Lockheed F-104 Starfighter A History

Published: January 30th, 2020     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Martin Bowman
Reviewed by: Hub Plott - IPMS# 31328
ISBN #: 978-1-473863262
Other Publication Information: 256 pages, 200 color & 132 B&W illustrations
Price: $39.95
Product / Stock #: XPL 9
Product provided by: Casemate Publishing

The F-104, known as "the missile with a man in it" is a sterling example of US cold war aircraft design. Designed to intercept incoming Soviet bombers the F-104 had great speed at the expense of range and the addition of wingtip tanks came at the expense of armament. Frontline USAF service was not that lengthy, although they did serve in Vietnam. The F-104 did serve a long time with the National Guard. Foreign Service is where the F-104 was used in the greatest numbers and the longest time. License built in Europe and Japan there was a long history of service in these various air forces.

Mr. Bowman's book is broken down into 11 chapters, covering from development to the post military service Starfighters display team. The book is an easy, enjoyable read with many pilot's stories to bring firsthand accounts of flying the F-104 to the reader.

The book begins with development of the F-104 which at its most basic level was put the most powerful engine in the smallest airframe to produce the fastest aircraft. The aircraft would go through many design enhancements, upgrades and changes. Probably one of the best decisions was to get rid of the downward ejection seat and replace it with the more conventional style. One of the pilots says it best about flying the F-104; "It was like owning the sharpest knife in the world. It was an honest airplane; you knew what was going on all the time but like handling a sharp knife, you better not make any mistakes! It did not suffer fools at all!"

Both USAF and Foreign Service are covered at length, as are the many accidents that happened with this challenging aircraft. Some air forces lost as much as half their fleet to various accidents, while others had little trouble. The most famous F-104 accident is the collision with the XB-70 that brought down both aircraft. Also this aircraft has a special place in my home state of South Carolina's history as the local ANG base is named for the late Brigadier General Barnie B. McEntire, Jr., the first commander of the SCANG and its first general officer. McEntire died on 25 May 1961 when he stayed with his malfunctioning F-104 Starfighter and flew it into the Susquehanna River to avoid crashing in the populated area of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In the end better training served to limit the accidents and deaths and the F-104 had a very long career both as a military and research aircraft. Many of the issues with the Starfighter were solved in the not put into service Lockheed Lancer which was not put into service and left many pilots dreaming of what might have been.

The book concludes with coverage of the use of the F-104 by Pakistan against India. Those F-104s used for various research including NASA and lastly, the private owned Starfighters demonstration team.

This book is profusely illustrated with over 300 photos, many which spread across two pages. The photos, history and pilot's stories make this a most enjoyable book to read and look through. I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the F-104 or Cold War aviation, you will not be disappointed!

Our thanks to Casemate Publishers for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity

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