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A Lockheed F-104G Starfighter (USAF serial number 63-13269) during a training flight on 1 August 1979, armed with two (training) AIM-9J Sidewinder air-to-air-missiles.


Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. (AKA: USA- "Super Starfighter" (fell into disuse), "Zipper", "Zip-104", Howling Howland and Missile with a man in it; Germany- Witwenmacher "The Widowmaker", Fliegender Sarg "The Flying Coffin", and Erdnagel "ground nail"; Japan- Eiko "Glory"; Pakistan- Badmash "Hooligan", Italy Spillone "Hatpin" and Bara volante "Flying coffin", and Canada- Lawn Dart, The Aluminium Death Tube, Flying Phallus, Silver Sliver, The Zipper, Zip, Starfighter and The 104. )
Category. Statistic.
First flight. 17 February 1956.
Retired on. Many civilian warbirds and some corporate test beds remain.
Major contractor(s). Lockheed.
Dose it use nukes or cruse missiles. No.
Flight ceiling . 50,000 ft (15,000 m).
Top speed at. 1,328 mph (Mach 2.01, 1,154 kn, 2,137 km/h).
Range. 1,630 mi (1,420 nm, 2,623 km).
Crew. 1.
Nationality(s). American.
Class. Interceptor aircraft and fighter-bomber.
Rate of climb. 48,000 ft/min (244 m/s).
Links. http://cubecab.com/launch-services.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_F-104_Starfighter and http://www.aire.org/f104/Historia/SuHistoriaUsa.htm.


The engine made a unique howling sound at certain throttle settings which led to NASA F-104B Starfighter N819NA being named Howling Howland. In service, American pilots called it the "Zipper" or "Zip-104" because of its prodigious speed.

The term "Super Starfighter" was used by Lockheed to describe the F-104G in marketing campaigns, but fell into disuse. The Starfighter was also commonly called the "Missile with a man in it"; a name swiftly trademarked by Lockheed for marketing purposes.

Safety record[]

The safety record of the F-104 Starfighter became high-profile news, especially in Germany, in the mid-1960s. In West Germany it came to be nicknamed Witwenmacher ("The Widowmaker"). Some operators lost a large proportion of their aircraft through accidents, although the accident rate varied widely depending on the user and operating conditions; the German Air Force lost about 30% of aircraft in accidents over its operating career, and Canada lost 46% of its F-104s (110 of 235). The Spanish Air Force, however, lost none.

World records[]

The F-104 was the first aircraft to simultaneously hold the world speed and altitude records. On 7 May 1958 U.S. Air Force Major Howard C. Johnson, flying YF-104A 55-2957, broke the world altitude record by flying to 91,243 feet (27,811 m) at Edwards AFB. On 16 May 1958, U.S. Air Force Capt Walter W. Irwin flying YF-104A 55-2969 set a world speed record of 1,404.19 miles per hour (2,259.82 km/h) over a course 15 miles (24 km) long at Edwards AFB. Flying F-104A 56-0762 over NAS Point Mugu, California U.S. Air Force Lt William T. Smith and Lt Einar Enevoldson set several time-to-climb records on 13 and 14 December 1958:

  1. 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) in 41.85 seconds
  2. 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) in 58.41 seconds
  3. 9,000 metres (30,000 ft) in 81.14 seconds
  4. 12,000 metres (39,000 ft) in 99.90 seconds
  5. 15,000 metres (49,000 ft) in 131.1 seconds
  6. 20,000 metres (66,000 ft) in 222.99 seconds
  7. 25,000 metres (82,000 ft) in 266.03 seconds

On 14 December 1959, U.S. Air Force Capt "Joe" B. Jordan flying F-104C 56-0885 at Edwards AFB set a new world altitude record of 103,389 feet (31,513 m). He also set 30,000 metres (98,000 ft) time-to-climb record of 904.92 seconds. (The T-38 took the lower-altitude records in Feb 1962 and soon after that all the time-to-climb records went to the F-4.) U.S. Air Force Maj Robert W. Smith, flying NF-104A 56-0756, set an unofficial world altitude record of 118,860 feet (36,230 m) on 15 November 1963. On 6 December 1963 he flew the same aircraft to another unofficial altitude record of 120,800 feet (36,800 m).

Jacqueline Cochran flew TF-104G N104L to set three women's world's speed records. On 11 May 1964, she averaged 1,429.3 miles per hour (2,300.2 km/h) over a 15/25 km course, on 1 June she flew at an average speed of 1,303.18 miles per hour (2,097.26 km/h) over a 100-km closed-circuit course, and on 3 June she flew at an average speed of 1,127.4 miles per hour (1,814.4 km/h) over a 500-km closed-circuit course.

Lockheed test pilot Darryl Greenamyer built a F-104 out of parts he had collected. The aircraft, N104RB, first flew in 1976. On 2 October 1976, trying to set a new low-altitude 3-km speed record, Greenamyer averaged 1,010 miles per hour (1,630 km/h) at Mud Lake near Tonopah, Nevada. A tracking camera malfunction eliminated the necessary proof for the official record. On 24 October 1977 Greenamyer flew a 3 km official FAI record flight of 988.26 miles per hour (1,590.45 km/h).

On 26 February 1978, Greenamyer made a practice run for a world altitude record attempt. After the attempt, he was unable to get a lock light on the left wheel; after multiple touch-and-go tests at an Edwards Air Force Base runway, he determined that it was not safe to land. He ejected, and the N104RB crashed in the desert.

Use as space launch platform[]

In 2011, 4Frontiers Corporation and Starfighters Inc (a private F-104 operator) began working together on a project to launch suborbital sounding rocket from F-104s flying out of Kennedy Space Center. First launches were expected to occur in 2012. According to their website the project seems to be stalled.

In early 2016, another venture, CubeCab, was working on a rocket system that would launch CubeSats from F-104s. The company said it planned to begin providing launch services "around 2018".


A German F-104F in 1960. In 1962 this aircraft collided with three others after a pilot error. The FRG's Luftwaffe used about 100 of them over the years.

A U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter (s/n 56-0761) in flight. Note that the aircraft is equipped with an in-flight refuelling probe.


Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

Lockheed F-104 Starfighter