Known as the “missile with a man in it”, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the first American fighter capable of reaching twice the speed of sound. Its exceptionally clean lines and high top speed made the Starfighter one of best air superiority fighters of its time. Although the F-104 saw limited use in America, it did reverse the Air Force's trend of fielding heavy, complex fighter-bombers and was a true fighter pilot's aircraft. The F-104 began life as a result of the USAF's experiences in the Korean War. The inability of Air Force fighters (excepting the F-86 Sabre) to match the performance of the MiG-15 in combat was of great concern to the Air Force. Reacting to what he saw as a need for a lightweight, high performance fighter with an exceptional rate of climb, famed Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson submitted the design for the F-104 to the Air Force. The XF-104 beat out designs from Republic and North American and entered production in 1957.
The F-104A first entered service in 1958, equipping four Air Defense Command (ADC) squadrons in the process of transitioning from the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger to the newer (and more complex) F-106 Delta Dart. Due to its phenomenal performance, the Starfighter excelled as a quick reaction point-defense fighter. In this role, F-104s were sent to West Germany and Taiwan to shield American allies from possible communist aggression. F-104s were also sent to Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis to augment the ADC squadrons already in the area.
The USAF deployed four Starfighter variants: the single seat F-104A, the improved F-104C, the two seat trainer F-104B, and the F-104D. However, due to the Starfighter's high accident rate (a result of the plane's high landing speed and small span tricycle landing gear), the aircraft did not remain in American service for very long. The F-104 did find a wide and accepting audience in a number of European and Asian air forces. F-104s were built for Turkey, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Japan and Taiwan. Some F-104s in these countries remained in active service well into the 1990s.
The Cavanaugh Flight Museum's F-104 SN# 56-779 was manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California and delivered to the United States Air Force on January 28, 1958. The first assignment for this F-104 was to the 78th Fighter Group ADC, at Hamilton AFB, CA with deployment to Tyndall AFB, FL. In July 1960 it was assigned to the 161st Consolidated Maintenance Squadron Air National Guard (ANG) at Sky Harbor MAP, AZ until transferred in April 1961 to the 197th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron ANG also at Sky Harbor but with deployment to McGhee-Tyson MAP, TN. In November 1961, 779 was sent to Ramstein AB, Germany when the 197th was called to active duty as a result of the Berlin Crisis. Returning to the United States in August 1962 it was assigned to the 161st Fighter Group (Tactical Air Command), back at Sky Harbor MAP, AZ. The next stop for 779 was at McEntire ANGB SC, in September of 1962 when it was assigned to the 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and then in January 1963 it was assigned to the 169th Fighter Group (ANG) also at McEntire. The next assignment in June of 1963 brought 779 to Texas to the 331st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (ADC), at Webb AFB, TX where it served until March of 1968 when it was transferred to Davis-Monthan AFB, in AZ to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center. It was dropped from USAF inventory in 1972.
It appears that 56-779 received the tail section of 56-780 sometime while in USAF service. The visible sign of identifying an aircraft is by the serial number on the tail so after this happened, our aircraft #779 effectively became #780.
The plane was then sold to the Royal Jordanian Air Force and served as #908. After several decades of service in the Middle East, this F-104A, along with two other Starfighters, were sold to private individuals in the U.S. The museum purchased the aircraft in 1994 and placed it on static display.
|ENGINE||GE J79-GE-3B turbojet 14,800 pounds of thrust|
|ARMAMENT||One M-61 20mm cannon and up to 4,000 pounds of ordnance|
|WING SPAN||2l feet, 8 inches|
|LENGTH||54 feet, 9 inches|
|HEIGHT||13 feet, 6 inches|
|MAX TAKEOFF WEIGHT||22,422 pounds|
|MANUFACTURED BY||Lockheed Aircraft Corporation|
|TOTAL F-104A's BUILT||153|
|MUSEUM'S AIRCRAFT BUILT||1957|
|ON DISPLAY AT||Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Addison Airport (KADS), Dallas, Texas|
|MAXIMUM SPEED||1,532 m.p.h.|
|RANGE W/EXTERNAL TANKS||1,380 miles|
|SERVICE CEILING||60,000 feet|