|This page is about the American jet fighter F-104C. 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 F-104C mainly differs from early variants by being able to carry ground munitions. Although it may have seemed strange considering the overall unstable nature of the Starfighter, the Tactical Air Command decided to propose a ground striker version of the Starfighter. Almost 80 F-104Cs were ordered and had its first flight in 1958. More orders were planned until Starfighter production was rejected. The F-104C also features a better engine that increased thrust by about 7% thanks to the 3-inch increase in the turbine’s diameter. Minor changes included an inflight refuelling probe and a better fire control system. The F-104Cs saw service in Vietnam where they were soon replaced by the superior F-4D Phantom. The Starfighter always had a troubled history and the F-104C was no exception despite the various improvements.
Introduced in Update "Starfighters", the F-104C Starfighter is a sleek, fast jet also capable of carrying a decent bomb load and rockets. The main difference between the F-104C and F-104A is the ability to carry ground attack munitions like 750 lb bombs, FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets, and BLU-1 incendiary bombs. The F-104C also retains the ability to carry two AIM-9B Sidewinders and houses the improved M61A1 cannon. The F-104C is a dangerous aircraft at its battle rating but becomes hopelessly outclassed in uptiers due to the lack of flares and improved missiles.
|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-7a||1||6,235 kg||514 kg/m2|
|Engine characteristics||Mass with fuel (no weapons load)|| Max Takeoff|
|Weight (each)||Type||10m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||35m fuel|
|1,540 kg||Afterburning axial-flow turbojet||7,027 kg||7,740 kg||8,493 kg||8,874 kg||24,000 kg|
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)|
|Condition||100%||WEP||10m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||35m fuel||MTOW|
|Stationary||4,171 kgf||6,540 kgf||0.93||0.84||0.77||0.74||0.27|
|Optimal|| 4,171 kgf
| 8,544 kgf
Survivability and armour
In terms of armour, there is no armour on the F-104C. Since the F-104C relies on high speed, it wouldn't need armour as that would reduce the speed and manoeuvrability of the plane. The F-104C 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-104C is armed with:
- 1 x 20 mm M61A1 cannon, chin-mounted (750 rpg)
The F-104C can be outfitted with the following ordnance presets:
- Without load
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles
- 38 x FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets
- 3 x 750 lb M117 cone 45 bombs (2,250 lb total)
- 2 x BLU-1 incendiary bombs
Custom loadout options
|750 lb M117 cone 45 bombs||1||1||1|
|BLU-1 incendiary bombs||1||1|
|FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets||19||19|
|AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles||1||1|
|Maximum permissible weight imbalance: 400 kg|
Usage in battles
The F-104 is an interceptor which relies solely on its extremely high speed and acceleration. This great speed comes with a great cost; the F-104 undoubtedly has the worst overall turn rate at high tiers (and perhaps in the whole game as well). Keep that in mind when playing it. It is highly recommended not to dogfight in the F-104 as you aren't out-turning anything, and even if you have someone energy trapped, it is hard to capitalize on it as the F-104's manoeuvrability is just so poor. Additionally, if someone gets on your tail, there isn't much you can do. While the F-104 does have a good roll rate, the turning capability makes it so it cannot effectively perform defensive manoeuvres. Even if you manage to get a tailing enemy to overshoot, the F-104 can't turn well enough to use the opportunity to attack.
Due to this, the best way to play the F-104 is to keep its speed up as much as possible and at all times. You will want to play the F-104 primarily in the support role as either a boom and zoom fighter or a hit and run fighter, picking on slow enemies that are preferably distracted and already engaged in a dogfight with teammates. This strategy prioritizes that no enemy gets on a slow F-104's tail, because as discussed before, there is little one can do once this happens. This also means that the F-104 is very team-reliant in most battles, as it does not fare well in any 1v1 scenario. As the F-104's poor manoeuvrability is a well-known weakness, if needed this can be used to bait slower enemy fighters for your teammates. By slowing down to near an enemy fighter's speed and turning, you can fool them into thinking they have you in a turn when in reality you can keep the distance from closing using your acceleration.
At its BR, the F-104C will likely always be the fastest plane on the battlefield. In downtiers, its speed makes it nearly untouchable. However, don't think this means you can carry your team. The F-104's extremely poor manoeuvrability not only means it is highly disadvantaged in a dogfight, but that it also has small nose authority and thus the window to take shots at enemies at higher speeds is small. This means that, when presented with high-angle shots, you may need to turn your aircraft in advance to get the shot.
In an uptier, the F-104 becomes outclassed. Some other fighters can somewhat keep up with its speed while also being much more manoeuvrable and having better missiles. In uptiers, your lack of flares means that a solid launch of the most manoeuvrable missiles found in an uptier (AIM-9J/G/L, R-60/R-60Ms, Magic 1s) mean a nearly unavoidable death. This means that in uptiers, it will be the same support strategy as discussed before, except you will need to be more cautious. The only thing you have is, again, your speed, which will still be strongly competitive. It will be especially important to keep this speed as high as possible at all times. To avoid missiles, you will want to keep your distance from the more dangerous missile-wielding enemies while being cautious and waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Again, slow and/or distracted enemies will ideally be your targets. Fast planes and planes with excellent missiles like the MiG-19S, MiG-21F-13, Yak-38, Yak-38M, A-5C, etc. should be prioritized as main threats. Attack when you are sure no one can or will bother to follow you or launch a missile at you.
For the F-104C's gun, it gets the powerful M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. This is arguably one of the best aircraft guns in the game and sports an extremely high rate of fire, high velocity, and high damage. Its only downside is that it only gets 750 rounds of ammunition; while it may seem like a lot, the cannon's extreme fire rate sees that it gets depleted quicker than one would expect. Since this will be your primary weapon when engaging enemy fighters, you should maintain trigger discipline when using it. As for your missiles, you have two AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. These are the basic air-to-air missile and as such aren't very strong. They don't turn well and are sensitive to flares. Due to this, they shouldn't be your main weapon, but they are better than nothing, and can sometimes be useful. They should be launched only when needed, such as at long ranges, at distracted enemies, or to make an enemy drop speed.
In the ground attack role, there are many better choices than the F-104C (such as the F3H-2, F-100D or A-4E), though, unlike the preceding F-104A, the F-104C isn't completely helpless when it comes to the task. It can carry either 3x 750lb bombs, 38x FFAR rockets, or 2x Napalm bombs. Since only 38 rockets can be carried (which even in higher quantities aren't very powerful), it isn't recommended to take them. Napalm can be used to bomb bases in air RB, but in ground RB it has little overall use and shouldn't be taken. This leaves the only acceptable option being the 3x 750lb bombs. These 750lb bombs have an adequate explosion size which is enough to reliably destroy tanks. The two wing-mounted bombs drop together first, followed by the single centerline one, giving two bomb drops. Since the F-104C lacks the luxury of a ballistic computer, you must manually calculate the point of impact for the bombs and rockets. Additionally, the M61 Cannon has decent penetration and can be used to attack lighter targets or the roofs of MBTs, and the two wingtip AIM-9B sidewinders can be taken with any of these for some semblance of multi-role capability. After you drop the bombs, you can either use the cannon for strafing, or you can use the cannon and missiles to engage enemy aircraft (the M61 cannon is great for taking out helicopters).The F-104C's speed will help it get in and out of the battlefield quickly, and the RWR is a helpful tool to alert you of SPAA and SAMs. Keep the F-104C's bad manoeuvrability in mind when doing ground attack runs, as it will prove fatal if you don't pull up in time.
The F-104C is equipped with an AN/ASG-14 search and track radar mounted in the nose of the aircraft. This is a relatively simple radar. It has one search mode, which scans 45 degrees to each side and continuously scans from 47 degrees below the radar to 90 degrees above the radar. Its tracking mode can only lock targets directly in front of the aircraft, and upon a successful lock only a diagram showing the angle and range to the target aircraft is displayed; no numbers are shown on the diagram and no lock box is shown around the target in third person. Despite these limitations, the radar is still useful for locating enemies at longer ranges or through clouds. However, the radar will alert enemies with radar warning receivers, so if it is not needed or you are attempting to ambush an enemy, it should be turned off.
|AN/ASG-14 - Target Detection Radar|
|37,000 m||15,000 m||±45°||±45°|
|AN/ASG-14 - Target Tracking Radar|
|18,500 m||150 m||±10°||±10°|
Pros and cons
- Excellent top speed and acceleration
- Excellent climb rate
- Good roll rate
- Powerful M61 Vulcan cannon with a very high rate of fire, great ballistics and high damage
- Availability of ground attack ordnance
- Very poor overall manoeuvrability and terrible low-speed manoeuvrability
- The cannon's high rate of fire forces the player to have some trigger discipline
- AIM-9B missiles can be easily dodged
- Lacks 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 Soviets' 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. In September of 1958 the USAF would get the F-104C, a dedicated fighter-bomber variant designed for the USAF's Tactical Air Command's 479th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The F-104C featured improvements over the F-104A in the form of a better fire-control system as well as hardpoints on the centerline on the belly and under the wings. The aircraft also introduced the ability to refuel mid-flight via a probe running along the right side of the aircraft, extending the reach of the aircraft somewhat. However, like most of the A models ended up, the C models were quickly transferred to Air National Guard (ANG) units both of which served until around 1975 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
|Fighters||XP-38G · P-38E · P-38G-1 · P-38J-15 · Bong's P-38J-15 · P-38K · P-38L-5-LO · YP-38|
|Bombers||B-34 · PV-2D|
|Jet Fighters||F-80A-5 · F-80C-10|
|F-104A · F-104C|
|Export / License||A-29 · ▄Hudson Mk V|
|␗F-104A · ▀F-104G · ␗F-104G · ▅F-104J · ▄F-104S|
|See Also||Mitsubishi Heavy Industries · Fiat Aviation|
|USA jet aircraft|
|F-4||F-4C Phantom II · F-4E Phantom II · F-4J Phantom II · F-4S Phantom II|
|F-5||F-5A · F-5C · F-5E|
|F-8||F8U-2 · F-8E|
|F-80||F-80A-5 · F-80C-10|
|F-84||F-84B-26 · F-84F · F-84G-21-RE|
|F-86||F-86A-5 · F-86F-25 · F-86F-2 · F-86F-35|
|F-89||F-89B · F-89D|
|F-104||F-104A · F-104C|
|F-14||F-14A Early · F-14B|
|F-16||F-16A · F-16A ADF · F-16C|
|F9F||F9F-2 · F9F-5 · F9F-8|
|FJ-4||FJ-4B · FJ-4B VMF-232|
|Other||P-59A · F2H-2 · F3D-1 · F3H-2 · F4D-1 · F11F-1 · F-100D|
|A-4||A-4B · A-4E Early|
|A-7||A-7D · A-7E · A-7K|
|AV-8||AV-8A · AV-8C|
|A-10||A-10A · A-10A Late|
|B-57||B-57A · B-57B|