|This page is about the jet fighter F-104S. For other versions, see F-104 (Family).|
The F-104S Starfighter is a rank VI Italian jet fighter with a battle rating of 10.3 (AB/RB/SB). It was introduced in Update "Starfighters".
The F-104S is an Italian supersonic interceptor based on the American Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" series. The external appearance is much the same besides the additional ventral fins, but as the final variant of the Starfighter family, it boasts the best speed and payload capacity of any F-104. It can be used as a high-speed ground attacker with a sizeable load of assorted bombs and rockets. Alternatively, it can be a deadly interceptor if equipped with air-to-air missiles. Unique among Starfighters is its ability to carry a pair of AIM-7E Sparrow semi-active radar homing missiles, the same variant used by the F-4E Phantom II.
The sleek and missile-like Starfighters are known for having excellent speed, climb rate, and acceleration, and the F-104S is no exception. Its J79-GE-19 engine has the highest thrust of all F-104 variants by a large margin: optimal thrust on afterburner is about 22% greater than the J79-GE-11 used by the F-104G. The F-104S will have few issues with outrunning or outclimbing its opponents. But this performance comes at the cost of very poor maneuverability, which has not been improved on this variant. The tiny wings and long body make for awful low-speed handling and there is only so much that the combat flaps can do to improve the turn rate. Avoid turning engagements when at all possible. That said, its handling at supersonic speeds is not so poor. Hard turns tend to bleed speed due to the low aspect ratio of the wings. The roll rate is good overall, which helps in defensive maneuvers.
|Characteristics|| Max Speed
(km/h at 15,240 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-19||1||6,850 kg||566 kg/m2|
|Engine characteristics||Mass with fuel (no weapons load)|| Max Takeoff|
|Weight (each)||Type||9m fuel||20m fuel||31m fuel|
|1,560 kg||Afterburning axial-flow turbojet||7,706 kg||8,752 kg||9,798 kg||24,000 kg|
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)|
|Condition||100%||WEP||9m fuel||20m fuel||31m fuel||MTOW|
|Stationary||4,992 kgf||7,688 kgf||1.00||0.89||0.78||0.32|
|Optimal|| 5,044 kgf
| 10,253 kgf
Survivability and armour
The F-104S is not equipped with any armour plating, and is therefore rather vulnerable to enemy fire, especially given the fact that most enemies at this rank sport high-calibre cannons. Taking any critical damage in the F-104S will almost instantly cripple it, to the point where you will have to fly back to base, or be a sitting duck for the enemy team. Taking a critical hit to the fuselage will disable you so badly you won't be able to reach supersonic speeds, which is your greatest advantage. The same goes for taking any sort of wing damage or tail damage: it will instantly result in a huge amount of drag on the air frame, reducing your already poor energy retention in maneuvers making you an easy target to pick off from afar and in effective gun range. Lastly, the engine is a massive target for guns and missiles alike. Having a slightly orange engine will effectively put you out of the fight. And with the already heavy weight of the F-104S, you require the engine power to stay in the fight.
Modifications and economy
The most important modules to research are the Flight performance modifications and the AIM-9B air-to-air missiles. The Flight performance modifications capitalize on this vehicle's speed advantage, while the missiles greatly increase its ability to do damage to the enemy. Some modifications that may be saved for last are the G-suit, Offensive 20 mm, and New 20 mm cannons, as well as the modifications that allow the plane to equip bombs (provided, of course, that the pilot does not wish to use the vehicle in a ground attack role).
The F-104S is armed with:
- 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, chin-mounted (750 rpg)
The M61 Vulcan is a powerful gatling cannon that may be a fun surprise to Italian pilots. A quick and accurate burst can send targets into flames and the incredible rate of fire allows for some spray-and-pray, which is especially helpful considering how difficult it can be to get guns on target in this aircraft. But it has several drawbacks: first, the gun needs to spool up momentarily before it will fire, and second, the ammunition supply of 750 rounds will be depleted in no time if fired continuously. The former makes tap firing the gun to conserve ammunition a difficult affair but the latter means that holding down the trigger is not optimal either—certainly an awkward situation! New pilots can be afford to be somewhat more trigger-happy as they get used to the gun.
The F-104S can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
- Without load
- 6 x 250 lb LDGP Mk 81 bombs + 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles (1,500 lb total)
- 7 x 500 lb LDGP Mk 82 bombs (3,500 lb total)
- 7 x 750 lb M117 cone 45 bombs (5,250 lb total)
- 3 x 1,000 lb LDGP Mk 83 bombs (3,000 lb total)
- 1 x 2,000 lb LDGP Mk 84 bomb (2,000 lb total)
- 76 x FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets
- 8 x Zuni Mk32 Mod 0 ATAP rockets
- 6 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles
- 2 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles
- 2 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 4 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles
- 6 x 250 lb LDGP Mk 81 bombs (1,500 lb total)
- 5 x 500 lb LDGP Mk 82 bombs + 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles (2,500 lb total)
- 5 x 750 lb M117 cone 45 bombs + 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles (3,750 lb total)
- 3 x 1,000 lb LDGP Mk 83 bombs + 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles (3,000 lb total)
- 1 x 2,000 lb LDGP Mk 84 bomb + 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles (2,000 lb total)
- 5 x 500 lb LDGP Mk 82 bombs + 38 x FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets (2,500 lb total)
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles + 76 x FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles + 8 x Zuni Mk32 Mod 0 ATAP rockets
The F-104S has a very wide range of ordnance. For attacking ground targets, the bombs and rockets should be adequate. The loadout with seven 750 lb bombs is the heaviest and can be used to bomb bases or carpet bomb enemy vehicles. The largest individual bomb the F-104S can carry is 2000 lbs, sufficient for clearing out a capture zone in mixed battles. Two types of rockets are available, 70 mm FFAR Mighty Mouse rockets and 130 mm Zuni rockets. The FFARs have a decent penetration of 290 mm but have small warheads with relatively low post-penetration damage. The Zunis are more potent but only 8 can be carried.
In the air-to-air missile department, the only infrared guided missile available is the AIM-9B Sidewinder. This early Sidewinder is disappointing at the F-104S' battle rating and is easily dodged or spoofed by a target who spots it coming. The F-104S can at the very least carry up to 6 of them, a record number of missiles for a Starfighter. The other option is the AIM-7E Sparrow, of which 2 can be carried. It requires a continuous radar lock to guide and will not work well at close distances or when looking towards the ground, but has very good range and can be fired at a target at any aspect.
Usage in battles
The F-104S does one thing extremely well: speed. This is the vehicle's greatest advantage, and can be used to great effect if the pilot is careful about choosing which engagements to pursue. It is recommended to keep up a high air-speed at all times, which will allow the F-104S to swoop in and out of the combat zone while evading enemies. Sometimes, it is even possible to outrun enemy air-to-air missiles.
However, the F-104S struggles with maneuverability. With such small wings, it simply can't produce the lift necessary to throw itself around the sky, and therefore has a very poor turning circle. This means that any turning engagement is most likely futile, and also reemphasizes the utility of a boom and zoom playstyle.
This vehicle also lacks in the weaponry department. Although it has an M61 (20 mm) Vulcan cannon, the only air-to-air missiles to which the plane has access is the AIM-9B. At this high battle rating, these early missiles are simply not enough to reliably destroy enemy targets. The best way to use them is to target only slow-moving enemies or while going past other aircraft, due to the high top speed of the F-104S the AIM-9B are already going very fast when launched, if timed correctly the lack of ability for the missile to turn is negated by the sheer speed and moment of surprise. There is one silver lining: since the plane is equipped with six of these missiles, the pilot has many chances to secure a kill using them. Even if the missiles under perform, their sheer number make up for that deficit.
Pros and cons
- Good top speed for its rank
- Great rate of climb
- Vulcan cannon can do some serious damage
- Significantly wider variety of payload options than early F-104s
- Decent high-speed manoeuvrability in spite of its tiny wings
- Good roll rate for a jet
- Can use the AIM-7E Sparrow missile
- Has a radar warning receiver
- Lousy manoeuvrability at low speeds
- Bleeds off airspeed easily in sustained turns.
- Only 750 rounds of cannon ammo, trigger discipline is a must
- No air-to-ground missiles
- No flares
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was a supersonic jet fighter known for its distinctive appearance, described as a "missile with a man in it". At the time of its introduction in 1958 with the US Air Force as an interceptor, the F-104 set multiple performance records and was the first production fighter capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. Flaws of the design included engine troubles, limited range, and poor handling characteristics that led to a poor safety record, earning it several morbid nicknames like "Widowmaker". The F-104G variant was modified for multi-role capabilities in line with German requirements and ultimately was adopted by several other NATO countries, including Italy.
The F-104G began to replace the Canadair Sabre in Italian service beginning in 1963-1965. Although the airframes were not very old, the subsonic Sabres were already outdated compared to the new Mach-2 capable supersonic aircraft available to NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The Starfighters also supplanted the similarly outdated F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bomber. As was the case for many foreign designs in Italian service, the F-104Gs were for the most part assembled locally by Fiat. They were configured in interceptor, strike, and reconnaissance variants. Trainer variants were also obtained. The original Lockheed ejection seats were replaced with Martin-Baker seats. In Italian hands, the F-104 earned the nickname of Spillone ("Hairpin"), no doubt due to its pointed, needle-like shape.
Despite its poor accident record, the F-104 proved to be popular with the Italian Air Force. In the mid 1960s, the Italian military began to look for new and more advanced aircraft. Options considered included the American F-4 Phantom II, British English Electric Lighting, and French Mirage III. Lockheed's proposal was an upgraded version of the Starfighter with the company designation of CL-901. This was to feature a new J79-GE-19 engine, slight modifications to the air intakes, improved avionics, extra pylons, and additional ventral fins. The CL-901 was ultimately selected due to its low price and the Italian industry's familiarity with the F-104, and it was produced as the F-104S. The first examples were modified from the F-104G.
Two configurations of the F-104S were produced. The F-104S/CI interceptor version replaced the internal cannon with additional avionics required to support the semi-active radar homing Sparrow missiles while the F-104S/CB fighter-bomber variant retained the gun. The two variants may have had different radars with features suited to their roles, though sources are unclear about this distinction.
A total of 246 examples of the F-104S were produced over ten years from 1969-1979. An upgrade program was carried out in the 1980s while the Italian military waited for the Eurofighter Typhoon, resulting in the F-104S-ASA-2, the F-104S-ASA-1 is differentiated by its lack of Apside SARH missiles. The avionics, countermeasure systems, and weapons were improved, and the cannon could now be carried along with the missile guidance equipment due to improvements in avionics. The Starfighters were updated once more beginning in 1995-1997 to the ASA/M standard. The changes were relatively minor and limited to overhauling the electrical system and adding new navigation features.
The only combat service seen by the F-104S was in Serbia as part of Operation Allied Force, where they flew combat air patrols. They were finally retired by Italy in 2004 when the Eurofighter Typhoon became operational, bringing the F-104's career worldwide to an end. The only other user of the F-104S was Turkey, who received 40 aircraft and used them alongside other F-104 models obtained from many countries. Turkey retired all its Starfighters by 1995.
The F-104 was a remarkable plane for its time and offered NATO countries a relatively simple aircraft with spectacular performance. Though Italy adopted the F-104 a few years after the United States and Germany, it used the F-104 for longer than any other country and the domestically produced F-104S was the most advanced variant built. Its service was marred by a frightening accident record, as over a third of all Italian F-104s were lost in crashes. By the time the F-104S was retired, 50 years had passed since the F-104's first flight in 1954.
A large number of F-104S Starfighters have survived today and are on display throughout Italy. A full list of survivors can be found here.
Links to the articles on the War Thunder Wiki that you think will be useful for the reader, for example:
- reference to the series of the aircraft;
- links to approximate analogues of other nations and research trees.
|Fiat Aviation (Fiat Aviazione)|
|Fighters||CR.32 · CR.32 bis · CR.32 quater|
|CR.42 · Marcolin's C.R.42 CN|
|G.50 serie 2 · G.50 AS serie 7|
|G.55 sottoserie 0 · G.55 serie 1 · G.55S|
|Jet fighters||G.91 pre-serie · G.91 R/1 · G.91 YS|
|Bombers||B.R.20DR · B.R.20M M1|
|▀G.91 R/3 · ▀G.91 R/4 · G.91 R/4|
|Captured||▀CR.42 · ▀Marcolin's C.R.42 CN · ▀G.50 serie 2 · ▀G.50 AS serie 7|
|See also||North American Aviation · Lockheed Martin|
|Italy jet aircraft|
|Fiat||G.91 pre-serie · G.91 R/1 · G.91 R/4 · G.91 YS|
|Foreign||▄F-84F · ▄F-84G-21-RE · CL-13 Mk.4 · ▄F-86K · F-104S|
|Vampire FB 52A|