History of the Century Fighters
Following the Second World War, major advancements in aviation technology allowed the development of jet aircraft with capabilities undreamt of only a few years earlier. During the 1950s, the US Air Force placed six new jet fighters into service, which became known as the Century Series Fighters.
In this publication the histories of the F-100 Super Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, and the F-106 Delta Dart are related.
Initially dubbed Sabre 45, in reference to the 45-degree angle of its swept wings, engineers at North American began to develop the new fighter by using the F-86 as a starting point. To achieve the supersonic performance they sought, the designers chose the Pratt Whitney Model JT3 Turbo Wasp engine in early 1949 to power the new fighter. This power plant, which was Pratt Whitney’s first original design, was capable of producing 7,500 pounds of thrust. Furthermore, engineers at Pratt Whitney also planned to develop an afterburner section for the engine, which would greatly increase its power.
During the Korean War, Lockheed’s Clarence “Kelly” Johnson visited Korea and found that US airmen were looking for a new type of fighter that emphasized outright altitude and speed performance above all else. The top scoring USAAF ace of World War II in the European Theatre, Colonel Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, summed up the frustration felt by US fighter pilots when he commented, “We’re burdened by complicated and heavy devices in big, heavy airplanes. I’d rather sight with a piece of chewing gum stuck on the windscreen.”
The early 1960s witnessed an escalation in the Cold War between East and West. As the USAF’s premier strike fighter-bomber, the F-105D was a natural choice for deployment to the Federal Republic of Germany. In May 1961, the F-105D entered service with the 36th TFW at Bitburg AB, this being followed later by the type’s arrival at Spangdahlem where it joined the 49th TFW. Had war broken out in Europe, these F-105s would have been tasked with deep strike missions into Eastern Europe. The superb performance capabilities of the F-105D combined with its ability to deliver a sizable payload accurately onto a target in nearly any weather condition made this aircraft a major threat to the Warsaw Pact.
Growing up around United States Air Force bases but now a resident of Michigan, W. D. Becker gained an early fascination in aviation that has led works on U.S. military aircraft and aircraft accidents.