-104.
In 1953, the USAF showed interest in the project, and proposed an open contest with Lockheed and multiple other firms for a supersonic interceptor, based wholly on performance. Lockheed evidently won the contest and approval for two prototypes to be produced and, in February of 1954, took flight for the first time. Although it was slated to be fitted with the General Electric J79 turbofan, due to shortages of the engines the prototypes were mated to a license-built variant of the British Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engine, called the Wright XJ65-W-6, until the initial power-plant was available. The aircraft however was not without its problems, resulting in a four-year long developmental period for the aircraft. By the end of it, 17 pre-production YF-104As had been built, tested, and used to iron out any problems that would be noticeable on the final F-104. In 1958, the F-104 would finally be available for deliveries featuring some differences from the initial prototypes in the form of a longer fuselage as well as the fitting of General Electric J79GE-3 engines putting out a whopping 14,800 lbs of thrust.
From the start the F-104A smashed records, taking the record as the first operational fighter in service to succeed Mach 2, as well as going on to take the records for both altitude and speed in both the F-104A and F-104C variants respectively. On May 7th, 1958, Maj. Howard C. Johnson, in his F-104A, set a new world altitude record at 91,243 feet, and 11 days later another aircraft set a new speed record at 1,403.19 mph. The altitude record was later bested by another variant of the aircraft, the F-104C, at a whopping altitude of 103,389 feet. In the 1950s, the aircraft had come to be exactly what the public had expected a fighter of this magnitude to look like. With a long, pencil shaped fuselage with short, sharp edged wings it encompassed the era of space flight and Sci-Fi with its design. The wings were one of the most unique parts of the aircraft, as well as its long fuselage taken up mostly by its large engine and fuel storage, and were only 4 inches and its thickest. Sweeping was only utilized on the leading edge, and a slight anhedral was in place to combat "Dutch Roll", a phenomenon where the aircraft rocks side-to-side uncontrollably. The wings, while helping with supersonic flight, were harmful to ground crews, and special equipment had to be issued to service these areas.
While having a history of accidents and high pilot attrition, the aircraft was fitted with an ejection seat. Due to the great speed of the aircraft at Mach 2, it was believed that the seat wouldn't have enough time to clear the tail section in an ejection scenario. Therefore, a downward firing ejection seat known as the Stanley C-1 was fitted into early models of the F-104. While a good idea, and in theory could work, the C-1 was also believed harmful in the case of a low-altitude ejection of the aircraft. After a failed introduction of the Stanley C-2 ejection seat, the problem was finally solved by the introduction of the Martin-Baker ejection system, particularly in foreign-operator's Starfighters. Roughly 153 F-104As were produced, with 26 more being F-104B two-seat variants. The F-104A spend a short time in USAF service before being send to Air National Guard (ANG) units, which some others being sent to foreign operators which had some success in their service. The first combat of the F-104 however wouldn't be seen until the Vietnam War, and while not having any kills to count was successful in keeping MiGs back and from intercepting friendly aircraft. The aircraft had a short service life in this theatre, only serving in 1965, and again from 1967-1969 until the introduction of the more-capable F-4 Phantom II by which it was replaced.
The development history of the F-104 Starfighter begins in 1951, when Lockheed's lead engineer visited US pilots in Korea. The feedback given to Johnson was clear - US planes were too large and complex and would often find themselves inferior to the much smaller and simpler Soviet MiG-15. On his return to the United States, Johnson assembled a team of engineers and started developing an aircraft that would address the concerns of the pilots.
The result of this undertaking was the F-104 Starfighter, whose first prototype, designated XF-104, first took to the skies on the 4th March 1954. Although both prototypes were lost during testing, the results delivered by the prototypes were promising enough for the USAF to accept the aircraft into service in November 1955.
Soon after entering production, the F-104 quickly also became a highly popular aircraft on the export market. West Germany was, alongside the United States, the primary operator of the Starfighter, owning over 900 F-104s in its air force at the peak of its service career. However, 13 other nations also employed the F-104 such as Canada, Italy, Japan, Spain, and many more.
The F-104 saw most of its combat service with the USAF, most notably taking part in the Vietnam War. Furthermore, the F-104 also saw combat during the Indo-Pakistani Wars in the mid '60s - early '70s while flying under Pakistani colors.
In the end, over 2,500 Starfighters would be built, with most being gradually decommissioned by the end of the Cold War. Italy was the last to decommission its F-104s in the early 2000s.
- Related development
- Military Factory - Lockheed F-104 Starfighter: website
- Winchester, Jim - American Military Aircraft: A Century of Innovation - p.238-239 - 1, October 2017: website
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|Jet Fighters||F-80A-5 · F-80C-10|
|F-104A · F-104C|
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|␗F-104A · ▀F-104G · ␗F-104G · ▅F-104J · ▄F-104S|
|See Also||Mitsubishi Heavy Industries · Fiat Aviation|
|USA jet aircraft|
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