Lockheed F-104G Starfighter

Last revised December 11, 1999




The F-104G (Lockheed Model 683-10-19) was the European-built version of the Starfighter, designed for the air forces of the USA's NATO allies. Externally, the F-104G looked quite similar to the earlier F-104C day fighter, but differed in being a multi-role, all-weather aircraft rather than a daylight strike fighter. The Starfighter had metamorphosed from an air-superiority day fighter into a multirole all-weather strike fighter.

The F-104G had full all-weather capability, carrying an Autonetics F15A-41B NASARR (North American Search and Ranging Radar) fire control system. The fire control system was optimized in two basic air-to-ground and air-to-air modes--these were for bombing/navigation and target interception, respectively. In the air-to-air mode, it provided radar search, acquisition, and automatic tracking of aerial targets to make it possible to to carry out lead-collision attacks with automatic missile release. The NASAAR acted in conjunction with the director-type gunsight for the M-61 Vulcan cannon. The director gunsight gave the pilot an optical line-of-sight indication after the NASARR had computed the required lead angle. The weapons sight incorporated a basic infrared facility with common optics developed by Lockheed, which gave the aircraft some night-sighting capability. For air-to-ground modes, the NASAAR provided the pilot with range information for visual bombing computation, ground mapping for all-weather bombing and navigation, contour mapping for navigation, and terrain avoidance for low-level combat missions. The caged sight could also be used as an aiming reference for visual dive-bombing.

The F-104G was also equipped with a Litton LN-3 inertial navigator which provided the pilot with continuous optical indication of direction and distance to a preselected target. The F-104G was one or the first combat aircraft to make use of such a system. However, the LN-3 was to encounter major development problems in meeting its specified design goals.

The fuselage, wing, and empennage were strengthened to enable the aircraft to carry an increased offensive weapons load and to handle the stresses of low-altitude combat missions flown at high speeds. A total of 36 new forgings were needed to reinforce the fuselage mainframes, wing fittings and beams, fuselage longerons, joints, and tail frames, empennage beams and ribs, plus some fuselage skins. Some reinforcement was made to the trailing-edge flap fittings to allow partial deflections of up to 15 degrees during combat meneuvers, allowing reductions of up to 33 percent in turning radius at altitudes of 5000 feet.

Like the F-104C, seven hardpoints were fitted to the F-104G--one on the fuselage centerline, two under the wings, and two at the wingtips--enabling up to 4000 pounds of external stores to be carried.

The internal fuel tankage was revised to increase the total fuel load from 1624 to 1784 US gallons.

The length of the fuselage of the F-104G was the same as that of the earlier versions, but the F-104G had the enlarged and broader vertical tail of the F-104B/D two-seater, which provided a considerable improvement in longitudinal stability at high Mach numbers. In addition, the F-104G was equipped with the fully-powered rudder of the F-104B/D. With the extra area, the irreversible hydraulically-powered rudder of the F-104G provided both directional control and yaw damping, eliminating the separate yaw damper tab of the earlier Starfighters. and providing the characteristic rudder overhang, first seen on the F-104B/D, above the afterburner nozzle. The tailplane servo-mechanism was modified to afford increased hinge movement as demanded by the increased control power required by low-altitude operations at increased gross weights. and the amount of power for the horizontal stabilizer control system booster was increased. The hinge and operating controls were contained within the empennage contours, avoiding external fairings.

The F-104G had a slightly higher maximum takeoff weight than the F-104C. In order to cope with the extra weight and the higher landing speeds, larger wheels were fitted. The wheel brakes were improved and were made fully powered and were equipped with anti-skid capability. The tail braking parachute increased in diameter from 16 to 18 feet.

The Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted upward-firing ejector seat was standard for the F-104G, and was cleared for use at all altitudes down to ground level at speeds between 90 knots and 550 knots.

The engine of the F-104G was the General Electric J79-GE-11A, rated at 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,600 lb.s.t. with afterburning. The J79 engines were coproduced under license by MAN-Turbo in Germany, by the Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, and by Fiat in Italy.

A F-104A-15-LO (serial number 56-0770) was modified by Lockheed with the bigger tail surfaces to become the aerodynamic prototype of the F-104G, although it lacked the internal airframe strengthing and many of the internal systems of the definitive F-104G. It flew for the first time at Palmdale on September 1, 1960. It was intended as the prototype CF-104, and flew in RCAF colors.

The first true F-104G (Werke Number 2001) was flown by Lockheed for the first time on October 5, 1960, and was the first of the initial German order for 66 examples. Production deliveries started in May of 1961.

European production sites were clustered into four groups, based generally on geographical location. The South Group included Dornier at Munich, Heinkel at Speyer, Messerschmitt at Augsburg (later reorganized as Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, or MBB), and Siebel at Donauworth, plus BMW at Koblenz for J79 production. The North Group included the Dutch companies Fokker at Schipol and Dordrech and Aviolanda at Papendrecht, plus the German companies Focke Wulf at Bremen, Hamburger Flugzeugbau in Hamburg and Weserflugzeugbau at Einswarden. The West Group consisted of SABCA (Societe Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aeronautiques) and Fairey S.A. of Belgium, which operated a joint facility at Gosselies near Charleroi, along with Fabrique Nationale in Brussels for J79 production. The Italian Group consisted of Fiat at Turin as the prime contractor, with Aerfer-Macchi, Piaggio, SACA, and SIAI-Marchetti as subcontractors. Canadair in Canada was contracted to supply 121 sets of wings, aft fuselage, and tail assemblies to the FRG and the Netherlands, and 40 sets to Lockheed.

Lockheed itself remained heavily involved in the license production programs, and supplied small numbers of complete F-104Gs along with knock-down kits of parts to the licensees to help them in the launch of their own individual programs. In addition, Lockheed built the first 66 F-104Gs for the Luftwaffe and built 84 for USAF Mutual Aid contracts.

The initial production schedule called for 210 aircraft to be built by the South Group, 350 by the North Group, 188 by the West Group, and 199 by the Italian group. There was lot of cross-flow of components, parts, and even complete airplanes between the various Groups. The Luftwaffe eventually received 700 single seaters from five different nations.

In order to assure early service introduction, it was agreed that Lockheed was to build the initial lot of F-104Gs while the European consortium got up to speed. Lockheed eventually built 139 F-104Gs, which were delivered to the air forces of Germany, Greece, Norway, and Turkey, plus pattern aircraft delivered to manufacturers in Belgium and Italy. In addition, Lockheed also built a number of two-seat TF-104G combat trainers. The first Lockheed-built F-104G took off on its maiden flight on June 7, 1960.

The South Group's first F-104G flew on October 5, 1960. The South Group of companies eventually built 210 aircraft, all of them destined for the West German Luftwaffe. South Group Starfighters were identified by construction numbers in the 7000 range.

The West Group's first F-104G flew on August 3, 1961. West Group Starfighters were identified by construction numbers in the range 9002 to 9189. West Group Starfighters went both to the Force Aerienne Belge and to the Luftwaffe.

The North Group's first F-104G flew on November 11, 1961. The North Group eventually built 231 aircraft for the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force) as well as the Luftwaffe. The North Group F-104Gs were identified by construction numbers between 8001 and 8350. F-104Gs were produced in parallel with RF-104Gs.

The Italian Group flew its first Starfighter on June 9, 1962, and delivered 169 aircraft to Dutch, German, and Italian air forces. The F-104Gs built by the Italian Group (with Fiat as major contractor) had company numbers in the range between 6502 and 6700. F-104Gs were interspersed with RF-104Gs on the line.

Once the European F-104G program was well underway, the USAF ordered 140 F-104Gs to be built by Canadair for various NATO nations under the MAP program. They were intended for Norway, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, and Spain. They followed the Canadian-built CF-104s off the production line. Canadair-built F-104Gs differed from European-built versions primarily in the type of NASARR installed--the F-15AM-11 which was optimized for both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. Canadair-built F-104Gs were identified by construction numbers in the range between 6001 and 6140. The first of these Canadair-built F-104Gs (c/n 6001, USAF serial number 62-12302) made its maiden flight on July 30, 1963, and deliveries to NATO began before the end of the year.

The ejector seat initially fitted was the Lockheed Model C-2 upward-firing seat, but beginning in 1967 it was replaced by a Martin-Baker Mk GQ7(F) "zero-zero" ejector seat.

When the F-104G program finally ended with the delivery of the last example by MBB in 1973, 1122 aircraft had been built, representing nearly 44 percent of Starfighter production.

Some of the F-104Gs built were purchased with MAP funds and were assigned USAF serial numbers for record-keeping purposes even though they never carried USAF insignia. In addition, many F-104Gs owned by the West German Luftwaffe actually operated at training bases in the USA where they sported USAF insignia and carried USAF serial numbers.

Specification of the F-104G:

Engine: One General Electric J79-GE-11A turbojet, 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,600 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed 1146 mph at 50,000 feet, 1328 mph at 35,000 feet. Stalling speed 216 mph. Initial climb rate 48,000 feet per minute. Service ceiling 50,000 feet, and absolute ceiling 90,000 feet. Normal range 1080 miles. Maximum range with four drop tanks was 1630 miles. Fuel: Internal fuel capacity was 897 US gallons, and maximum fuel capacity with two wingtip tanks and two underwing tanks was 1784 US gallons. Dimensions: Wingspan 21 feet 9 inches, length 54 feet 8 inches, height 13 feet 6 inches, wing area 196.1 square feet. Weights: 13,996 pounds empty, 20,640 pounds combat, 29,038 pounds maximum takeoff. Armament: One 20-mm M61A1 cannon with 725 rounds in the fuselage, plus up to four AIM-9B Sidewinder infrared homing air-to-air missiles. Up to 4000 pounds of external ordinance (bombs, rockets, napalm, drop tanks) could be carried on underwing and underfuselage attachment points.

Sources:


  1. The Lockheed F-104G/CF-104, Gerhard Joos, Aircraft in Profile No. 131, Doubleday, 1969.

  2. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery Books, 1989.

  3. Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Steve Pace, Motorbooks International, 1992.

  4. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987.

  5. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  6. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft Armament, Bill Gunston, Orion Books, 1988.

  7. The World's Fighting Planes, William Green, Doubleday 1968.

  8. American Combat Planes, Ray Wagner, Third Enlarged Edition, Doubleday, 1982.

  9. Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, John Fricker, Wings of Fame, Volume 2, Aerospace Publishing Ltd, 1996.