Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

When it first appeared in 1954, the super-fast, lightweight F-104 Starfighter was dubbed “the missile with a man in it”. Designed by Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson, it was both small and simple – indeed, F-104s were memorably described
by journalist Tom Wolfe as “chimneys with little razor-blade wings”.
The first combat aircraft capable of sustaining speeds above Mach 2, the Starfighter had an outstanding rate of climb that made it, in principle, the ideal interceptor. In May 1958 it claimed both the world absolute speed and absolute height records, making it the first aeroplane ever to hold both simultaneously. Unfortunately, the Starfighter had a poor rate of turn – a severe drawback in air-to-air combat – and could also be difficult to fly. It had
some positively bad handling characteristics and unforgivingly punished pilot error.
Although the US Air Force (USAF) ordered 722 of the aircraft, it ultimately took delivery of only 296.
The US’s ally, West Germany, operated more F-104s than the USAF. but may have regretted it. Of 917 West German Starlighters, 270 were lost in accidents: German pilots called it “the Widowmaker”.
The aircraft nonetheless flew with five NATO nations and the final production total was a highly respectable 2,580.

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