|This page is about the jet fighter F-104A (China). For other versions, see F-104 (Family).|
The ␗F-104A Starfighter is a rank VI Chinese jet fighter with a battle rating of 9.7 (AB) and 10.0 (RB/SB). It was introduced in Update "Starfighters".
This early interceptor model of the F-104 Starfighter, identical to the US F-104A is a very different aircraft from the ROCAF F-100A that precedes it. The thin and pencil-shaped F-104 has excellent speed, acceleration, and climb for its battle rating but horrid turning capabilities at low speeds. The missile armament of two AIM-9B Sidewinders is disappointing, but it at least has a nifty M61 Vulcan rotary cannon that can dispatch enemies in a quick burst. Pilots who adhere to strict boom-and-zoom tactics can take advantage of the F-104's high performance compared to its contemporaries. Succeeding this aircraft is the improved ROCAF F-104G, which boasts further improved performance and vastly superior payload options.
The F-104A has a lower top speed than the later Starfighter models but is still capable of reaching about twice the speed of sound. The acceleration and climb are very good and the F-104A should be able to achieve an altitude and speed advantage over its close competitors. Horizontal energy retention and vertical energy retention are both good, allowing the F-104A to escape easily after making a pass. The elephant in the room is the substandard turning ability due to the tiny wings shared by all Starfighters. At low speeds, the turn rate is agonizing and flaps are not of much help. At high speeds, the turn rate becomes more bearable, but still not good. Maneuvering energy retention is also unimpressive, though the effects may not be immediately obvious due to the low turn rate. The roll rate is very good and is important to utilize when making defensive manoeuvers.
|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-3||1||6,182 kg||513 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||6,947 kg||7,712 kg||8,477 kg||8,859 kg||24,000 kg|
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)|
|Condition||100%||WEP||10m fuel||20m fuel||30m fuel||35m fuel||MTOW|
|Stationary||3,936 kgf||6,061 kgf||0.87||0.79||0.71||0.68||0.25|
|Optimal|| 3,936 kgf
| 7,751 kgf
Survivability and armour
The F-104A 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. Since the plane's wings are so small, any damage to them at all drastically reduces stability and manoeuvrability, and may result in a crash. All of the vehicle's fuel tanks are centrally located, so fuel fires are unlikely to occur. However, the engine is very large, so it is very likely that it will sustain heavy damage if the vehicle is fired upon.
Modifications and economy
The pilot should focus first on researching the Fuselage repair and the AIM-9B modifications. After that, it is recommended to research the remaining Flight performance modules before moving on to the Survivability modules.
The F-104A (China) is armed with:
- 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, fuselage-mounted (750 rpg)
The M61 Vulcan is a powerful gatling cannon. 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-104A (China) can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
- Without load
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles
The F-104A is an interceptor variant, unlike the later multirole models like the F-104C or F-104G. In light of this, its only loadout option is a pair of AIM-9B Sidewinders. The AIM-9Bs have worn out their welcome at the F-104A's battle rating and getting kills with them is challenging: they have a limited acquisition cone, cannot be launched under high G-loads, and are prone to losing their target due to evasive maneuvers, flares, or sometimes plain luck. Poor-quality missiles like these are situational: save them for use against enemies that are not paying attention or who have run out of airspeed and are unable to maneuver, but do not rely on them to score a kill and be ready to mop things up with the Vulcan at a moment's notice.
Usage in battles
The F-104A 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-104A to swoop in and out of the combat zone while evading enemies. Sometimes, it is even possible to outrun enemy air-to-air missiles. At this battle rating, the F-104A is able to greatly outspeed the vast majority of its opponents.
However, the F-104 struggles with manoeuvrability. 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. Note that getting guns on target, even in a high speed pass, is difficult and a pilot may find themselves fighting with the controls often. If the target dodges, extend away and gain a comfortable amount of separation before climbing and preparing for another pass. Working with teammates is very helpful to keep an enemy distracted and limit their opportunities to regain energy.
Keep the airspeed up at all costs. A slow F-104A is a sitting duck for guns and missiles due to its horrible turning. If an enemy is tailing the F-104A, the best option is to outrun them, but if they are closing in the only chance of pulling a reversal is to use the roll rate for rolling scissors.
This vehicle also lacks in the weaponry department. Although it has a powerful 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, and the best way to use them is to target only slow-moving or inattentive enemies, like those in stall climbs. What's more, this vehicle is only equipped with two of them; the previous F-100A at least had four AIM-9Bs to toss around.
The complete lack of ground attack ordnance makes the F-104A fairly useless for ground pounding. At most, the Vulcan can mop up lightly armored AI ground targets, but the handling characteristics of the aircraft make low-altitude gun runs risky. In combined battles, the Vulcan's AP rounds have decent penetration on paper, but attacking armored targets from the top-down angles required to attack roof armor is borderline suicidal in a Starfighter. Stick to other options for CAS.
Pros and cons
- Much faster than most enemies, supported by high acceleration
- Great climb-rate
- Decent high-speed manoeuvrability, in spite of its tiny wings
- Powerful 20 mm Vulcan gun which has absurdly high fire rate, can do some serious damage
- Good roll rate
- Has airbrakes, allowing it to decelerate quicker when needed, eg when avoiding an overshoot
- Adequate all-round vision in simulator
- Lousy low-speed manoeuvrability
- Inadequate air-to-air missiles
- No flares to counter AAMs
- Unable to equip bombs or rockets, limited to air-to-air role only
- As with most jets, it tends to bleed off speed quickly in sustained turns
- Relatively low ammo count for the Vulcan; trigger discipline is necessary
- M61 Vulcan doesn't shoot instantly, takes less than a second to rotate
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-104's involvement with the Republic of China/Taiwan began soon after it entered service with the US Air Force in 1958. The Second Taiwan Straits Crisis in the August of that year was sparked by the People's Liberation Army shelling new ROC military installations on the islands of Kinmen and the Matsu Archipelago. The USAF deployed F-104s to Taiwan and used them to perform supersonic passes into the airspace of the Straits and mainland China in order to show off the capabilities of the Mach-2 capable Starfighter and intimidate the PLAAF, which at that time was equipped with MiG-15s and MiG-17s. No actual shooting engagements occurred and the F-104s were withdrawn after a cease fire in October.
The Republic of China Air Force received its first Starfighters starting in 1960, the first batch of F-104A/Bs being from ex-USAF stock. A number of them were sent to Pakistan in 1965, who received at least two F-104As from Taiwan to replace combat losses in the war with India. The F-104As were retired in the 1980s, with only the later variants like the F-104G remaining in service until the late 1990s with upgrades.
A large number of Starfighters are preserved and on display in Taiwan today. At least four F-104As can be found at Kanshan Air Force Base, Hsinchu Air Force Base, and other locations. A full list can be found here.
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|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|
|China jet aircraft|
|Fighters||J-2 · J-4 · Shenyang F-5 · Q-5 early · Q-5A · J-6A · J-7II|
|American||␗F-84G-21-RE · ␗F-86F-30 · ␗F-86F-40 · ␗F-100A · ␗F-104A · ␗F-104G|
|Soviet||␗MiG-9 · ␗MiG-9 (l)|