For more than two years aeronautical enthusiasts have been eagerly swopping meagre “unconfirmed details” of the Lockheed F-104 supersonic fighter. In conformity with a possibly unrealistic Pentagon decision, its characteristics, like those of other recent U.S.A.F. prototypes, have been a closely guarded secret. Now, however, “the wraps” are off. As in most missiles, virtually everything had to be put inside the fuselage, which, at the same time, had to be of minimum frontal area with a profile suitable for high supersonic speeds. Lockheed were well aware of the N.A.C.A. area rule, but transonic interference drag was never a problem with the 104. Area rule is less applicable to “wholly supersonic” aircraft, and in any case the Lockheed fighter’s wing volume is exceedingly small. Throughout the structural design one can detect Lockheed’s efforts to evolve an airframe capable of cheap and rapid production. The wing is machined all over, much of the structure being of steel. Control surfaces and access doors are conventional sheet assemblies, stabilized by a filling of Lockfoam. Lockheed claim that the F-104 airframe costs roughly half as much as do the structures of its contemporaries. It is officially stated that, so far as can be determined, the J79-powered machine (designated F-104A Starfighter) is the fastest climber in the world. Many pilots from the U.S. Air Force have now flown the 104 and conversions will be facilitated by the dual control TF-104. Flying the Starfighter will have a glamorous attraction, but it may be found that mechanical trouble will result in high wastage of either aircraft or pilots. Failure of the 104’s single engine could be serious. It may, in consequence, frighten its pilots; but it will certainly frighten its enemies.
|Fleet has Sparrows
Fighter aircraft of the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean have now been equipped with the Sperry Sparrow guided air-to-air missile. The U.S. Navy is thus the first of the American armed services to put air-to-air missiles into service. It is reported that the Sparrow’s accuracy has been demonstrated by “hundreds of launchings against drone targets” and that it can be fired at ranges up to five miles and speeds up to 2,000 m.p.h.
Belgrade radio said recently that the Jugoslav Air Force is expecting delivery of a number of American jet fighters under the U.S. Military Aid Programme.