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F-104 in Germany - myths about the "widowmaker"

molnibalage

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Below are the stats of F-104 fleet year by year (airframe loss)/(100k hour). The values are read from the column diagram above which shows the (airfrmae loss)/(10k hour) therfore can be little inaccuracy in values but clearly shows the history and debunks some urban legends.

1961 - 85
1963 - 165 (!!)
1963 - 30 (what a statistical deviation...!)
1964 - 63
1965 - 87
1966 - 30
1967 - 27
1968 - 29
1969 - 20
1970 - 29
1971 - 31
1972 - 11
1973 - 18
1974 - 16
1975 - 15
1976 - 16
1977 - 15
1978 - 20
1979 - 17
1980 - 19
1981 - 17
1982 - 24 (after being below 20 for 10+ years)
1983 - 7 (!!) Was as good as initally F-16A or F-15A
1984 - 23 (again higher the 7 was only "anomaly)
1985 - 18

The trendline goes below 20/100k but it does not reach because of the end of service and some very early bad years. The calculated average for the whole service is 33,28/100k hours but the introduction of F-104G was a bad idea the jumping from F-86 to F-104 (as Hartmann said) especially as a low level strike fighter...

Average is 20/100k hours if we delete the first 5 years which was the very painful transitional period. In case only the first 3 years is deleted 25/100k is the avarge. So comparing to an F-4 and 4th gen fighters is maybe a widowmaker but comparing to Su-9 or early MiG-21s and other Soviet fighters in the era F-104G was not so a bad as many poeple think. The Soviet fighters rarely flew low level strike and they had similar or worse stat comparing to F-104G. The stats of Starfighter was acceptable after the first 10 years and was better what HUN had with MiG-21s even the best version. Germany acquired 914 F-104s and lost 292 of them. As fleet loss percentage this is also not bad comparing to Soviet jets. For ex. 1/3 or Su-9s were destroyed by engine fire and 1/3 chrashed and they were not used for 20+ years in massive scale...

Hungarian statistics for comparison. F-104G was not bad except some years.



USAF stat you can find F-4 or even older airframe for comparison.
http://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Aviation-Safety-Division/Aviation-Statistics/
 
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Jemiba

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Thank you for those stats, that perhaps support my theory, that no journalist
really bothered to compare the F-104 loss numbers with that, of other types
(from soviet types it may have been difficult either) and that the whole theme
may have been less interesting to the media, if the procurement of that type would
have been a bit different in Germany.
BTW, the theme was mentioned here, too : https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,289.msg20954.html#msg20954
 

Michel Van

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maybe this give some explanation

the Spanish Airforce used also F-104
far less problems and losses as German and Italian
in contrary to German and Italian used the Spanish Airforce the F-104 as intended: High Altitude Interceptor
While F-104G was multi combat strafers aircraft

to point out the earlier F-104G had Modell Lockheed „C2“ ejections seats, ideal for High Altitude Interceptor.
but deadly for strafers F-104G, allot pilots escape save there F-104G only to die on Impact after ejections
that changed after 1966 as german F-104G were equip with Martin-Baker Mk. GQ-7(A) ejections seats
there "zero-zero" capability saved allot more pilots


It would be quite interesting to compare the Losses of all F-104 users.
next Germany and Italian
had Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Japan, Netherlands, Norwegian, Pakistan, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey

also how bad maintenance under shoestring budget play a role in this,
Special the German Luftwaffe is legendary for that
 

Michel Van

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Some data for Belgium Air-force

They had 101 F-104G 12 TF-104G ( trainers ) build under license in Belgium by SABCA and build by Lockheed
one Lockheed F-104G crash before shipment to Belgium

they served august 1964 until April 1981
lost around 38 F-104G et 3 TF-104G during that time (depending on source)
according to Belgium Air-force 21 pilots were killed

1963 - 2 crashed
1964 - 1 crashed
1965 - 2 crashed
1966 - 2 crashed
1967 - 1 crashed
1968 - 4 crashed (one crashed during filming of TV series "Les Chevaliers du Ciel" pilot killed !)
1969 - 3 crashed
1970 - 1 crashed
1973 - 4 crashed (two in mid-air collision)
1976 - 3 two crashed, third got Engine bay fire, remove from service
1977 - 1 crashed
1978 - 2 crashed
1979 - 2 crashed (one mid-air collision)
1980 - 1 crashed
1981 - 3 (two in mid-air collision)

that one 1968 crash the pilot François "Susse" Jacobs try this with his F-104G for TV series "Les Chevaliers du Ciel" and killed by ejection seat-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyBDEG9dg-Q

source
http://www.belgian-wings.be/Webpages/Navigator/Photos/MilltaryPics/post_ww2/Lockheed%20F-104G%20Starfighter/Lockheed%20F104G%20Starfighter%20Frontpage.htm

http://kbam.be/f104.php

http://www.916-starfighter.de/F-104_Lockheed_serials_.pdf

for more Data look on International F-104 page
http://www.i-f-s.nl
 

molnibalage

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Jemiba said:
Thank you for those stats, that perhaps support my theory, that no journalist
really bothered to compare the F-104 loss numbers with that, of other types
(from soviet types it may have been difficult either) and that the whole theme
may have been less interesting to the media, if the procurement of that type would
have been a bit different in Germany.
BTW, the theme was mentioned here, too : https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,289.msg20954.html#msg20954
More stats.

32 pilots died in total from 83 ejections. 65 different variants of MiG-21s were lost.
HUN MiG-21s
32/61 = 50%

In German service, 292 of 916 Starfighters crashed, claiming the lives of 115 pilots.
GER F-104s
115/292 = 39%

If fact GER F-104Gs had better pilot attrition rate than HUN MiG-21s.
 

Michel Van

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we discussed that similar topic in forum in another section,

About the Belgium lost 40% of there F-104G fleet in accidents during 20 years service !
While the Italian Air force lost 38% and Germans 29% of there Fleet
The Japan Self Defence Force lost 20% during 24 years.
The Spanish had zero loss because they used F-104G as good weather interceptor during 7 years service.
I have No info about Netherland Fleet
 

Pioneer

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we discussed that similar topic in forum in another section,

About the Belgium lost 40% of there F-104G fleet in accidents during 20 years service !
While the Italian Air force lost 38% and Germans 29% of there Fleet
The Japan Self Defence Force lost 20% during 24 years.
The Spanish had zero loss because they used F-104G as good weather interceptor during 7 years service.
I have No info about Netherland Fleet

Great info, great topic.....

You know, I wasn't even aware that Spain used Starfighter's until.a couple of years ago, when somewhere on this great forum, someone else eluded to it!

Regards
Pioneer
 

Arjen

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Of 138 Starfighters delivered to the Dutch air force, 39 crashed. One caught fire on the tarmac and burned out.
 

Archibald

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The spanish got Mirage III and F1, Phantoms F-5 Tigers and F-104Gs. One of the most diverse NATO fleets.
They even got KC-97 tankers - the one and only country outside the USA.
 

Pioneer

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The spanish got Mirage III and F1, Phantoms F-5 Tigers and F-104Gs. One of the most diverse NATO fleets.
They even got KC-97 tankers - the one and only country outside the USA.

Thank you Archibald!!

Regards
Pioneer
 

Archibald

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Weren't the Israeli aircraft C-97s, I mean transports ? Later converted in tankers, admittedly.
 

uk 75

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Surely the best analogue to the Luftwaffe would be the Canadians at Lahr who used the Starfighter in West Germany and in a similar variety of roles.
 

dan_inbox

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Weren't the Israeli aircraft C-97s, I mean transports ? Later converted in tankers, admittedly.
Several were, but apparently not all. The one on the photo, 52-02627, was born as a KC-97G-24-BO straight from momma Bouingue's womb.
So says this list: http://www.worldmilitair.com/serials/countries/usa/uni 040 1152.pdf

Now, it may have been de-mil'd before making aliyah, and then re-mil'd over here. Would'nt make much sense, but stranger things have happened in IDF procurement.
 

SSgtC

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Weren't the Israeli aircraft C-97s, I mean transports ? Later converted in tankers, admittedly.
Several were, but apparently not all. The one on the photo, 52-02627, was born as a KC-97G-24-BO straight from momma Bouingue's womb.
So says this list: http://www.worldmilitair.com/serials/countries/usa/uni 040 1152.pdf

Now, it may have been de-mil'd before making aliyah, and then re-mil'd over here. Would'nt make much sense, but stranger things have happened in IDF procurement.
It could also have been "officially" converted to a C-97 before being sold to Israel while in actuality, it still retained it's refueling equipment
 

Archibald

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alejandro_

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In 1969 Johannes Steinhoff travelled to Spain to assess why the Spanish F-104s had not suffered any accidents, and met with Spanish officers. He was given 3 reasons:

- The weather in Spain is much better
- No young pilots were allowed to fly the type, and needed 500 hours experience in fast jets
- Spain operates 21 of them and Germany 950

They even got KC-97 tankers - the one and only country outside the USA.

Spain received 36 F-4C, 3 KC-97L and 2 C-97 (for spares) in 1970 for 7,200 million pesetas. The Phantom were not popular because the Air Force was expecting a more modern variant and the aircraft given had flown many hours (they had operated over Vietnam). KC-97L only served until 1976 because of fatigue and arrival of KC-130.
 

archipeppe

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Here is the list of fatal accident of Italian F-104s in 1979-2000 timeframe:

18/01/1979 ?
05/10/1981 ?
02/06/1982 ?
03/07/1982 MM 5682
03/08/1982 MM 6765
26/11/1985 ?
28/01/1986 MM 6646
21/08/1986 MM 6706
29/05/1987 ?
31/05/1988 MM 54229 (TF-104G)
27/07/1988 MM 6608
13/06/1989 MM 6846
27/12/1989 MM 6886
05/07/1990 MM 6729
07/08/1990 MM 6748
16/01/1992 MM 6839
20/06/1995 MM 54256 (TF-104G)
13/11/1996 MM 6815
15/04/1997 MM 6827

wikipedia reports that totally Italy lost 137 Starfighters (38% of the total) due to accidents (not all with casualties) with a rateo of 14,7 x 100,000 flight hours
 

Michel Van

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- No young pilots were allowed to fly the type, and needed 500 hours experience in fast jets

The Luftwaffe not only put young pilots into F-104 in 1960s
They put raw recruit after short theoretic Lesson in a F-104 for there FIRST flight and sometimes last one...
My uncle work as instructor for Luftwaffe in Belgium for Luftwaffe F-104 pilot schooling.
Belgium ? yes Belgium !
do Treaties Germany was forbidden to schooling military Pilots after WW2, until NATO say: declaim that
 

martinbayer

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The most prominent victim of the F-104 in Germany was Joachim von Hassel, a naval aviator and the son of the President of the Bundestag (the lower chamber of the German Parliament) at the time and former German Minister of Defence Kai-Uwe von Hassel, on March 10, 1970. Rumor has it that his legs were cut off by the windshield frame when he ejected from his aircraft, because he was allegedly accepted as a pilot despite him being too tall to qualify for the Starfighter because of his provenance. There's even a music video about it:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn5pIY-j2To
I remember a related joke when I was a kid in Germany at the time: Q: "How can I get my hands on a Starfighter?" A: "Buy a piece of property and wait..."
 
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Michel Van

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There is even complete Album about the Topic

"Capitan Lockheed and the Starfighter" by Robert Calvert (ex Hawkwing)
A nasty reckoning with F-104G tinctured with very black Humor...

 

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