(first posted 10/1/2012) Not to beat the poor 1960 Ford brochure to death, but I couldn’t help but stop at this fine rendering of an Orchid Gray Starliner with a Convair F-106 Delta Dart interceptor in the back. But wouldn’t a Lockheed Starfighter somehow have been more appropriate? Delta and Dart are both names used by the competition.
Not to take anything away from the mighty Delta Dart, the ultimate “hot rod” jet of its time. Designed to intercept incoming Soviet nuclear-armed bombers, the F-106 set a new world speed record of 1525.96 mph, on December 15, 1959, with its P&W J-57-P on full afterburner. Maybe that’s its pilot, Major Joseph Rogers, getting into his Starliner after his record-setting flight Top operational speed was between Mach 2.2 – 2.3.
The F-104 Starfighter was a much smaller, more minimalistic design that was referred to as the “manned missile”. Lockheed Skunk Works guru “Kelly” Johnson designed the F-104 after seeing the challenges that American pilots were having in dogfights against the MiG-15 with their F-86s.
In place of the delta wing found on the F-106 and other supersonic planes at the time, Johnson came up with a radically small and thin wing, trapezoidal in shape and mounted mid-ships. The wing’s leading edges were so thin 0.016″ (0.41mm) that ground crew members had to be protected from it.
With a top operational speed of Mach 2.2, it too set a speed record, of 1,404 mph, a year or so before the F-106. Still, it didn’t really succeed in its original intended role of interceptor, having too short a range and too little armament. It did go on to serve in a variety of other roles, and was also used by many foreign air forces. The F-106, which never was exported, served in its role as top dog interceptor until well into the ’80s.
This shot shows how small the F-104 (at top) really was. Going clockwise, you can see the Northrop F-89 “Scorpion”; Convair F-106; North American F-86 “Sabre”; McDonnell F-101 “Voodoo”; and the Convair F-102 “Delta Dagger” from which the F-106 was developed. What later made all these wings obsolete was the F-111, with its variable geometry “swing-wing”. Maybe we can find a rendering of a Dart Swinger with one. Or is there an “Aardvark” car to pose with it?