During the Korean War Kelly
designer of Lockheed, traveled to American Air Bases in South Korea and
interviewed many American "F-86 Sabre" pilots, asking them what they
desired most in their "ideal" fighter jets. The answer was the same
from everyone: speed and altitude. Thus the concept for the F-104
"Starfighter" was born. Returning to the US, Kelly Johnson "Borrowed"
some 460 Five inch rockets from the US army, modified them with
different wing designs, remote control equipment and cameras to test
and observe the effects. This type of testing was necessary since Kelly
Johnson was determined to build the first Mach 2 jet fighter, but in
the 1950s there was no air tunnel in the US that was capable of that
The first flight of an F-104 took place in 1954
under the control of Lockheed test pilot Tony Le Vier. The USAF
purchased 676 copies of the new fighter plane. Only approximately 300
flew with the USAF with the rest being supplied to other countries.
On July 2, 1959, after the cancellation of the
Avro Arrow program, and after considering eight other aircraft
including British, French, Italian and American, the CF-104 was
selected by the Royal Canadian Air Force to replace the Sabre Mk.6 for
use with the Air Division in Europe. Its role would be Nuclear Strike
and Photo Reconnaissance. Several years later the role was
changed to conventional attack.
However, since the Canadian government
wanted equipment to be fitted that was specific to RCAF requirements,
it opted to manufacture the aircraft under license in a Canadian
factory rather than buy the aircraft outright from Lockheed. On August
14, it was announced that Canadair of Montreal had been selected to
manufacture 200 aircraft for the RCAF under license from Lockheed. In
addition, Canadair was to manufacture wings, tail assemblies, and rear
fuselage sections for 66 Lockheed-built Starfighters that were destined
for the West German Luftwaffe. The license production contract was
signed on September 17, 1959. Lockheed sent F-104A-15-LO serial number
56-0770 to Canada to act as a pattern aircraft for CF-104 manufacture.
It was later fitted with CF-104 fire control systems and flight control
equipment and turned over to the RCAF, where it was assigned the serial
number of 12700.
Canadair rolled it's first CF-104 (12701) out of
the Cartierville plant on March 18, 1961 it was the first of 200 built
for the RCAF. The first Canadair-constructed CF-104 (RCAF serial number
12701) was airlifted to Palmdale, California in the spring of 1961,
where it made its first flight on May 26. The second CF-104 (12702)
also made its first flight at Palmdale. The first two CF-104s to fly at
Montreal were Nos. 12703 and 12704, which both took to the air on
August 14, 1961.
Canadair built an additional 140 Starfighters for
other NATO Nations. Enheat in Amherst, Nova Scotia built some
components for the CF-104 program.
Between January 1962 and September
1963, twenty-two dual seat CF-104Ds built by Lockheed in Palmdale
California, were accepted by Canada. Initially, most went to RCAF
Station Cold Lake for use at 6 Strike/Reconnaissance Operational
Training Unit to train instructors first and then squadron pilots. A
further sixteen CF104Ds were accepted in November 1964.
The Canadian-built Starfighter was initially
designated CF-111 by the RCAF and later changed to CF-104. They were
designated CL-90 by the Canadair factory. This was changed to Canadian
serial numbers 12701 through 12900. On May 18, 1970, they were
reserialed as 104701 through 104900. The Lockheed-built F-104A pattern
aircraft was reserialed from 12700 to 104700.
In parallel with the production of the Starfighter
by Canadair, Orenda Engines, Ltd. acquired a license to build the
General Electric J-79 engine that was to power it. The Canadian-built
J79-OEL-7 rated at 10,000 lbs. static thrust (s.t.) dry and 15,800 lbs.
s.t. with afterburning powered the CF-104
In Canadian service the CF-104 performed very
well, it was loved by its pilots and was a powerful aircraft to fly. In
the ground attack role the 104 could outrun any of its opponents;
however, it was not a forgiving aircraft to fly at low level. During
the CF-104 era 37 pilots lost their lives flying this aircraft.
Unfortunately the CF-104, the fastest aircraft to serve in the RCAF,
was not as manoeuvrable as many other types of aircraft. At low level,
this lack of manoeuvrability could be dangerous if a pilot was not
paying close attention. Canadian pilots excelled with the Starfighter,
some being considered among the best pilots in NATO.
The CF-104 was fitted with equipment specialized
for RCAF requirements. It was optimized for the nuclear strike role
rather than being a multi-mission aircraft. The CF-104 was fitted with
R-24A NASARR (North American Search and Range Radar) equipment that was
"peaked" for the air-to-ground mode only. The main undercarriage
members were fitted with longer-stroke liquid springs and carried
larger tires than the F-10G of the U.S.A.F. The CF-104 had the ability
to carry a ventral reconnaissance pod equipped with four Vinten Vicom
cameras. The 20-mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon and its associated ammunition
were initially omitted from the CF-104, and an additional fuel cell was
fitted in their place.
The 200th and last CF-104 (No. 12900) was
completed on September 4, 1963 and delivered to the RCAF on January 10,
1964. Many early production aircraft were modified to the standard of
the last production machines. Following the delivery of the last
CF-104, Canadair switched over to the manufacture of F-104Gs for
delivery to NATO allies under the provisions of MAP.
Beginning in early 1962, the RCAF commenced
training on the CF-104 at No. 6 Strike/Reconnaissance OTU
established at Cold Lake, Alberta in late 1961 and eventually
redesignated No 417 Squadron). In the same year they were also
delivered to the squadrons in Europe. One hundred and thirty nine were
partially disassembled and flown in C130 Hercules transport aircraft,
to form eight squadrons - six nuclear strike in Germany and
two photo-reconnaissance in France.
No. 427 Squadron was the first to form, with
initial deliveries to 3 Wing at Zweibrucken, Germany in December of
1962. 434 Squadron joined 427 in April of 1963. 444 and 422 Squadrons
were formed at 4 Wing in Baden-Soellingen, Germany in May and July,
respectively, of 1963. 430 and 421 Squadrons initially proceeded to 2
Wing at Grostonquin, France in September and December, respectively, of
1963; however in February of 1964, even before France withdrew from
NATO in 1966, 2 Wing was disbanded, and its two CF-104 squadrons were
transferred elsewhere with No 421 moving to 4 Wing and No. 430 moving
to 3 Wing. The two photo-reconnaissance Squadrons, 441 and 439 were
formed at 1 Wing in Marville, France in January and March,
respectively, of 1964. Marville was closed by March of 1967 and its two
CF-104 squadrons moved to Lahr, Germany. No's 434 and 444 Squadrons
were disbanded in 1967-68, reducing CF-104 strength to four nuclear
strike squadrons and two tactical reconnaissance squadrons.
In May of 1969, 3 Wing at Zweibrucken was closed,
and No 427 Squadron was relocated to Baden and No 430 to Lahr.
In 1970, the Canadian government decided to reduce
the strength of the Air Division to only three squadrons and to
relinquish its nuclear strike role in favour of conventional attack. 1
Air Division was redesignated 1 Canadian Air Group. 422, 427, and 430
Squadrons were disbanded. 439 and 441 Squadrons replaced all but 421
Squadron in 4 Wing at Baden. Of the remaining three squadrons, 421 and
441 were committed to converting to ground attack roles, leaving 439
Squadron to continue tactical reconnaissance missions. 417 Squadron at
Cold Lake continued as a CF-104 Operational Training Unit.
CF-104 Air operations at Lahr ceased in 1970, when
it became a Canadian Army base, but 1 Canadian Air Group Headquarters
remained there, co-located with the Canadian Forces Europe
Headquarters. The airfield at Lahr remained operational for air
transport operations as well as being a deployment base for the CF-104s
By January of 1972, the CF-104s had all been
converted from their nuclear and reconnaissance roles to that of
conventional ground attack. A 20-mm Vulcan cannon was installed, and
the fairing was removed from the cannon port. Twin bomb ejector rack
carriers and multi-tube rocket launchers were installed.
A number of former Canadian Forces single-seat
CF-104 fighter-bombers and CF-104D two-seat trainers were transferred
to Denmark and Norway after having been brought up to F-104G/TF-104G
By 1983, all single-seat CF-104s had been modified
with the Litton LW-33 digital intertial navigation/attack system, which
replaced the original LN-3 analog inertial navigation system. The LW-33
was much more accurate and less expensive to maintain than was the
earlier LN-3. In addition, the LW-33 had an attack function.
Beginning in 1983, the CF-104 Starfighters were
replaced in Canadian Armed Forces service by McDonnell Douglas CF-18
Hornets. No. 441 Squadron phased out the last CF-104 on March 1, 1986.
Canada then offered Turkey an initial batch of 20 CF-104s; later
increased to 52, including six CF-104Ds. Twenty of these were sent to
MBB at Manching in Germany in March of 1986 for inspection before being
transferred to Turkey. The remainder were broken down for spares.
About 110 CF-104/CF-104Ds were lost in accidents,
out of 239 delivered - a loss rate of no less than 46 percent. However,
it is only fair to point out that the Canadian CF-104s probably had the
highest-flying time of any country operating the Starfighter. At the
time of retirement, average airframe times were in the order of 6000
hours as compared to 2000 hours for the Luftwaffe.
The Story continues...