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Lockheed F-104 Starfighter


The Zipper.

Designed as a day fighter, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was created by placing the most powerful available jet engine in the smallest possible fuselage. USAF pilots called it the Zipper or the Zip.

Source: United States Air Force

Key Points

It was the first aircraft to do sustained Mach 2 flight and the first to hold speed and altitude records simultaneously, as well as the first to reach 100,000 feet.

The Starfighter had a terrible safety record. It had tiny wings, a thin, heavy fuselage and a T-tail that created serious aerodynamic issues. In addition, early J79 engines were notoriously unreliable.

The USAF bought some F-104s for the Air Defense Command as stopgap interceptors until F-106s arrived. It also bought some F-104s as interim fighter-bombers until the F-105 was available.

The USAF only purchased 296 F-104s. The small fuselage limited internal fuel capacity and prevented it from having a powerful radar. When F-105s and F-106s arrived, only...

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis


In November 1950, a fleet of small but very fast MiG-15s began to devastate United Nations fighters and bombers over North Korea. These new swept wing fighters were much faster and more maneuverable than U.S. Air Force fighters being used in the Pacific Theater at the time.

Only when the U.S. rushed F-86 Sabres into the fight several months later did the U.S.-led U.N. operation have a comparable fighter. Even then, there were far more MiGs than F-86 Sabres. Fortunately, these fighters remained in a small area in the north of North Korea called “MiG Alley.” MiG-15s denied U.N. forces air superiority until the U.S. learned to take advantage of the North American F-86s capabilities. Even the mighty B-29s were reduced to night bombing.

Figure 1: MiG-15 at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor.

Most of these new MiG-15s were the improved MiG-15bis model. In World War II, the Soviets produced some of the best aircraft in the world, and they moved quickly into jets. They...

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