North American RF-100A Super Sabre

Last revised November 27, 1999

Six nearly complete F-100As were taken off the production line during September of 1954 and modified as unarmed photographic reconnaissance aircraft under the designation RF-100A. Serials were 53-1545/1548, 53-1551, and 53-1554. The nose armament was completely removed and replaced by five reconnaissance camera systems which looked ahead and to each side of the aircraft. The cameras could not all fit within the existing fuselage contour, and a distinctive bulge had to be added onto the fuselage belly underneath the cockpit in order to accommodate all of this equipment. This bulge extended from below the windshield almost to the wing trailing edge, and was a obvious recognition feature. The RF-100As carried four drop tanks rather than the usual two because the mission profile called for a lot of high-speed flight under afterburner and there was no provision for midair refuelling. For some reason, the RF-100A became known as "Slick Chick".

Few photographs of the RF-100A have been published and even fewer details are available about its service. The few photos of the RF-100A that have appeared in print tend to be blurry and indistinct, obviously being copies of copies of copies. There exists a photograph of one RF-100A painted with the spurious serial number of 53-2600 (actually an F-89 Scorpion serial number). The reason for the reluctance to speak openly about the RF-100A seems to be because this aircraft (along with lots of other types) participated in some rather dangerous reconnaissance missions flown over Soviet-occupied territories in Europe during the darkest days of the Cold War. RF-100As would dash at high speed across the Iron Curtain, take their pictures, then beat a hasty retreat before defenses had time to react. Needless to say, very few details are available about these missions. Now that the Cold War is over, perhaps the veil of secrecy that surrounds these missions can finally be lifted.

In late 1961, four of the RF-100As were sent to the Chinese Nationalist Air Force on Taiwan. It is generally believed that these aircraft flew operational reconnaissance missions over the People's Republic of China. The Chinese Nationalist Air Force often passed the information gained by these reconnaissance flights along to US intelligence agencies. Again, there are few details publically available about these missions.


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