Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

Overview

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was designed as a reaction to the Korean War when the USAF found itself facing the Soviet MiG-15 fighter.  Pilots returned from Korea requesting a fighter aircraft capable of out manoeuvring the MiG-15.  The Lockheed design team, headed by Kelly Johnson, started work on a light weight fighter aircraft for the USAF in March 1952.  A year later Lockheed received a contract for two prototype Starfighters.  A number of technical problems emerged with the two prototypes that prevented it from reaching its maximum speed.  Further tests and trials had to be carried out and it was not until January 1958 that the Starfighter became fully operational.  The first USAF Squadron to be equipped with the aircraft was 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron based at Hamilton, California.  Further F-104s equipped the USAF’s Tactical Air Command.  Due to changing requirements the USAF’s order of over 700 Starfighters was reduced to just under 300.  Consequently the main market for the Starfighter became the other NATO countries with the West Germans being the first European country to sign a contract for the Starfighter.  The Starfighter continued in service until 1990.

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