Canadair (Lockheed) CF-104 Starfighter
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The Lockheed CF-104 Starfighter served in the RCAF for many years until it was replaced by the CF-18 Hornet.
This photo is of a 439 Sqn Starfighter in its "Tiger Meet" attire. The CF-104 evolved from a defense Aircraft
to an all-out low level strike machine with outstanding speed, climb, and altitude capabilitites.
"Widow Maker" was a dark nickname allocated to this Aircraft after the West German Luftwaffe lost many
of its own Aircraft of this type in the 60's. The nickname was not generally regarded as fitting by Canadian
airmen who viewed the term as unfair. The Aircraft was challenging to fly with known and predictable characteristics.
Jazzy CF-104s photographed in 1983. Represented are 441 Sqn in its famed "Checkerboard",
439 Sqn in "Tiger Meet" attire and 421 Sqn in the "Arrow" paint schemes. Aircraft were and
are painted in various ways to either commemorate or represent various squadrons.
The CF-104 was used in Canadian service as a low-level strike and reconnaissance Aircraft in Canada and Europe.
It flew from 1961 until 1987. This Starfighter, 12898, flew with 439 Squadron and is carrying a
Vicom photo-reconnaissance pod on the centreline station.
The Starfighter was bought in 1959 to fulfill a high speed strike and reconnaissance role.
In the 1960s, the CF-104 was used as a nuclear strike Aircraft and, from 1971 on, it was used
exclusively as a low-level attack Aircraft. The Starfighter pictured here is from the Aerospace
Engineering Test Establishment at CFB Cold Lake and is firing Canadian-built CRV-7 rockets on the
Primrose Lake Evaluation Range.
104704 spent its entire service life serving with the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment as a
weapons test platform. This Aircraft was modified for the test role by removing the internal gun and
installing several high-speed cameras, one of which (the small orange bump) can be seen on the lower
part of the fuselage, just behind the nose landing gear. These cameras allow post-flight analysis of
Aircraft-weapon separation in order to correct any problems that may arise. 704 is firing CRV-7 rockets,
built by Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg.
Though formally named the "Starfighter", the Aircraft was known by Canadians as "the 104".
The CF-104 was a classic Aircraft. Designed during the Korean conflict, the Aircraft fulfilled the
requirement for an Aircraft with outstanding climb and altitude capabilities.
The CF-104 Starfighter was designated the CL-90 by its Canadair manufacturer and included such
items of navigational and other equipment as: a Tactical Analogue Bombing (TAB) computer and a
Litton LN-3 Inertial Navigator to provide guidance to any one of 12 pre-programmed targets.
Also fitted were a Garrett Air-Data computer, a Honeywell Automatic Control System and a position
and homing indicator made by Computing Devices of Canada.
Number 763 was one of 200 Canadair Starfighters flown by the RCAF and the Canadian Forces and served
with 417 Strike/Reconnaissance Operational Training Squadron out of CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.
The Starfighter here is in the blue, white and red scheme adopted for the Colours presentation
and close-out of the squadron in 1983, by which time over 750 pilots had been trained and some
140,000 hours had been logged in the air by the 104s of 417 Squadron.
Starfighter number 763 was one of the early ones delivered to No. 6 Strike / Reconnaisance Operational
Training Unit starting on 16 January, 1962, flying out of RCAF Station Cold Lake, Alberta.
On 11 March, 1968 the OTU was redesignated 417 City of Windsor Strike / Reconnaissance Operational Training Squadron.
This blue, white and red paint scheme was specially done up for the 417 Sqn Colours presentation at
Cold Lake on 4 June, 1983, in recognition of the Squadron's 25 years of active service.
Canadair turned out some 200 "683a" Starfighter CF-104s (briefly known as the CF-111 and designated
the CL-90 by Canadair) for the RCAF and 140 F-104Gs under a mutual aid program for Denmark, Norway,
Turkey, Greece and Taiwan in the early 1960s. Of the Canadian 104s, number 770 served with 439
(Strike/Attack) Tiger Squadron in both Lahr and Baden-Soellingen, Germany and served as the
Canadian Tigerbird in 1973 at the annual international meeting of squadrons.
The Squadron's Tiger mascot was displayed as stripes on appropriately marked Aircraft.
Another view of 417 Squadron's colourful 104763, flying past some of CFB Cold Lake's radar
domes in northern Alberta. The celebratory paint scheme did double duty for the occassion of
417 Squadron's colours presentation after 25 years of service in June, 1983 and then a month
later in July, on the occassion of the squadron's disbandment. 417 Squadron was reformed on
1 April 1993 as 417 Combat Support Squadron at CFB Cold Lake and took over the duties of the Base Rescue Flight.
Number 704 was one of the earliest of the Canadair-built Starfighters which were delivered to the
RCAF starting in March, 1961 (the 200 serial numbers ran from 701-900). It belonged to AETE,
the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment, as indicated by the large red X on the tail.
Despite being one of the oldest 104s in Canadian service, 704 had relatively few hours, having
spent its lifetime as a test rather than operational Aircraft.
Starfighter 12645 (later 104645) was a Lockheed 583A CF-104D (dual) Mk. I, one of 22 in RCAF/CF
service from January 1962. The Mk. I duals were"Dual Training Aircraft", and were intended for
use in Canada with the Operational Training Unit (OTU), and therefore were not equipped to
carry a bomb dispenser. The OTU was No. 6 Strike/Reconnaissance Operational Training Unit and
was later redesignated as 417 Strike/Reconnaissance Operational Training Squadron at
RCAF Station/CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. '645 survived intact to the fleet retirement upon replacement
by the CF-18 Hornet, whereupon it was sent to the Aircraft Maintenance and Development Unit (AMDU)
at Canadian Forces Depot Mountain View for disposal.
This kind of weapons display only occurs on special occassions in the Canadian Air Force such as static
Aircraft displays during airshows and VIP visits to units and this same rarity of opportunity lends
itself well to a photo opportunity as well. This CF-104 was photographed at CFB Baden Soellingen,
West Germany and shows, from left to right: a napalm bomb, a cluster bomb, a BL755 cluster bomb,
a 19 rocket rocket-pod, a Mk. 82 bomb, a MN1A practice bomb dispenser, an M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon,
and arranged in a "V" in the foreground are the rockets from the rocket-pod, and the 20mm ammunition for the cannon.
The fastest Aircraft to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, the CF-104 was popularly known
as "the missile with a man in it". In design and ancillary equipment, the Starfighter incorporated
several unique features, the most distinguishing of which was an extremely short, thin wing with
a knife-sharp leading edge.
A Canadian Armed Forces CF-104 Starfighter conducts an engine test at night.
Nicknamed the "Widow Maker" by the press, the Aircraft was considered an "honest"
machine by the Canadian servicemen who flew them. The Aircraft responded like a thoroughbred
when it was flown within its performance envelope.
Just an example to show how much you can tell from an Aircraft's paint scheme.
The natural metal finish of this CF-104, the white painted upper surfaces of the wings
(not immediately apparent, but there), the red painted upper stabilizer, and the "CANADA"
on the outside of the engine intake, indicate an Aircraft based in Canada (vice one of the
European bases where camoflage schemes were largely in use, and white painted upper stabilizers
were called for when not camoflaged) and during a time period starting 16 March, 1973 when this
scheme was issued. A revision to this paint scheme was issued on 27 February, 1974 changing the
underside of the radome from grey to black, and this gives enthusiasts another date to work from,
although there will obviously have been some delay in completing this modification on the entire fleet of Aircraft.
Starfighters originally served as short-range interceptors, but the introduction of newer designs
resulted in their reassignment to the low-level strike and interdiction role. Prior to 1970,
Starfighters assigned to RCAF wings in Europe specialized in the strike and reconnaissance roles.
These two Aerospace Engineering Test and Evaluation Aircraft are a display of the old and the new of
the Canadian Forces in the early 1980's, the '104 was nearing the end of it's career in the RCAF
and the Canadian Forces of over 25 years, whereas the Hornet had not yet even fully completed
it's delivery schedule. AETE's role of test and evaluation led to their acquiring Hornets earlier
than the operational squadrons did and no time was lost putting the new fighter through its paces.
The specially modified hard-point fittings (painted orange) on the wingtips, wing roots, and tail
displayed in this photo hold high-speed cameras (painted white) used to evaluate certain aspects of
the Aircraft's performance in flight.
CF-104s based at CFB Baden-Soellingen fly past Hohenzollern near Hechingen, Germany in formation
with British Royal Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. The latter are made relatively
easy to identify by the modular unit at the top of the vertical stabilizer which is an electronic
warfare (EW) antenna specific to British-made Phantoms. Hohenzollern castle, in addition to being
an attractive background (as well as a novel one for Canadians) against which to photograph fighter
Aircraft in flight, had the added advantage of being enroute from Canadian air bases in Germany to
several air-to-ground ordnance ranges in Eastern Bavaria, giving it a greater opportunity to appear
in photos of Canadian Aircraft in Germany than any other German castle.
Starfighter 104749 served with 439 Squadron at CFB Baden Soellingen, West Germany which is
where this photograph was taken. Unfortunately '749 fell victim to a hangar fire on 2 March,
1984 and was subsequently struck off strength on 29 August of the same year, just two years prior
to the majority of the remainder of the fleet being retired and transferred to Turkey.
During the spring of 1984 a small detachment of CF-18s from 410 "Cougar" Squadron
(the Hornet Operational Training Unit) deployed from CFB Cold Lake, Alberta to CFB Baden-Soellingen,
West Germany in an exercise known as Rhine Hornet. Among other reasons for the exercise were the
attempt to accomplish the Atlantic crossing non-stop with air-to-air refuelling where the year
before Starfighters had crossed by "island hopping", to confirm the jet's compatibility with
existing Baden and Lahr infrastructures, and performing extensive airborne camoflage trials when
flown in formation with the 104 under a variety of different weather and terrain conditions.
Taken from the air on the occassion of the first Exercise Maple Flag (modelled after the USAF's
Red Flag to provide realistic training for CF and visiting fighter pilots) from 24 April to 20 May,
1978, this photo displays the tarmac in front of CFB Cold Lake's control tower with a multi-national
Aircraft exhibit. From left to right are a USAF C-130 Hercules Aircraft, a CF-104 Starfighter,
a CF-5 Freedom Fighter, a CF-101 Voodoo, a USAF S-61R Sea King , a USAF F-15 Eagle,
a USAF A-7 Corsair, a USN A-4 Skyhawk, a USAF HH-53 "Jolly Green Giant", and a CF-5 Freedom
Fighter in Aggressor Squadron markings.
CF-101B (101057) "60 Years" Voodoo's - 416 "Lynx Squadron".
CF-104 (411) "Checkerbird".
CF-104 "25 Years" 421 Squadron Red Indian 1984.