‘I had the opportunity in the late ’70s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast, 400+ knots,’ former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot
The stubby-winged Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, also referred to as “the missile with a man in it,” was the first US jet fighter in service to reach Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound. According to the Smithsonian website, the F-104 was built as a high-performance day fighter and possessed exceptional acceleration and top speed. Equipped with a six-barrel M-61 20mm Vulcan cannon, it served as a tactical fighter and, when equipped with heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles that detect heat, as a day-and-night interceptor.
An F-104A established a world’s speed record of 1,404.19 mph on May 18, 1958, while an F-104C set a world altitude record of 103,395 feet on December 14, 1959. The first aircraft to hold official world records for speed, altitude, and time-to-climb simultaneously was the Starfighter.
The Starfighter’s speed and vertical climb also allowed it to compete with more modern aircraft.
‘I had the opportunity in the late ’70s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast 400+ knots. I was flying an A-7E on an airspace penetration training mission, flying from a carrier in the North Sea into Denmark.
‘As expected, I was intercepted by an F-104. I turned on him pretty aggressively. I was amazed that the F-104, not known for dogfighting, was nonetheless quite able to hang with me through several turns and reversals. The A-7E isn’t a true dogfighter, and perhaps such an engagement against a more formidable aircraft would have ended otherwise, but I was quite impressed how maneuverable the F-104 was, even down at 300′ or so.’
‘Never underestimate the enemy.’
Photo by U.S. Navy and Own work RuthAS via Wikipedia