Cold War History - Black Programs (Now Declassified)

Unread postPosted: 28 Mar 2005, 07:45
by parrothead
Hey there guys :D ! I was surfing around the net when I remembered a site that Gums had recommended before and that I had actually met the webmaster of. TD Barnes is actually the webmaster of two sites - and TD is a great guy and I'm sure glad to have made his acquaintance!

Anyway, I was checking out his sites and I found a whole bunch of information on and pictures of projects that until now I had only heard whispers of :D ! There are some really great pictures of MiGs wearing US colors flying over Nevada and in hangars many years ago, A-12s landing and line up on the ramp at "The Ranch," and all sorts of other stuff I couldn't believe I was seeing :shock: ! I darn near ruined my laptop when I nearly spit diet Pepsi all over it on several occasions because I couldn't believe what I was reading and seeing!

I found another page, through a link on one of TD's sites. Great history of the development of that particular black jet :wink: . One of my favorite stories from that site was about the 4450th's trip to Operation Team Spirit back in 1984. Naturally, the F-117 was still a black program, so the unit sent its A-7s to Korea. Word was intentionally leaked that the jets would be carrying a secret nuclear pod that would render the jet invisible to radar. They were actually carrying old napalm canisters with flashing red "danger" lights on the back that had been painted black and marked with radiation warnings and "reactor cooling fill port" labels :lol: . Heavy security surrounded the jets and their pods with all runway personnel required to lie spread eagle on the tarmac facing away from the jets as they taxied past :lmao: ! Great ruse - I love that kind of stuff!

Here are a couple of pictures from those sites. I think you'll see why I was in some disbelief :wink: .

A-12s on the ramp at Groom Dry Lake

A-12 on the runway. Note: it's in the desert and I don't think it's at Nellis :wink: .

The First YF-12 landing at Groom




Have Blue

F-117 with American Flag paintjob on the bottom of the jet. This color scheme was specially applied for a display flight for high ranking government and military officials while the aircraft was still secret and being operated out of Groom Lake.

RE: Cold War History - Black Programs (Now Declassified)

Unread postPosted: 28 Mar 2005, 08:12
by TC
As Jeff Spicoli would say, "AWESOME! TOTALLY AWESOME!!!" :D

You definitely win some cool points for hunting this stuff down Parrothead! :wink:

So, that pic of the 117 WASN'T shopped then? A few of my friends in the aviation circle and I have been talking about that one for a LONG time! Was it shopped? Was it not shopped? How long was the paint scheme used?, etc...

The pic of the A-12 could either be "The Ranch" or Edwards. Wish I could zoom the pic in enough to see some tail markings on that Voodoo.

Gums was a Voodoo "One-Oh-Wonder", and Roscoe was a flight test guy at Edwards. Perhaps they have the skinny on the usage of Voodoos as chase aircraft during PROJECT OXCART?

The MiG-17 came from "HAVE DOUGHNUT". The MiG-21 came from "HAVE DRILL". Great pics, but always odd to see American markings on them. :shock: Of course, by now you know...

Beers and MiGs were made to be pounded!

Unread postPosted: 28 Mar 2005, 09:06
by parrothead
TC, my man, that post was for you :cheers: ! I came across that page and I immediately remembered your post about the "HAVE" programs :D . I hope Gums will see fit to chime in on this thread, and maybe JR007 will have some thoughts as well, being the Lockheed fan he is :P .

From what I've read on several sites, that pic of the 117 wasn't shopped :) . Here's what has to say about it:

FSD-3 (#79-782) with the US Flag
Ship #782 was initially painted grey. However, later in Nov. 1983 the aircraft was painted with a U.S. flag motif painted on the underside. The reason for this-the aircraft was officially being unveiled to high ranking officials, including Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger during a F-117A test force change of command ceremony at Groom Lake.

The above is the first photo of this paint scheme widely available to the public. This photo appears in "F-117 Nighthawk" by Paul Crickmore, published in July 1999. As with past photos of the F-117A, now that the first photo has been published, the author is sure that other photos of this scheme will soon appear in the public domain.

The upper surface was painted flat black with standard gray markings. The tail markings have been duplicated exactly in Mike Machat's "Lockheed Legends" painting. There was a 6" (not 6' like in the Goodall book and the drawing) white disk with a Lockheed skunk logo near the top of the tail. Below it, and spread out rather more widely than usual, were USAF and 782. The forward third (ending about 6" aft of the retractable blade antenna) of the underside was blue with 50 white stars. The stars were in even rows, except a few stars had to be nudged out of line to accommodate the DLIR window. The thirteen red and white stripes increased in width toward the aft end (Think "rising sun"). A camera pod under the right wing (to photograph weapon drops) was in the middle of one of the red stripes, and was also painted red.

The plane approached the reviewing stand from the south and banked to show it's top surface. As it reached the center of the crowd, the plane banked again to show the American Flag. The crowd went wild. It was a beautiful airplane, and kept its patriotic colors for a number of months before being repainted overall flat black.

I just wish I could've been there for that!!!

I'm pretty sure that pic of the A-12 and F-101 was taken somewhere in northern Nevada because the A-12 wasn't declassified until 1982, hehe. Something interesting in the Lockheed and A-12 history is that Lockheed wanted to sell A-12s to Iran at one time, no sierra :shock: ! Check out for views of the actual documents :) .

One thing I love from the Road Runners' and is the motto on the page:
In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor :D !

A couple of other interesting pages you might want to visit visit are:

A couple more pics:

I think this might shed some light on the Voodoo question :wink: .

The building of a legend

Note the SLUF in this pic - definitely before the aircraft became public knowledge :wink: . Also visible is the original standard pitot on the first F-117.

The first F-117 being reassembled at Groom after delivery

Unread postPosted: 30 Mar 2005, 08:58
by JR007
Well let's see, this pic was taken in the back of a Mach 2.5+ capable fighter that is also one of the very aircraft that flew chase during B-2 test hops. This is the second Skunk Works jet she's flown, but be careful kids, she normally wears two Glock .40s and her call sign is "Trouble". So it's declassified, my little sister flew a fighter that was a former B-2 chase plane.

Speaking of the Skunk Works... Sharkbait said Lockheed was having one of those big dinners at Palmdale one evening in the 60’s and he met and was sitting by Kelly Johnson, can't remember if this was before or after he had 100 missions over Viet Nam in the F-104C or not, he said they were talking to Kelly Johnson about things they were doing with the Zipper and Kelly couldn't believe the aircraft could perform like they were using it! Another fine example of great pilots in great aircraft…

Tom took his duty F-104 off the ramp, she still had missile rails on her - just a plain old stock F-104, put his pressure suit on and went Mach 2.6+ then did a zoom climb to over 92,000 ft above Germany. This was all on the same flight. They were trying to show the Commie’s they could intercept their version of the U-2. They asked for volunteers and he and another driver stood up, which was normally a bad move… But this time they struck gold… They were told to go as fast as they could for at least two minutes, then zoom climb as high as possible. They were also told to disregard all aircraft speed limitations. Tom said his buddy decided to try for a higher altitude and did the same move Yeager did. But at least Tom’s bud wasn’t told by Lockheed Tech Reps that you can not fly that profile with the aircraft, as someone else did, and then crashed a Zipper as they were told would happen, and then pissed off everyone at Edwards as that caused the program to be permanently suspended, anyway… Tom’s squadron mate lost control of his aircraft, spun it down below 10,000 feet before recovering with the drag chute and getting her restarted… And was he in trouble when he RTB’d as when the engine is shut down the generators go offline below 60% so they couldn’t contact him on the radio and he was in more than a little trouble when he got back and his drag chute was missing too. Tom, on the other hand, said he really pissed off his crew chief as he had scorched all the insignia’s on his jet from the heat and the chief had just put new ones on her that week! They asked for volunteers and he and another driver stood up, which was normally a bad move…

The last two pics are Air Force PR photos about the flight, he set a squadron records for speed and altitude on that one.

Speaking of U-2s, Tom said they were asked one time to see if they could intercept a U-2. So the Dragon Lady guys are making fun of the Zipper drivers, and vice versa. Sharkbait locked the guy up on radar as Tom was cruising at FL 690. Tom said well I had gun camera of the #$%^&#, U-2, but I didn’t think that was good enough so I did a roll around him while he was cruising along at 72,000 ft. Tom said here he was a young 1st Lt., happy about the mission until he met the U-2 driver. Sharkbait said the guy literlly tried to kill him, the U-2 driver was cussing and raising hell. Ended up that Tom’s supersonic shock wave about took the wings off the U-2!

Guess I’ll have to write more later… Maybe after my move to FL next week, I’ll have to write about the time Sharkbait had RTB’d to Da Nang from a mission over Nam, got back and he ran out of fuel, flamed out, just as he applied his brakes to stop in the refueling pit…

Unread postPosted: 30 Mar 2005, 19:52
by parrothead
Thanks for the great story and great pics JR :D ! Makes me want a Zipper even more!

Is there anything the Skunk Works COULDN'T do :lol: ???

Thanks for sharing that about Sharkbait, I hadn't heard that one. Makes me want a Zipper even more :) .

I also didn't know that your little sis carries a Glock on a regular basis :shock: . Glad she's on our side! Really neat info on your two seater there as well. Have fun!

Unread postPosted: 31 Mar 2005, 00:00
by LinkF16SimDude
Hey JR, at the risk of incurring a big brother's rath.....your sister's a hottie, and you can tell her that for me! :whistle: :D

Unread postPosted: 31 Mar 2005, 02:08
by TC
LinkF-16SimDude wrote:Hey JR, at the risk of incurring a big brother's rath.....your sister's a hottie, and you can tell her that for me! :whistle: :D


BTW, I understand the "big brother's rath" thing. I have a little sister that turns heads too. She's too young for any of you guys though :!: :x

Always enjoy hearing the stories about the man, the myth, the legend, Sharkbait. Keep em coming JR!

Beers and MiGs were made to be pounded!

Unread postPosted: 31 Mar 2005, 06:45
by parrothead
LinkF-16SimDude wrote:Hey JR, at the risk of incurring a big brother's rath.....your sister's a hottie, and you can tell her that for me! :whistle: :D

3 :D ! Sorry JR, but I had to say it :lol: ! Good thing she has those sidearms, but I bet she can take care of herself :wink: . I'll bet that call sign of hers has a good reason, too!

Unread postPosted: 31 Mar 2005, 06:53
by JR007
Another great American associated with the Skunk Works is Ben McAvoy, known as Mr. Starfighter... I carried his ashes from Phoenix to Newark to Atlanta via airlines. Then to Chattanooga in my pickup. Then from Chattanooga to Cold Lake AFB, Alberta he rode behind the boss and I in the Zipper. His ashes were spread during the Bosses Demo. We put Ben in the right speed brake during our preflight. I've attached a couple of pics and a link to the actual webpage the copied article came from.

Ben and Tom "borrowed" an F-104 for about a month... They went all over the CONUS and hit the Caribbean too. No Sierra!!!

When Ben went to Viet Nam he didn't even ask Lockheed, he just went. The story is he called them up a few weeks later and told them to start sending his check over to him, what a great American. They couldn't get enough "working" M-61s early in Nam, so they would grab a hot gun out of a Zipper just coming in from a mission and install it in aircraft while the pilot was signing the a/c out for his mission.

Other notes about Ben's work. Kelly Johnson, who conceived and designed the Starfighter in 1953, once said. "Ben McAvoy knows more about the F-104 Starfighter than I do." In 1976 Ben helped Daryl Greenamyer successfully establish a new low-altitude flight speed record of 988 miles per hour with his privately built F-104.

The first time I ever talked to Ben I was at a base in a hanger trying to get a Zipper operational for a show. One of the pilots wanted a liquid spring pumped up and I didn't have a clue about the proper way to do it. So I call Ben, who was probably sitting underneath his Southern stars and bars in his yard and said, "Hello Ben, my name is JR, I am a friend of Sharkbait's and he gave me your number. I am just a dumbass pilot, but I'm the only pudkn$3*% in this hanger that knows the difference between lefty loosey and righty tighty. Can you please help me get a liquid spring serviced on a Zipper?" He starts laughing and starts explaining how to service it, while quoting pressures and torques from memory, and yes they were all right on the money, while laughing every minute or two and calling me some type of feeble and “FUBARED” pilot...

Ben will be missed…


A tribute to Ben McAvoy, Mr. Starfighter

Whoever would dial the telephone number 274-1490 in Phoenix and listened to the answering machine, would hear the harsh reply: "We're not here, but if you leave a number, maybe we'll call you back!" So much for the friendly part of Ben McAvoy. If you wanted to talk with Ben about the Starfighter, you could be sure, you'd get a callback. All other things were not so important. His life was consumed by the F-104 Starfighter, whose 50th anniversary he only survived by a few weeks. As a real highlight, on 13 March 2004, Ben had the honor, on the 50th Anniversary of the F-104 Flight Test Reunion in the Lancaster Elks club in Palmdale, California, to speak on the highlights of the world-wide operations of the Starfighter. He gave stories of business, bureaucracy, admiration and technical problems of his love. An airplane of which over 2500 were built over the years and flown with love and enthusiasm. And Ben was there, from its beginning in Palmdale until 1981 as Lockheed's representative assigned with the German training program at Luke AFB.

In nearly thirty years as Lockheed technical advisor, Ben McAvoy helped service all models of the Starfighter and watched with attention. From the first airplanes of the A series, to the F-104C's in combat in Viet Nam, to the F and G models of the Military Assistance Program (MAP) and to the 916 Starfighters for Luftwaffe and Marine, Ben was there.
Ben McAvoy was born in 1932 in Iowa, Kansas, a town in the middle west of the USA. After high school, He enlisted in the USAF. His goal was to become an aircraft mechanic on the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter. During his time in the Air Force, he became a technician on the F-86 and after four years of service he came to the decision: Jet Fighters! When Ben signed up with Lockheed in 1956, the secret Starfighter program was in its final stage of development. Lockheed's legendary airplane engineer, Kelly Johnson, had filtered out two basic demands for the future American air superiority fighter from the experiences of the pilots of the Korean War: Speed and acceleration. When he presented the XF-104 to the first test pilot Tony LeVier in 1954, the experienced pilot only had one question: "Where are the wings?" However the test flights proved that Kelly Johnson had succeeded in developing an airplane, which could reach more than twice the speed of sound in horizontal flight, at altitudes of over 100.000 feet, and in less time than every other aircraft in the whole world. Ben had found his life's-task. Technical support of the Starfighter.

After his training in Palmdale, Ben's first assignment was as aircraft mechanic at Eglin AFB, Florida and Duluth, Minnesota. In 1958 he participated in the promotional tour of the new US fighter to several European countries including the World Exhibition in Brussels and took care of "his" Starfighter. As a result, Ben was promoted to Lockheed Field Representative for the Starfighter and assisted in the F-104 set-up in Spain and in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1961 Lockheed sent their Starfighter expert to Nörvenich AB, where the Luftwaffe was beginning its first training program with the new combat aircraft. Ben advised the mechanics about the refinements of the new starfighter and got, beside admiration, some critics as well, because of his superior system knowledge. The intelligent pilots appreciated it and were grateful when they had landed somewhere and after a telephone call with Ben in Nörvenich, the 104s were ready to fly again with just a few tricks. Every now and then Ben was also used as flying mechanic, in order to solve problems on the spot. He could hardly hide from the question: "What did you do with my airplane?" As a civilian worker Ben showed little shyness at ranks and military position. After a problem was solved, a lot of pilots were advised "to take better care better of Ben's airplane in the future".

1964 Ben returned to George AFB, Ca. In short order he was moved again with the F-104 C's to DaNang AB South Vietnam, in order to provide technical assistance for the first combat missions of the Starfighter. As he did in Nörvenich Germany, Ben became the central point of contact relating to the systems of the F-104. Throughout the employment the Starfighter in Vietnam, it was occasionally evaluated critically, even though the numbers stated something else. Over 10,000 missions with a combat ready rate of over 80%. Acknowledged positively by the escorted combat aircraft and also by Forward Air Controllers, who needed the speed, the F104 supplied fighter-bomber fire support to the constantly changing fighting in air-to-surface employment. Although the Starfighter did not book a single air victory, it would fulfill its task of air superiority. The MiGs preferred, in order to avoid the Starfighter, to stay out of its way. After the end of the initial employment of the F 104 in Vietnam, in 1966 the Starfighters were again sent to Southeast Asia. At the end of 1966 a squadron was sent to Udorn Thailand, and of course with Ben McAvoy as Lockheed Field Service Representative. With the experiences of the combat operations Ben returned in 1967 to the USA and became technical advisor for the F-104C and D in San Juan Puerto Rico. Then in 1969 his employer Lockheed put him in charge of maintenance activities of the German-American training program for the Starfighter at Luke AFB, Arizona.

Ben McAvoy among the pilots ready for the ferry flight of 16 F-104C from Udorn RTAFB to Puerto Rico on July 19, 1967

With a short interruption, 1972 - 1973, when Ben supported the build up of the Greek Air Force in Athens, Ben was "Mr. Starfighter" for the program at Luke. Until 1981 he cared for the German F-104 G Starfighters at Luke as Lockheeds Tech Rep. For a total of 10 years he became part of the most successful binational training program, the German Air Force and the German Navy had ever accomplished. Whenever questions were asked about the Starfighter, from night bombing to Dart Tow, Ben was the first one to be asked. His knowledge of the airplane and its abilities brought not the question whether a certain profile was feasible, but how it had to be flown. Ben knew about the potential of "his" Starfighter. But not only were the big decisions given to Ben, every now and then it paid off for changing military commanders to have a man on hand with Bens expertise. Ben thought it was necessary after 10 years of flying operations at Luke, to remind the flyers by writing about the "Operating characteristics of the F/TF 104 / J-79 during high ambient temperatures". Would "T2 Reset" still be a secret? Ben became acquainted with the Germans, and therefore the respect grew. They were German airplanes, but somehow all were Ben's own children, for whom he felt fully responsible. Even after years of thundering start and engine whistles on the approach Ben had a reason to look into the sky, in order to follow his Starfighter.

In 1981 Lockheed sent Ben back again to the Skunkworks in Palmdale Ca. His expertise was again needed for another secret project of the USAF, the F-117 Nighthawk fighter. Sadly Ben left his beloved Starfighter and contributed to the operational success of the F-117. In 1987 Ben McAvoy retired after 31 years with Lockheed. He could now devote himself totally again to his Starfighter. As technical advisor, this time freelance, he gave his advice and actively helped to make old Starfighters airworthy again, and worked to keep the few flying ones still airworthy. In 1976 Ben helped Daryl Greenamyer successfully establish a new low-altitude flight speed record of 988 miles per hour with his privately built F-104. Ben also advised museums and helped owners of private Starfighters on how to maintain their aircraft.

Of the 50 years of the F-104 Starfighter Ben McAvoy enjoyed 48 years. Therefore it was never a question for him to be a member of the Starfighter organization, the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. Although only in the rear seat, at least that's what is known, Ben collected sufficient flying hours, to take center stage after night flights and at the bar. Kelly Johnson, who conceived and designed the Starfighter in 1953, once said. "Ben McAvoy knows more about the F-104 Starfighter than I do." Well said.

Ben McAvoy passed away on 14. May 2004. On 12.June 2004 a funeral service was held in his house with friends, acquaintances and the Cactus Starfighter Squadron. His ashes were scattered into the wind on 18.July 2004 over Cold Lake, Canada.

From an F-104 Starfighter of course.


Unread postPosted: 31 Mar 2005, 07:15
by parrothead
JR, I don't know where to start. Thanks for the post and the article! I wish I had the chance to meet both Ben and Sharkbait. From everything I've heard, they sound like great men who never got the medals they deserved. Heck, they probably got the medals, the just never told anyone about 'em!

Ben and Tom "borrowed" an F-104 for about a month... They went all over the CONUS and hit the Caribbean too. No Sierra!!!

Now that's my idea of a vacation :D !!!

The first time I ever talked to Ben I was at a base in a hanger trying to get a Zipper operational for a show. One of the pilots wanted a liquid spring pumped up and I didn't have a clue about the proper way to do it. So I call Ben, who was probably sitting underneath his Southern stars and bars in his yard and said, "Hello Ben, my name is JR, I am a friend of Sharkbait's and he gave me your number. I am just a dumbass pilot, but I'm the only pudkn$3*% in this hanger that knows the difference between lefty loosey and righty tighty. Can you please help me get a liquid spring serviced on a Zipper?" He starts laughing and starts explaining how to service it, while quoting pressures and torques from memory, and yes they were all right on the money, while laughing every minute or two and calling me some type of feeble and “FUBARED” pilot...

JR, I hate to say it, but I have no idea what a "liquid spring" is or what it does, but it sure sounds like Ben was one heck of a character :lol: ! I especially like the part about the "feeble and "FUBARED" pilot :wink: .

One last thing, I don't think there could've been a more fitting way to send Ben into the wild blue yonder. Thanks for sharing that part, too.

Unread postPosted: 03 Apr 2005, 05:39
by JR007
The F-104 in this picture is 56-0914. It currently resides at Wright Patt AFB Museum. Tom flew that aircraft during his 100 missions in the F-104 in Viet Nam...

Tom said they flew a 4-ship over a Cong base and the Migs wouldn’t come up and play, they made two passes…



F-104Cs served in SEA in 1965-66 and 1966-67 during two separate deployments. Over the course of these two deployments, seven F-104s were lost to enemy ground defenses; one F-104 was shot down by an enemy aircraft, and no enemy aircraft were engaged by F-104s while flying escort or CAP missions. It has been said that the F-104s "never had a mission and never made a mark" in SEA. Misconceptions, myth and misinformation about the F-104 have led to this impression. The facts tell a different story. By 1964, the USAF's only primary air superiority aircraft, the F-104C, had been forward deployed on several occasions to project US power and assure control of the air during world crises. The F-104 was widely regarded as the world's foremost daylight air-to-air platform, and the pilots of TAC's 479th TFW, the only operators of the F-104C, had proven themselves to be masters of their trade in numerous mock air-to-air encounters. It was therefore understood that the F-104Cs of the 479th's 435th, 436th or 476th TFSs would rapidly deploy to any trouble spot where air superiority must be quickly established. Such a spot was SEA in 1965.

Operation Two Buck

Soon after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, TAC began deploying aircraft in Operation Two Buck, a TDY jet force buildup in SEA. At the time of the initial 1964 buildup, PACAF advocated deployment of an F-104 contingent to protect US air traffic over the Gulf of Tonkin from harassment by PRC and NVN aircraft. However, in January 1965 when TAC proposed sending F-104s to relieve TDY pressure on its overtaxed F-100 units, PACAF reversed its initial stance, citing the logistic complications of adding one more aircraft type to the SEA mix. PACAF was convinced the existing MiG threat in SEA did not warrant a unit dedicated to the air superiority role. Events in the following months would change PACAF's opinion. With the beginning of Rolling Thunder strikes in March 1965, the tempo of bombing over NVN escalated substantially. Unfortunately, the tempo and aggressiveness of NVN and PRC MiG also increased. Initially the heightened aggressiveness was felt primarily by the USN as PRC harassment of aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin stepped up. NVN aircraft then began to dog US bombing missions over NVN. On 3 April 1965 three NVN MiG-17s attacked a USN strike on the Dong Phuong Thong bridge, damaged an F-8 Crusader, and escaped unharmed. The following day, two NVN MiG-17s attacked a flight of four F-105s that were waiting their turn to bomb the Than Hoa bridge. The MiGs approached without warning, shot down two of the F-105s, completely disrupted the strike, then evaded escorting F-100s to escape unscathed. Obviously, the existing early warning and fighter assets in SEA were insufficient to guarantee US air superiority in the region. Accordingly, an EC-121D College Eye unit was dispatched to extend radar warning coverage over NVN, and TAC was asked to deploy F-104s to escort the EC-121s over the Gulf of Tonkin and to provide a MiG screen for USAF strike aircraft over NVN. On 7 April, TAC issued the deployment order to the 479th TFW, and the first F-104Cs of the 476th TFS landed at Kung Kuan AB, Taiwan, on 11 April. Kung Kuan was to serve as the main operating base for the F-104s, with regular rotation of aircraft to the forward operating base at DaNang. Twenty-four F-104s were deployed to Kung Kuan, and of these, fourteen would be maintained at DaNang by rotation every ten days. This deployment scheme would be utilized throughout the F-104's Two Buck commitment. After a work-up period of seven days, fourteen F-104s arrived at DaNang on 19 April and flew their first escort mission the next day. EC-121 escort missions typically involved three flights of four F-104s, and two KC-135s. The escort sorties typically lasted from two to five hours and the operating area was normally between 250 and 300 miles NNW of DaNang. MiGCAP missions over NVN utilized one to three flights of four F-104s deployed at various altitudes between the strike area and the Hanoi-Haiphong area. CAP points were 225 to 275 miles NNW of DaNang and on-station times varied from forty to ninety minutes. Aerial refueling was only required for the longer duration missions. The effect of F-104 deployment upon NVN and PRC MiG operations was immediate and dramatic. NVN MiGs avoided contact with USAF strikes being covered by F-104s, and PRC MiGs gave the EC-121s a wide berth despite the proximity to Hainan island, from where PRC harassment flights had previously originated. Much to the frustration of the pilots of the F-104s, during the entire deployment of the 476th only two fleeting encounters between F-104s and enemy fighters occurred. As it became apparent that the MiG threat had decreased, PACAF sought to find other uses for the F-104s to supplement their air superiority role. Toward the end of the 476th's deployment, the F-104s began to be tasked for weather recce and ground attack missions. Weather recce missions normally involved two F-104s, which flew near enough a NVN strike target area to determine the pre-strike weather conditions without revealing the target's identity. Twenty-one strike and AAA-suppression sorties were flown against targets in NVN, but the great majority of the 476th's ground attack sorties were in-country CAS missions flown while under the control of airborne FACs. From these CAS missions, the F-104s quickly gained a reputation for accuracy with their cannon and bombs, and were specifically requested by FACs on numerous occasions because of their fast reaction time. The CAS missions took their toll, however, when an F-104 went down during a sortie 100 nm SSW of DaNang on 29 June. The pilot was rescued with minor injuries. On 11 July 1965, the 476th TFS completed its 96th day of TDY deployment. In all, 476th aircraft had flown 1182 combat sorties. 52% of these sorties were EC-121 escort; 24% were MiG screen; 5% were weather recce and 18% were ground attack missions. During this period, the 476th F-104s maintained an in-commission rate of 94.7%, a testimony both to the quality of 476th maintenance personnel and to the simplicity and maintainability of F-104 systems. Operation Cross Switch saw the 436th TFS assuming the 476th commitment in DaNang on 11 July, and the 436th began flying combat sorties the next day. From the outset however, the overall mission of the 436th was of a different flavor than the 476th's. Although a small number of MiGCAP and escort sorties were flown in July, the great majority of the sorties initially flown were of the CAS type. Beginning in late July, the 436th was fragged to maintain four F-104s on fifteen-minute alert to provide quick-reaction close support of friendly ground troops. This alert commitment was not dropped until the end of September when the escort missions again took precedence. Interdiction/strike and ResCAP missions in NVN were also flown. By the end of their three-month deployment, 56% of the combat sorties flown by the 436th were of the ground attack type. Although the F-104's high speed and small size made it a difficult target for AAA gunners, questionable missions such as strafing AAA sites inevitably had an impact. Aircraft began returning from CAS missions with battle damage. On 23 July, Capt. Roy Blakely attempted to crash-land his battle-damaged F-104 at Chu Lai. Blakely successfully set his aircraft down gear-up, but died when his F-104 swerved off the runway into a sand dune. PACAF headquarters apparently took notice of Blakely's death, because mission fragging took a more realistic turn soon thereafter. The 436th's bad luck did not end with Blakely's death, nor with the return to escort missions. On 20 September, Capt. Philip Smith became lost while flying an EC-121 escort mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. After several equipment failures and numerous incorrect steering commands from DaNang and a tanker, his F-104 wandered over Hainan and was shot down by a PRC J-6 (MiG-19S). The day was not over though. Two F-104s returning from searching for Capt. Smith's F-104 collided while penetrating weather on a nighttime approach to DaNang. Both pilots ejected and were recovered unharmed. The events of 20 September would have far-reaching effects on the employment and eventual removal of the F-104 from SEA service. Despite its losses, the 436th's deployment was a success. PRC and NVN MiGs were never encountered during any of the escort or MiGCAP missions, a sign of the enemy's continued respect for the capabilities of the F-104. The 436th also expanded on the 476th's tradition of quick-response and accuracy while flying in-country CAS missions and NVN strike missions. During their deployment, 436th F-104s flew 1382 combat sorties, for a total of 3116 hours, while maintaining an in-commission rate of 88%. The first seven F-104s from the 435th TFS arrived at DaNang on 14 October 1965 to assume the mission commitments of the 436th TFS. The arrival of the 435th also marked the practical end of F-104 fragging for CAS missions in 1965. Only 12 CAS sorties were flown by the 435th; the other 407 combat sorties were of the escort or MiGCAP type, including 12 ResCAP sorties. The primary mission of the 435th was the escort of EC-121D and C-130E-II Silver Dawn aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin. The aircraft were escorted separately, with flights of four F-104s rotating to cover the general area of the EC-121, and flights of two F-104s rotating to provide constant visual escort for the Silver Dawn aircraft. Coverage was maintained ten hours per day. The 435th's deployment was cut short when, on 21 November, its F-104s and personnel were recalled to Kung Kuan in preparation for re-deployment back to the US. TDY units were to be replaced by permanently based units, and the F-4Cs of the 390th TFS assumed the 435th's escort mission at DaNang. The 435th deployed back to George AFB, with the final equipment-carrying cargo aircraft landing on 25 December, the start of the 1965 Christmas bombing halt. During the F-104 Two Buck deployments, NVN and PRC MiG activity had decreased to the point where MiGs were not considered a primary threat to USAF aircraft in SEA. TAC and the State Department recognized the F-104's contribution to the decrease in MiG activity, but PACAF seemed only to dwell on the "waste" of maintaining single-mission aircraft in SEA. PACAF felt that the F-4C could effectively fill the F-104's MiGCAP and escort roles while also providing the capability of delivering larger tonnage (read: high bomb counts) in CAS missions.

Return Engagement

In the early months of 1966, MiG operations in SEA again began to increase. In addition, NVN MiG-21s began to be spotted in recon photos in March, and were first seen flying over NVN on 23 April. On 26 April, two MiG-21s attacked a pair of F-4Cs that were escorting an EB-66C over NVN. One of the MiGs was shot down by one of the F-4s, and the other MiG escaped, but the limitations of the F-4C and its missile-only armament soon became of great concern to 7th AF. Air superiority in SEA was again in jeopardy. On 29 April, 7th AF's request for more F-104s was met with approval by the Air Staff. PACAF then explained the need for an F-104 re-deployment to CINCPAC, and received concurrence on 14 May. After granting of JCS approval, eight F-104Cs of the 435th TFS landed at Udorn, Thailand on 6 June 1966. At the time of the F-104's second deployment to SEA, TAC was in the process of phasing-out the type. The 479th TFW was converting to F-4 aircraft and when the 435th's F-104s crossed the international dateline, they were attached to PACAF's 8th TFW. On 7 June, the eight F-104s began flying missions in concert with 8th TFW F-4C aircraft, escorting F-105 strikes over NVN. Special tactics were employed which exploited the unique capabilities of the F-104s and the F-4s. Unfortunately, no MiGs were encountered. These missions also involved close coordination with the F-105 strike aircraft, the Thuds providing SAM warnings for the F-104s, which lacked RHAW gear. Soon after the F-104s arrived at Udorn, the Wild Weasel III EF-105Fs deployed to Korat, Thailand. After some unsatisfactory attempts at using F-4s to escort the Wild Weasels, it was decided to give that mission to the F-104s. The F-104's range and speed was superior to the F-4's in the Weasel escort mission. The Weasels appreciated the F-104's ability to stay with their Thuds, often tailoring missions to the availability of F-104s for escort. F-104 availability was enhanced on 22 July, when an additional twelve F-104s deployed to Udorn and joined the 8th TFW. 1 August brought tragedy to the 435th when two F-104s were lost to SAMs within one hour. Their pilots, Lt. Col. Arthur Finney and Capt. John Kwortnik, were both killed. The loss of one-tenth of the USAF's remaining combat F-104C force in one day led to a re-assessment of the need to escort Wild Weasel missions. It was reasoned that at the speeds and altitudes at which Weasel F-105s operated, the MiG threat was negligible. Furthermore, the Weasels were regularly exposed to intense target defenses, and it was judged a reckless utilization of very limited F-104 assets to place them in harm's way if a viable MiG threat could not be demonstrated. The F-104s were therefore withdrawn from strike escort missions over NVN until they could be fitted with ECM gear, and until the MiG threat increased -- because, once again NVN MiG activity dropped perceptibly when F-104s entered the theater. By late August 1966, F-104s had been shifted to a primary ground-attack role. Missions in the lower RPs, in Laos and SVN were deemed safe enough for F-104s. However, losses continued to mount. On 1 September, an F-104 was shot down by AAA while conducting a road recce mission over northern Laos. Its pilot, Maj. Norman Schmidt, was captured and died in captivity. On 2 October, another F-104 went down over northern Laos; this time to a SAM. The pilot, Capt. Norman Lockhard, was rescued. The final blow was struck on 20 October when Capt. Charles Tofferi, 1962 William Tell winner, was shot down and killed by AAA over northern Laos. Although the Air Staff had repeatedly questioned F-104 use in the ground attack role, there was no mission change until Tofferi's death. In early December, the F-104s were assigned exclusively to escort missions. By late 1966, all F-104s in SEA had received APR-25/26 RHAW gear under Project Pronto. So equipped, the F-104s once again began flying missions over NVN. Sixteen F-104s took part in Operation Bolo on 2 January 1967. Notably however, the F-104s were not used to actively entice and engage MiGs, but were fragged instead to protect the egressing F-4 force. The F-104s of the 435th continued flying escort missions over the Gulf of Tonkin until 19 July 1967, when they were withdrawn from the theater and replaced by F-4Ds of the 4th TFS. The official reasons for the withdrawal were the need to shepherd remaining F-104C assets in case the MiG threat increased in SEA or elsewhere in the world, the imminent phase-out of the F-104 from active USAF service, and the deficiency in air-to-ground load that could be carried by the F-104. During their second deployment to SEA, the F-104s of the 435th TFS had flown a total of 5306 combat sorties, for a total of 14,393 combat flight hours. Due to increasing parts shortages and unrelenting sortie rates, aircraft in-commission rate dropped from a high of 85% to a low of 62%. Nevertheless, despite their tired birds, the 435th maintained the reputation of the F-104 among the warriors in SEA. If the F-104C is judged against other US aircraft for its ability to sustain battle damage, to deliver large bombloads or to conduct operations in bad weather, the 104 rates as an also-ran. If, however, the F-104C is judged for its ability to deter MiGs, to ensure the safety of the aircraft entrusted to its escort, or to out-perform any aircraft in existence at the time, the Zip4 is unrivaled.

The F-104 had a mission in SEA: air superiority -- a mission it performed brilliantly.

Foot Notes

(1) Quote of unknown origin. Commonly attributed to the pilot of another fighter type in SEA.

(2) Contrary to popular opinion, the F-104 was not designed as a high-altitude bomber interceptor. The F-104 was designed as a daylight air superiority fighter, with secondary ground attack capability, to replace the F-86. The source of the interceptor misconception is probably the fact that the F-104 first entered service in February 1958 as an interim interceptor with the ADC in the form of the F-104A. The F-104C air superiority fighter did not enter service with TAC until October 1958.

(3) Bitburg, Hahn and Ramstein in 1961; Hahn and Key West in 1962; Homestead in 1964.

(4) By 1962, the F-104 had established a reputation as almost unbeatable in ACM. This reputation was later justified during the USAF's Project Featherduster evaluations, the USN's F-4/F-104 maneuvering target testing, and numerous F-104 wildcard appearances at the USAF-FWS. Notably, the F-104's ACM capability was assessed by the USAF as "superior to all other aircraft evaluated at altitudes below 20,000 ft."

(5) The reputation of the 479th TFW was well known even before the introduction of the F-104C. Somewhat akin to the USN's F-8 community, the 479th continued to regularly develop ACM skills even when this practice became politically incorrect in the late '50s thru early '60s. Furthermore, the 479th was the first USAF wing to adopt Riccioni's "Double-Attack" tactics, which proved ideally suited to the F-104, and were instrumental in the performance of the 479th's F-104s against other aircraft in ACM practice.

(6) The first encounter involved a pair of F-104s, which were vectored after a MiG-21 that had just departed Hainan island. Directed by Red Crown, the two F-104s engaged in a supersonic chase over NVN before the MiG ran across the Chinese border. One of the F-104 pilots, Capt. George Wells, related how his flight was rapidly closing on the MiG at Mach 1.4 when they entered the buffer zone and were forced to turn back before crossing the Chinese border. The second encounter occurred during the return from a MiGCAP mission approximately 30-35 miles south of Hanoi. Four F-104s were proceeding back to DaNang, low on fuel, when a PRC J-6 popped out of the undercast only 1-1.5 miles in front of the flight, facing away. Before the Starfighter pilots could react, the J-6 lit both of its afterburners (confirming its ID as a Farmer) and dove into the clouds. It is the opinion of one of the pilots, Capt. Thomas Delashaw, that the J-6 had been under GCI control, and had been warned of the F-104s' approach by ground radar.

(7) The F-104's high speed and simplicity of systems allowed it to reach targets 250 nm from DaNang within forty minutes of alert -- including the ten minutes required for the pilot to travel the 1/4 mile to his aircraft.

(8) The official cause of this loss was AAA fire received during roll-in for a dive bomb pass. However, it is the opinion of several 479th pilots that the loss was due to pitch-up and departure, caused by error on the part of this F-104's inexperienced pilot.

(9) It should be noted that Capt. Smith's shootdown was in no way his fault. Smith was an experienced and accomplished pilot, and was one of only two F-104 USAF-FWS graduates. Smith got lost because of a series of equipment failures (primarily his IFF transponder and his standby compass) and bad luck. The J-6 that shot him down was GCI vectored from within a cloud layer to attack position. It is testimony to Smith's nature that after being hit by the J-6, he cleared a compressor stall, selected his remaining Sidewinder (the other had been shot off along with a wingtip), and was maneuvering into firing position against the J-6 when his hydraulics failed and he was forced to eject. For more details of Smith's shootdown and subsequent imprisonment, the author highly recommends "Journey Into Darkness," by Col. Philip E. Smith (ret) and Peggy Herz, Simon and Schuster, 1992.

(10) Again, it should be noted that the pilots, Capts. Harvey Quackenbush and Dale Carlson, were not at fault. Quackenbush had only two formation lights and Carlson had no instrument lights; the frenzied pace of F-104 operations at DaNang had precluded maintenance of such "non-essential" equipment as that required for night flying.

(11) Following Smith's loss, there was official concern about the F-104's lack of advanced navigational gear. It was feared that F-104s would be susceptible to border violations because they did not have a doppler, INS, or even a UHF/ADF system. Such equipment did not guarantee against wayward aircraft however, as was stressed when two USN A-6Es with INSs and navigators wandered over China and were shot down in 1967. F-104C pilots were very adept at navigation and beside Capt. Smith's loss -- which was due to equipment failure and bad luck -- there were no instances of F-104s unknowingly violating buffer zones, bombing the wrong target, getting lost on the way to a target, etc.

(12) While PACAF expressed great confidence in the F-4C's ability to successfully engage MiG's with AIM-7s, TAC had misgivings. Experience with SEA RoE and the F-4C's weapon system was to prove TAC's concerns well justified. The JCS agreed, and directed that F-104 assets be carefully utilized and conserved until the internal-gun-armed F-4E entered service and proved itself capable to handle all projected threats.

(13) Looker-shooter tactics. F-104s would accelerate ahead to obtain visual ID on targets located by F-4 radar. If possible, the targets would then be engaged by the F-4s' AIM-7s. If Sparrow engagement was not successful, the F-104s would then re-engage the targets and shoot them down with cannon or AIM-9.

(14) "In-Country and Out-Country Strike Operations in Southeast Asia, 1 Jan 65 - 31 Dec 69, Volume 2 - Hardware, Strike Aircraft," HQ PACAF. It is a common myth that F-104s have a short range. In the low-altitude Weasel escort mission, the F-104C has approximately 1.15 times the range of the F-4C. In the medium-altitude strike escort mission, the F-104 has approximately 1.05 times the range of the F-4C. 1F-104A-1 and 1F-4C-1-1.

(15) Tofferi had won the 1962 William Tell meet in the F-104C's second appearance, collecting a total of 19,018 pts. His performance included perfect scores in air-to-air gunnery (Tofferi destroyed the dart in only 63 seconds with 86 rounds), air-to-ground rocket, strafing and napalm attacks.

(16) In defense of the Operation Bolo planners, the 435th's F-104s were somewhat of an unknown quantity to the 8th TFW staff, so their inclusion in the plan in only a support role is understandable. The F-104s would have undoubtedly been useful if included in the MiG engagement force. Besides the performance and weapons advantages the F-104s could have offered, the F-104s also had a much smaller visual signature than the F-4s thus decreasing the range for positive visual ID by MiGs, and the F-104's RCS more closely resembled the Thud's.

(17) It may seem contradictory that the F-104s were being shepherded to ensure their availability at the same time that they were due for phase-out. The plan was to retire the F-104Cs to ANG service once sufficient F-4Es were available to replace the Starfighter; however, F-104 retirement was accelerated because of the operational toll of sustaining operations in SEA. It was thought that F-104Cs could be safely managed by the 198th TFS of the PRANG, and could be returned to active service should the need arise.

(18) Notably, the accuracy and effectiveness of the F-104 in the air-to-ground role were never questioned, only its ability to deliver large numbers of bombs.

(19) "In-Country and Out-Country Strike Operations in Southeast Asia, 1 Jan 65 - 31 Dec 69, Volume 2 - Hardware, Strike Aircraft," HQ PACAF.

(20) The rarity of the F-104C in the USAF, and its proximity to a planned phase-out date, led to numerous parts shortages. Even equipment common to other aircraft in SEA was not available to the 435th, and cannon spares were particularly scarce. The level of F-104 operations was only able to be maintained because of the quality of the 435th's maintenance personnel and the dedication of individuals such as Lockheed's Ben McAvoy.

(21) In December 1966, the F-104s of the 435th flew 506 combat sorties for 1706.9 hours. Nine aircraft flew over 100 hours, and one flew 156.4 hours that month. Eight of the 435th's pilots flew over 100 hours, and one flew 127:25. When the State Department became aware of these facts, it sent a letter to Gen. Momeyer suggesting that the 435th be decorated for its outstanding achievement. Momeyer responded by directing an investigation of the 435th's records, apparently disbelieving that only eighteen single-engined fighter aircraft could fly such hours. The records were confirmed, but the unit decoration was never issued. When the records were finally released to the press after the F-104's withdrawal, the totals for the month of December 1966 were listed as the totals for the entire tour of the 435th in SEA, a mistake that endures in many publications to this day.

Tom "Sharkbait" Delashaw.

Tom has 6,000+ hrs. in fighters: F-84F; F-100A/D/F; F-104C/D/G/TF/CF; F-4C/D/E. He was one of only two active F-104 pilots to graduate from the USAF Fighter Weapons School. He completed two tours of duty in SEA, flying F-104s and F-4s. Tom maintains his ACM proficiency flying as an air combat instructor for the Texas Air Aces, Houston, TX. He is also currently flying civilian-owned F-104s as demo/instructor, F-100s, Hawker Hunters, and F4s. "Sharkbait" was the call sign of Tom's F-4 squadron in SEA.

Mark "Top Wop" Bovankovich.

Mark is an engineer working for Lockheed Martin as a Operations Analyst. His expertise is in aero propulsion, aircraft performance, air combat tactics and history, and he has seven years experience in air combat simulation development. Mark is part owner of a MiG-21F-13 and is an avid sailplane pilot. The moniker "Top Wop" was bestowed upon him after he shot down two Su-27s while flying an Italian F-104S/ASA in an air combat simulation.

Unread postPosted: 03 Apr 2005, 05:54
by JR007
The Lockheed designed liquid spring...

Unread postPosted: 03 Apr 2005, 06:35
by parrothead
WOW :D !!!!! Great info there JR!!! Just goes to show that you can't go wrong with a Skunk Works product 8) .

Unread postPosted: 17 Apr 2005, 17:25
by JR007
Link to Code One article written by Jay Miller. And trust me, Jay has written books on the Skunk works, does incredible research, is also a great photographer, and knows his stuff. ... ta_93.html

Unread postPosted: 17 Apr 2005, 19:25
by parrothead
Great article JR :D !

Here's something I found on the 'net last night - U-2s on US Navy Carriers :shock: ! Check this out!

Unread postPosted: 17 Apr 2005, 22:08
by Roscoe
JR007 wrote:Well let's see, this pic was taken in the back of a Mach 2.5+ capable fighter that is also one of the very aircraft that flew chase during B-2 test hops. This is the second Skunk Works jet she's flown, but be careful kids, she normally wears two Glock .40s and her call sign is "Trouble". So it's declassified, my little sister flew a fighter that was a former B-2 chase plane.…

Hmmm, having worked the B-2 Flight test program and was in charge of maintaining the airspeed calibrations for the chase planes, I don't recall anything other than a Viper flying chase... The Zipper (which is what I assume you are referring to) was only in operation by NASA at that time and they did not chase the B-2.

Unread postPosted: 19 Apr 2005, 03:34
by JR007
That picture is of my little Sister flying in the Zipper and was taken in the back of our CF-104D serial# 104632 which was first registered in the US in 1988 and flying in the spring of 1989. Based out of Mojave she was flying as a civilian aircraft before the “official” first flight of the B-2 on July 17, 1989. Check the FAA records as her N number in those days was N104NL. Our team did not purchase the a/c until 1996. Is my date incorrect for the B-2? From our knowledge NASA was the only F-104 operator in the US from 1984 until 1988. These dates match your Zipper info?

So unless you were aware of every test hop ever made by the B-2, and one of our pilots, retired AF jock, and one of our crew chiefs, are both lying, I’ll stand by the fact that our aircraft flew chase on B-2 test missions.