Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Aircrew Forums > Military Aviation
Reload this Page >

F104 - fundamentally flawed

Military Aviation A forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.

F104 - fundamentally flawed

Old 8th Aug 2006, 20:29
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Sunny Staffordshire
Posts: 22
F104 - fundamentally flawed

Iíve been browsing PPRuNe for a couple of years, but this is my first post.

Iíve a long-time interest in all things military, but no military connections.

Iím a journalist by profession, but Iíve worked in PR for many years, so I possibly represent one evolutionary notch up from pondlife.

Iíd like your help as Iím now getting my ass into gear and trying to write a book Iíve been tinkering with for a good while.

Itís basically about the dichotomy represented by some iconic post-war military bits of hardware that have been hugely successful despite being utterly crap.

Iím currently working on a chapter about the good old Starfighter, and Iíd love any of your reminiscences. I know this site is populated mainly by RAF types, but it must have been impossible to have served in the 60s, 70s and 80s without coming across the 104 on a frequent basis. If youíve actually flown the thing, either on exchange or serving with the RCAF or an another user, so much the better.

Iím not trying to write anything at all technically authoritative Ė itís by a layman for a layman. I want the tone to be light, although I appreciate humour doesnít quite sit easily when the subject is an airplane that killed so many of the people who flew it. I also know many of you will think there are much better examples of soaraway crapness (Iím thinking about the Harrier next). You may also think the F104 was a marvel of the age.

I also realise that its reputation may have been partly maligned by the corruption that is such a rich part of the F104 tale.

To be honest I donít care Ė any contributions gratefully received.
RichardIC is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 20:41
  #2 (permalink)  
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Lincolnshire
Age: 76
Posts: 16,610
Try and establish contacts with the RCAF and German Air Force, both highly successful and large volume users.

The Belgiques were also enthusiatic operators. At the Cottesmore air show in about 1966 a Belgique staff pilot rolled the F104.

He did twinkle rolls at 20 feet and touch and go rolls at 50 feet. The latter involved a touch down at about 1500 feet, a roll at 50 feet, followed by a further touch down and a further popup roll.

Our attention was then divided between the F104, exiting stage left before a re-entry, stage left about 4 minutes later, and OC Ops doing about 90 down the peritrack to tell him to foxtrot oscar.

The response was, I believe, "Say again. Please speak slower." Rolling all the time

OC Ops was Wg Cdr Digman and the staish was Gp Capt, later Air Cdre, Eric Wright and later Director of Flight Safety.
Pontius Navigator is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 20:41
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Englandshire, mostly.
Posts: 324
I've met a few Italian pilots who flew the F104 prior to the MoD fobbing the F3 off to them and despite the annoyance of having a chap in the back talking non-stop about pasta, they were more than happy to be rid of the 'Widow Maker' and move onto an aircraft which did not go out of its way to kill you whilst in the circuit. "F3? Bella Bella!" was often the reply when asking about the F3. Desperate times, desperate measures...

Perhaps some of the more experienced chaps such as Beagle may be able to offer a first hand account of the F104.

Edited for crap tpying.
Tombstone is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 20:56
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 890
I only had one flight in one - in the back of a RCAF CF-104 based at Bad Solingen. The captain's aim was to show off his stead, mine was to try an tap one of our own F-4s. I spotted one a couple of miles away and immediately tried to crank on a 6g starboard turn, a la proper aeroplane. At about 1.5g there was an great pile of shuddering, a good deal of stick shaker (I think) and an almighty howl from the front of 'FLAPS, YOU NEED FLAPS!!' Useless piece of rubbish. Fast, though. Very fast. And, of course, with its J-79, very smokey.

And anyone who visited Deci in the 70s when the IAF used to rev its S-models up early am, they will remember that they sounded like braying donkeys.

The German ones were restricted to not below 800' AGL during low flying because of the racket and the vociferous lobby in Germany.

They were, being very high wing-loaders, very stable during strafe and this is the only thing since 1940 that the GAF ever beat the RAF at.
Zoom is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 21:39
  #5 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Road to Nowhere
Posts: 1,006
DECI

I may be going mad, but I have recollections in the early 90s of controlling IAF F104s at Deci. I remember the symboloy on the ACMI kit and it was often pretty difficult to tell whether the tracking on the range was down or the ac were turning. Yes very fast. Yes very noisy. But air-to-air they were a one-trick beast and if they didn't get an early shot off BVR (AIM 7?) it was endex.

STH
SirToppamHat is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 21:40
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Swindonshire
Posts: 1,906
D'you know if the originally-fitted downward-firing seat had any influence on the 800'AGL rule as well as the noise issue, Zoom?

RichardIC - good suggestions above. If you've not done so already, could I suggest looking at the book on the 104 by Martin Bowman in the Crowood series? It has several sets of recollections by a variety of chaps involved with it. There was also a piece in International Air Power Review (Volume 12) by Warren Thompson on the use of the F-104 in Vietnam which might be of interest to you as well.
Archimedes is online now  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 22:03
  #7 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Belgium
Posts: 19
Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator
The Belgiques were also enthusiatic operators. At the Cottesmore air show in about 1966 a Belgique staff pilot rolled the F104.

He did twinkle rolls at 20 feet and touch and go rolls at 50 feet. The latter involved a touch down at about 1500 feet, a roll at 50 feet, followed by a further touch down and a further popup roll.

Our attention was then divided between the F104, exiting stage left before a re-entry, stage left about 4 minutes later, and OC Ops doing about 90 down the peritrack to tell him to foxtrot oscar.

The response was, I believe, "Say again. Please speak slower." Rolling all the time

OC Ops was Wg Cdr Digman and the staish was Gp Capt, later Air Cdre, Eric Wright and later Director of Flight Safety.
Hi,

We were indeed enthusiastic operators.
That must have been the great Bill Ongena doing his routine at Cottesmore. Sadly, he later died in a car crash.
The F-104 was not more dangerous to fly than its contemparies. I believe it got its bad name in Germany from people who didn't like fast jets in the first place.

Archimedes,

The downwards-firing ejection seats were only in the early USAF models, the Germans always had upward-firing seats. Initially the Lockheed C-2 and from about 1969 Martin Baker seats were retrofitted.

Cheers, Transall.
Transall is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 22:07
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Posts: 25,490
Loved the "Ahhh -WHHHOOOOO-HAH" noise it made when they did the pre-take off AB check.

The BocheMarine came over to pre-grunt Wattisham in the early 80s with their immaculate 104s - not to mention much Wobbly and Jaegermeister. Fast, but the choice of low level turning points caused local mayhem. Did some affil with them - sucker them into following you down in a steep dive to low level, then break hard whilst descending and watch them break off or become high speed tent pegs..... Then keep the turn going on to their run away heading and call a Fox 2. "Ach, Himmel!".

Once chased one from Ely to the Wattisham overhead during an exercise whilst firmly tucked in his 6 o'clock at comfy AIM-9G range with the acq round growling its little head off. Box headed mate never looked round once - and the lineys loved it when we flashed over the airfield at about 480 KIAS with the 104 very obviously complete toast.
BEagle is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 22:08
  #9 (permalink)  
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Lincolnshire
Age: 76
Posts: 16,610
Transall, the name rings a bell.

What really worried the wheels were the 3 nuclear armed bombers at the touchdown end and the prospect of a hole in the runway.

Archimedes,

It was only the F104A with the downward seat. Good theory. High level interceptor and a downward bang would reduce back injuries and not require a large push to clear the tail.

Clearly the main limitation occurred in the recovery or departure case.

Certainly the Ruskies thought it a cracking idea which they incorporated in the Blinder. Their low level was about 1000-1200 feet!

Mind you they HAD bang seats.
Pontius Navigator is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 22:14
  #10 (permalink)  
I don't own this space under my name. I should have leased it while I still could
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Lincolnshire
Age: 76
Posts: 16,610
F4 GA Nav said they hated covering the GAF F104 strike targets. The F4 planned at about 520K but the F104 planned for 550k. The turn after release must have been interesting.
Pontius Navigator is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2006, 22:59
  #11 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Swindonshire
Posts: 1,906
Transall/PN, thank you.

An unthinking question on my part: I knew it was the C2 that was replaced by the MB seat - only to stupidly think that the C2 was the downward firing one. And I know, if I think about it, that the C2 was a zero-zero seat...

A downward firing zero-zero seat? Doh!. (is there a smilie for 'shakes head at early onset of dementia?)
Archimedes is online now  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 05:03
  #12 (permalink)  
Moderator
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Coastal
Posts: 527
As they are still being flown by the Starfighters Airshow Demonstration Team (a civvy org) you might want to chat with them. A google search will take you there.
Evileyes is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 05:15
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: "Deplorable but happy as a drunken Monkey!
Age: 71
Posts: 16,313
Arch,

You did come up with an interesting concept for a bit there.....I am not sure I would like to have been around for the first test firing!

Short rocket burn but lordy what a smashing finish! The results would be measured on the Richter Scale somewhere near Burbank.
SASless is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 07:35
  #14 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 54
I suggest you contact Wholigan (Jet Blast Mod) who, I know, flew the Canadian version.
rvusa is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 11:05
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Mars
Posts: 521
I always liked the Italian's tactics at Deci. "We go 'igh speed until the airway and then we turn around, go 'igh speed again and land" It was deemed a successful mission if they kept out of the airway and landed before ATC said the immortal words "Deci iz a Clo zed!".
Schnowzer is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 11:38
  #16 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Just behind the back of beyond....
Posts: 3,926
Well done for asking!

It might save repetition of the same tired old lies.

The accident rate in Germany, in the early years, was admittedly horrific. Though arguably less so than that of the German F-84s (which were in service for a much shorter time).

But this had much more to do with training ab initio pilots far too quickly in Arizona, to too low a standard, and then sending them into a European winter to convert to and fly hot F-104Gs in an environment they'd not encountered, and a role they hadn't adequately prepared for (low level strike) than it did with any intrinsic flaw in the -104.

Interestingly, none of the other NATO F-104 users had anything like the same problems, and some (was it Norway? Can't be arsed to go and look it up) never lost one.

Even in Germany, the type matured into a useful, popular, and effective (if narrow and inflexible) aircraft, and when the boxheads retired theirs, most were snapped up with alacrity by the Turks. By the end, the aircraft was obsolete and lacked any pretence at the multi-role capabilities that became standard with the F-16, but the pilots still loved them.

I have spoken to first tour German -104 drivers back when the aircraft was brand new - but I was wearing shorts and a rather natty toy dagger at the time, as they were showing me the cockpit at Wildenrath c.1967. I suspect that I didn't ask any interesting questions, nor did I gain much appreciation of the role or the accident stats. I have photos of me sitting/standing in/next to most of the early users' F-104s, often with the kind chap from No.14 Squadron who used to hoik me out of school and show me interesting visiting aircraft.

But I have spoken marginally more intelligently to more recent F-104 pilots, and I never found one who was less than affectionate and enthusiastic about the aircraft, and its apparent that it was never the dire and dangerous beast that the lay person would expect from reading German newspapers and magazines in the 60s, or listening to the Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters LP.

Axl Ostermeyer (a German Navy -104 and Tornado pilot) published an excellent book on the -104, and Captain Bob Wade (a Canadian -104, -18 and MiG-29 ace) is worth speaking to about the jet.

It certainly wasn't an example of 'soaraway crapness' and nor, I'd say, was the Harrier.
Jackonicko is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 11:45
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Posts: 25,490
So..... G for Germany. Zis I am liking!

I was also told that the RN's record with the Sea Vixen was actually worse than the F-104G accident rate - was this true?

For truly revealing insight into the 104's capabilities, read up on the astonishing NF-104. But which was later greatly restricted after big head Yeager screwed up comprehensively in it, had to eject and then tried to blame the jet.......
BEagle is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 11:52
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: firmly on dry land
Age: 76
Posts: 1,538
Originally Posted by SASless
Arch,

You did come up with an interesting concept for a bit there.....I am not sure I would like to have been around for the first test firing!

Short rocket burn but lordy what a smashing finish! The results would be measured on the Richter Scale somewhere near Burbank.
SASLess you remind me. There was a trial in Germany for an F104 zero length launch. This was the ultimate RATOG.

IRC the setup was not unlike a V1 launch rail.
Wader2 is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 12:25
  #19 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Sunny Staffordshire
Posts: 22
F104 fundamentally flawed

Thanks for so many replies, both here and by PM.

I fully accept that the F104 may have been much maligned, and that many operators regarded it with such fondness. To be honest, that just adds to the aircraft's appeal as a subject matter. Much more interesting than a turkey with a charisma bypass.

I've got lots of quality leads already

Slightly surprised no-one has suggested I go away and write about Typhoon instead.

Keep 'em coming and thanks once again.
RichardIC is offline  
Old 9th Aug 2006, 12:55
  #20 (permalink)  
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Derbyshire, England.
Posts: 4,043
My experience of the F104G comes from far too many 'meetings' at very low level, over northern Germany in the mid 'sixties. The safest place to fly low level in those days was on the recognised low level routes between training areas as one could rest assured that the F104Gs would not be there, they flew straight lines only at about 200'.

I flew Army helicopters in those days, we were based at a large barracks complex in Verden, a large red dot on the map in the middle of a town but that didn't stop the Starfighters going straight over the top at low level!

Had a long discussion with a Dutch Air Force officer in 1967 who was part of an investigation team into the F104G accidents.
When the GAF took on the F104G they didn't have much senior technical experience of that generation of jets and Lockheed offered to lend them some in the shape of experienced crew chiefs etc. but the Luftwaffe refused, even though their senior men had missed out on the early generation of military jets in air force service they insisted that they could hack it.
As Jacko has already pointed out, the GAF let very inexperienced pilots loose on the F104G whereas the Dutch, Danish, Norwegian air forces ensured at least one tour on the F86 or F100 before a tour on the F104.
And we should not forget that the F104G was a multi-role aircraft fitted with a lot more equipment than Lockheed ever intended which made it a lot heavier than Lockheed intended and took it a lot closer to the edges of the envelope than was originally perceived.
parabellum is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.