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Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
Here is my interpretation of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. This is my second 1:20 scale aircraft and has many interesting features and design elements. In the images that follow, I’ve included most of the variants produced and tried to account for the primary users of the “Zipper” during the Cold War. As always, leave a comment if you wish. Check out my flickr page for larger pictures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118702264@N05/. The LDD model of the F-104 variant is available on my Etsy site: www.etsy.com/ca/shop/KurtsMOCs.
About this creation

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a single engine, supersonic interceptor aircraft which later became widely used as an attack aircraft. Designed by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson’s Skunk Works at Lockheed, the Starfighter was originally developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) but was later produced by several other nations, seeing widespread service across the globe.

Kelly Johnson visited in Korea in 1951 and spoke with fighter pilots about what sort of aircraft they wanted. At the time, the USAF pilots were confronting the MiG-15 with their North American F-86 Sabres, and many felt that the MiGs were superior and simple aircraft with excellent performance. Upon returning to the United States, his team began work on a design that would achieve high performance by wrapping the lightest, most aerodynamically efficient airframe possible around a single powerful engine.

In this image, the two XF-104 prototypes, FG-787 and FG-786, fly in formation over Edwards AFB. Note the shorter rudder, the absence of the dorsal spine, and the open inlets of the prototype models. Flight tests began in March 1954 and encountered several problems, all of which were resolved before entering production. The performance of the XF-104 exceeded expectations, leading to the USAF ordering 17 service-test/pre-production YF-104s. However, the prototypes did succumb to testing malfunctions: aircraft FG-787 was lost on April 14, 1955, after a malfunction of the cannon during testing, forcing pilot Herman Salmon to eject at 50,000 feet. Aircraft FG-786 crashed on July 11, 1957, after it developed an uncontrollable fin flutter while flying chase for F-104A flight test.


The YF-104A evolved from the testing and evaluation of the XF-104s. The fuselage was lengthened and fitted with the J79 engine, the landing gear was modified, and the air intakes were redesigned to include a half inlet cone that formed a conical shock wave in order to slow the flow of air from supersonic flight speed to a subsonic speed before it enters the engine. The first YF-104A flew on February 17, 1956 and along with 16 other trial aircraft, carried out aircraft and equipment evaluation and tests. Modifications were made to the aircraft including airframe strengthening and adding a ventral fin. The J79 had afterburner problems and the addition of AIM-9 Sidewinders delayed the testing even further. On January 28, 1958, the first F-104A entered service with the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Wing.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) flew the F-104A during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 and 1971. Pakistan was the first non-NATO country to be equipped with the F-104, which were ex-USAF aircraft retrofitted with the more powerful J79-11A engine and the 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon (removed earlier by the USAF). Here, a Starfighter of the No. 9 Air Superiority Squadron tangles with a MiG-21FL of the IAF’s No. 47 Squadron over the Gulf of Kutch. The PAF went on to lose four F-104s during engagements with the Indian MiGs but flew close to 350 combat hours in the F-104 during both wars. The Starfighter was phased out of the PAF in 1972 after they were grounded by a lack of spare parts due to a U.S. embargo on military equipment.


The F-104B was a tandem-seat, dual-control trainer version of the F-104A. A total of 26 were built and had an enlarged rudder and ventral fin, no cannon, and reduced internal fuel, but otherwise combat-capable. Early Starfighters used a downward-firing ejection seat, the Stanley C-1, out of concern over the ability of an upward-firing seat to clear the “T-tail” assembly. This presented obvious problems in low-altitude escapes, which caused the deaths of 21 USAF pilots who failed to eject from their stricken aircraft in low-level emergencies. This issue was addressed with the introduction of the Lockheed C-2 upward-firing seat capable of clearing the tail but speed limited to 104 mph. Many later export Starfighters were later retrofitted with Martin-Baker Mk.7 “zero-zero” ejection seats.

The Royal Jordanian Air Force received 29 F-104A and four F-104B aircraft delivered under MAP in 1967. Controlled by the United States, these aircraft were moved temporarily to Turkey during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War. This proved to be wise as the Israelis destroyed Jordan’s Air Force of 21 Hawker Hunters in bomb strikes. The RJAF found the Starfighter to be superfluous and several were given to the Pakistan Air Force in the 1970s with the last unit withdrawn from service in 1977.


The engine chosen was the new General Electric J79 turbojet, used in other aircraft such as the B-58 Hustler, F-4 Phantom II, A-5 Vigilante, and the IAI Kfir. However, as work quickly progressed on the XF-104 prototype, the J79 was not ready. The two prototype XF-104s used the Wright J65 engine, a licensed-built version of the British Armstrong Siddeley Saphire. Completed in early 1954, the first prototype flew on March 4 at Edwards AFB. The total time from contract to first flight was less than a year.

The J79 engine was a powerful engine with an excellent thrust-to-drag ratio, allowing a maximum speed well in excess of Mach 2. The F-104 set numerous world records, including both airspeed (1,404.19 mph) and altitude records (91,243 feet) simultaneously. Later tests pushed the top speed to 1,429.3 mph by Jacqueline Cochran in 1964 and an unofficial world altitude record of 120,800 feet by Robert W. Smith.

With full afterburner engaged, this F-104C Starfighter, “Bluejay Four,” was sent to intercept an unidentified flying object, namely the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” On this model, you can see the shorter rudder and the addition of a centerline pylon and an in-flight refuelling probe.


With the USAF losing interest in the F-104, Lockheed looked to overseas sales for the Starfighter. The West German Air Forces (Luftwaffe and Marinesflieger) were looking for a tactical fighter-bomber to replace its ageing F-86 Sabres. Seeing the German order as necessary to keep the Starfighter in production, Lockheed made improvements based on the German demands and introduced the F-104G variant. The G-variant had a strengthened fuselage and wing structure, increased internal fuel capacity, an enlarged vertical fin, strengthened landing gear with larger tires, and revised flaps for improved combat manoeuvring. Upgraded avionics included a new Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air and ground mapping modes, the Litton LN-3 Inertial Navigation System (the first on a production fighter), and an infrared sight.

Although not designed as a bomber, the Starfighter was pressed into tactical duty for the Luftwaffe in 1963. Germany received 916 F-104Gs (35% of all F-104s built) forming the major combat equipment of both the Luftwaffe and Marineflieger. At its peak in the mid-1970s, the Luftwaffe operated five F-104 equipped fighter-bomber wings, two interceptor wings, and two tactical reconnaissance wings. In this image, an F-104G belonging to Jagdegeschwader 71 (Richtofen) of the Luftwaffe based at Wittmundhaven practices tactical manoeuvres near the German coast.


The safety record of the F-104 Starfighter became high-profile news in the mid-1960s, especially in Germany. Of the 916 aircraft ordered by the Federal German Republic, and the first of no fewer than 262 German F-104s had crashed, killing 116 German pilots between 1962 and 1984. In June 1962, four F-104s crashed on the same day. Known by the Germans as Witwenmacher (“The Widowmaker”), the German Air Force and Federal German Navy lost about 30% of aircraft in accidents over its operating career, Canada lost 46% of its F-104s, however, the Spanish Air Force lost none.

The high loss rate was contributed to a change in the aircraft’s intended use. Originally intended as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor, the F-104 was re-tasked as a low-level fighter-bomber. The demand of flying an aircraft outside of its expected dynamics and the increased distraction of additional avionics equipment strained the aircrews.

The Marineflieger operated two wings of F-104s in the maritime strike and reconnaissance roles. Marinefliegerschwader 1 was based at Schleswig-Jagel and Marinefliegerschwader 2 was based at Eggebek, near the Denmark border. Initially, the Marineflieger used AS.30 command guidance missiles as anti-ship weapons, but these were replaced with the more sophisticated and longer-ranged radar-guided AS.34 Kormoran missile, allowing stand-off attacks to be carried out against enemy ships. This F-104G is from Marinefliegerschwader (MFG) 2 and is loaded with two Kormoran anti-ship missiles.


The early avionics of the F-104s consisted of a basic AN/ASG-14T ranging radar, tactical air navigation system (TACAN), and an AN/ARC-34 UHF radio. In the later 1960s, Lockheed developed a more advanced version of the Starfighter, the F-104S, for use by the Italian Air Force as an all-weather interceptor. The F-104S received a NASARR R21-G with a moving target indication and continuous-wave radar illuminator for semi-active radar homing missiles, including the AIM-7 Sparrow and Selenia Aspide. The missile-guidance avionics forced the deletion of the Starfighter’s internal cannon.

Built under license by FIAT/Aeritalia in Italy, the F-104S also received two additional wing and two underbelly hard points, the more powerful J79-GE-19 engines, and two additional ventral fins to increase stability. 246 aircraft entered service with the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI) in June 1962 and became operational in March 1963. In the mid-1980s, surviving 150 F-104S aircraft were updated to ASA standard (Aggioramento Sistemi d’Arma, or Weapons Systems Update), with a much improved, more compact FIAR R21G/M1 radar. Provisions were also made for the AIM-9L all-aspect Sidewinder, new IFF system and weapon delivery computer.

American pilots called the Starfighter the “Zipper” or “Zip-104” because of it prodigious speed. In Italy, it was known as the Spillone (“Hat Pin”) and was favoured by Italian pilots because it was the hottest aircraft flying at the time. Although it commanded respect at all times, the performance of the aircraft made it a desirable, but challenging, ride. The Italians also had a more ominous name for the aircraft: Bara volante, or the “Flying Coffin.” In this image, a Spillone from the 53 Stormo, 21 Gruppo makes a supersonic pass over the Piedmont countryside.


The fuselage had a high fineness ratio (slender, tapered towards the sharp nose) and a small frontal area. The tightly packed fuselage contained the radar, cockpit, cannon, fuel, landing gear, and engine. The fuselage and wings combination provided low drag except at high angle of attack, at which point induced drag (redirected airflow) became very high. The F-104 had good acceleration, rate of climb, and potential top speed, but its sustained turn performance was poor.

The Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) operated 210 F-105J air-superiority fighters and 20 dual-control trainer F-104DJs. Called Eiko (“Glory”), they served from October 1962 to 1986. Built under license manufacture by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the F-104J (“J” for Japanese) was similar in overall structure to the F-104G but equipped as an all-weather interceptor rather than as an air-to-ground strike aircraft. The first Lockheed-built F-104J flew on June 30, 1961. The first three F-104Js were built and assembled entirely by Lockheed. Mitsubishi assembled 29 more F-104Js from knocked-down kits provided by Lockheed between March of 1962 and March of 1965. Mitsubishi built further F-104Js from scratch, with a total of 178 Mitsubishi-manufactured F-104Js delivered from March 1965 through 1967.

The F-104J was powered by a Japanese built J79-IHI-11A engine built under license by Ishikawajima-Harima. An Autonetics NASARR F-15J-31 fire control system was fitted for the air-to-air mode and was armed with a 20-mm M61A1 cannon and four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. This aircraft flies with the 203rd Tactical Fighter Squadron was part of the 2nd Kokudan (Air Wing) based at Komatsu Air Base in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. The JASDF often intercepted Soviet incursions into Japanese airspace. The F-104J’s high speed and rate of climb made it an ideal interceptor.


In the late 1950s, Canada redefined its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with a commitment to a nuclear strike mission. At the same time, the RCAF began to consider a replacement for the Canadair F-86 Sabre series that had been utilized as a NATO day fighter. The Canadian government requirement for a license manufacture favoured the Lockheed F-104 due to a collaboration with Canadair. In August 1959, Canadair was selected to manufacture 200 aircraft for the RCAF under license from Lockheed. In addition, Canadair was contracted to manufacture wing sets, tail assemblies and rear fuselage sections for 66 Lockheed-built F-104Gs destined for the West German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

The CF-104 entered Canadian service in March 1962. Although designed as a supersonic interceptor aircraft, it was used primarily for low-level strike and reconnaissance by the RCAF. Eight Cf-104 squadrons were originally stationed in Europe as part of Canada’s NATO commitment but reduced to six in 1967, and then to three in 1970. Up to 1971, this included a nuclear strike role that would see Canadian aircraft armed with US-supplied nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with Warsaw Pact forces. During its service life, the CF-104 carried the B28, B43, and B57 nuclear weapons.

Losses were high, with around 110 crashes in Europe. Its heavy usage, mainly at low-level for bombing and reconnaissance missions was a major factor, while bad weather conditions contributed to almost 50% of the accidental losses. The airframes had an average of 6,000 flying hours when phased out; triple that of Germany’s F-104s. Surplus CF-104s and CF-104Ds were later transferred to Denmark, Norway, and Turkey in the 1970s.

This Starfighter from No. 422 Squadron, 4 Wing, flies through a rainstorm on its way back to CFB Baden-Soellingen just outside Zweibrücken in West Germany. Armed with a single B43 nuclear bomb, referred to by Canadian pilots as “Weapon #3,” had a massive 1 Mt warhead and the option of being parachute retarded and was armed with a four-digit code entered into the permissive action link (PAL). The CF-104 was known by Canadian pilots as either the “lawn dart,” “silver sliver,” or the “aluminum death tube” due to its high operational losses of airframes.


The basic armament of the F-104 was the 20 mm M61 Vulcan autocannon. As the first aircraft to carry the weapon, testing of the Starfighter revealed issues with the initial version of the M61, such as misfeeds caused mostly by the discarded ammunition links fouling the mechanism. This led to a linkless ammunition feed system which was then installed on the F-104C as the M61A1. Mounted on the lower part of the port fuselage, the cannon was fed by a 725-round drum behind the pilot’s seat. Firing at 6,000 rounds per minute, the drum would be empty in just over seven seconds of continuous fire.

Two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles could be carried on the wingtip stations, which could also be used for fuel tanks. The C-variant and later models added a centerline pylon and two underwing pylons for bombs, rocket pods, or fuel tanks. A nuclear weapon could be mounted on the centerline pylon. A “catamaran” launcher for two additional Sidewinders could be fitted under the forward fuselage, although the placement had minimal ground clearance and the seeker heads were vulnerable to ground debris.

Denmark initially received 25 F-104G and four TF-104Gs under the Mutual Defence Assistance Act during 1964-65. Surplus Canadian license-built aircraft were transferred between 1971-73 (15 CF-104 and seven CF-104D). The Royal Danish Air Force operated a total of 51 Starfighters before their retirement in 1986. Here, you can see two F-104Gs from Eskadrille 726 flying over the coast near Skagen. Based at Aalborg Air Base in northern Denmark, the F-104s were used as interceptors to defend Danish air space and to provide air support to Danish group troops on the battlefield.


Take off speeds were in the vicinity of 220 mph and the pilot needed to quickly raise the landing gear to avoid the 299 mph safety limit. On landing, the downwind leg could be flown at 242 mph with “land” flap selected, while long flat final approaches were typically flown at speeds around 207 mph. High engine power had to be maintained on the final approach to ensure airflow for the boundary layer control system. Consequently, pilots were warned not to cut the throttle until the aircraft was actually on the ground. A drag chute and effective brakes shortened the Starfighter’s landing roll.

As a co-founder of NATO, Norway received American aircraft through the Military Assistance Program (MAP) intended to contain Soviet expansion by providing military assistance to NATO countries. Under MAP, Norway initially received 19 Canadair built F-104G and four TF-104G in 1963 Ten years later, the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) received 18 surplus CF-104s and four CF-104Ds from Canada. The RNoAF was only one of two NATO air forces (Turkey being the other) responsible for the land border with the Soviet Union. On average, Norwegian aircraft had 500-600 interceptions of Soviet aircraft each year.

Taking off from Bodø Main Air Station, this F-104G flies with No. 331 Squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Armed with two AIM-9 Sidewinders mounted on the under-fuselage catamaran launchers and four bombs mounted on double wing pylons. The Norwegians referred to the Starfighter as the Vestfjorddoksen, or “the Vestfjord bull,” due to the immense roar of the aircraft as it departed its base at the southern end of Vestfjorden.


The F-104 featured a radical wind design, eschewing the more common for the era swept or delta wing. Lockheed’s test revealed that the most efficient shape for high-speed supersonic flight was a very small, straight, mid-mounted, trapezoidal wing. This wing was extremely thin, with a thickness-to-chord ratio of only 3.36% and an aspect ratio of 2.45. The wing’s edges were so thin (0.016 inch) that they presented a cut hazard to ground crews and had to be fitted with protective guards during ground operations. The thin wings meant that the fuel tanks and landing gear had to be placed in the fuselage and the hydraulic cylinders driving the ailerons were limited to 1-inch thickness.

The small, highly loaded wing resulted in an unacceptably high landing speed, even with both leading- and trailing-edge flaps installed. As a result, the aircraft designers developed a boundary layer control system (BLCS) of blown flaps bleed air over the trailing-edge flaps to help lower landing speeds. The stabilator (horizontal tail surface) was mounted atop the fin to reduce inertia coupling, which is the tendency for an aircraft to pitch a yaw violently and lose control when quickly put into a roll. Because the vertical fin was only slightly shorter than the length of each wing and nearly as aerodynamically effective, it could act as a wing on rudder application, rolling the aircraft in the opposite direction of rudder input. To offset this effect, the wings were canted downwards, giving 10-degree anhedral.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (Koninklijke Luchtmacht, or KLu) flew European-produced F-104G built by either Fokker or SABCA. Here, the F-104’s camouflage blends in well with the northern European landscape. It is clear to see the shape of the stubby wings in relation to the long, slender fuselage. This F-104 flies with 322 Squadron based at Leeuwarden Air Base in the north of the country.


The Belgian Air Force (BAF) flew the F-104G as fighter-bombers and interceptors. In total 101 SABCA-built F-104Gs and 12 TF-104G built by Lockheed were purchased and flew from February 1963 to September 1983. This F-104G flies with the 349th Squadron, 1 Wing based at Beauvechain. Beginning as an RAF “honorary” squadron during World War II, No. 349 Squadron was disbanded as an RAF squadron in 1946 and transferred to the Belgian Air Force, keeping the number. Note the rearward retracting landing gear, which is opposite the single-seat version.


The NF-104A was a mixed power, high performance, supersonic aerospace trainer that served as a low-cost astronaut training vehicle for the X-15 programs. Three aircraft were modified from existing Lockheed F-104A airframes and served with the Aerospace Research Pilots School between 1963 and 1971. The aircraft was modified to include a small supplementary Rocketdyne AR2-3 rocket engine, a reaction control system (RCS) for flight in the upper atmosphere, wingtip extensions, a larger rudder, and a reduced overall weight. During the test program, a maximum altitude reached was more than 120,000 feet.

A typical flight would consist of a “zoom climb” (building up a high speed in a shallow dive at high altitude, and then climbing steeply) with full afterburner and the rocket engine engaged to reach the upper atmosphere. The J79 afterburner would be throttled down at 70,000 feet and then manual fuel cut-off of the main engine at around 85,000 feet to prevent fast rising engine temperatures from damaging the turbine stages of the jet engine. After continuing over the top of its ballistic arc, the NF-104A would descend back into denser air nose first where the main engine could be restarted using the windmill restart technique for recovery to a landing.

In this image, the third NF-104A (USAF 56-0762) produced is flown by Chuck Yeager on a zoom climb. While out chasing an altitude record, Yeager lost control of the aircraft at 108,700 feet (almost 21 miles high) and entered a flat spin with the engine out. Unable to get air into the engine, the aircraft spins uncontrollably until Yeager is forced to eject at 8,500 feet. Unfortunately, the ejection seat collides with him upon separation and the rocket propellant ignites the oxygen inside his pressurized suit. Yeager was able to open the visor on his helmet and release the oxygen. This put out the fire and after a few parachute spins, he hit the ground, dazed but alive.


The Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire) has a unique record with the Starfighter: no aircraft losses through accidents during 17,000 hours of operational use in Spain. The SPAF used the aircraft in its intended role as a day-time interceptor. Acquiring their Starfighters through the MAP, 18 Canadair-built F-104Gs and three Lockheed-built TF-104Gs were delivered to 61 Escuadron, Ala 6 in 1965. With the arrival of the F-4 Phantoms in 1972, these F-104s were transferred to Greece and Turkey.

This RF-104G, flying with the 161 Escuadron of the Ala 12 (12th Wing) based at Torrejón de Ardoz in Madrid, carries the Vinten VICON photoreconnaissance pod attached to the centerline pylon. The wing’s motto is “No le busques los tres pies al gato” or “Don’t look for the cat’s three feet” in English, is a famous proverb in Spanish, owing its origin to Don Quixote de la Mancha.


Taiwan (Republic of China) operated a total of 282 aircraft funded by the MAP. Flying a mixture of new-built and surplus F-104A, -B, -D, -G, -J, -DJ, RF-104G, and TF-104G were used. The Starfighter was phased out of Taiwanese service by 1997. The ROCAF regularly patrolled the Taiwan Straits and fought many engagements with its Communist counterpart (the PLAAF). On January 13, 1967, four ROCAF F-104G aircraft engaged a formation of eight PLAAF MiG-19s over the disputed island of Kinmen. Major Hu Shih-lin and Captain Shih Bei-puo each shot down one MiG-19 and marked the first uncontested F-104 combat victory in the world. In this image, an RF-104G reconnaissance Starfighter is escorted by an F-104G of the 48th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Hsinchu Air Base head out into the Taiwan Straights. You can see the small camera pod underneath the RF-104G’s fuselage just behind the forward landing gear doors.


The NATO Tiger Association was established in 1961 to promote solidarity and exchange ideas and experiences between NATO air forces. All members have a tiger as part of its squadron crest and meet annually for a series of tactical flying exercises (known as “Tiger Games”), such as low-altitude manoeuvring, air-to-air refuelling, air combat, and weapons delivery. Participating aircraft are encouraged to adopt a tiger paint scheme to show off the squadron’s spirit. The winner of the Tiger Games events is awarded the Silver Tiger trophy, which is held by the winning squadron until the next meet.

The Greek Air Force (HAF) received 45 newly built F-105G and six TF-104s under MAP. Second-hand Starfighters passed on from other NATO air forces, including 79 from Germany, seven from the Netherlands, and nine from Spain supplemented the existing aircraft. The Starfighter entered Greek service in April 1964, equipping two wings, leaving service in March 1993. In this image, a Starfighter from 335 Squadron “Tigers” of the Hellenic Air Force sets up on a rocket attack on targets during Tiger Games in Cambrai, France in 1972.


Turkey received 48 new-built F-104Gs and six TF-104Gs from Lockheed and Canadair production, funded under the MAP, which was delivered from 1963, and directly purchased 40 new F-104S interceptors from Fiat in 1974-5. In addition, The Turkish Air Force received large numbers of surplus Starfighters from several NATO nations in the 1970s and 1980s, including 170 ex-German aircraft, 53 aircraft from the Netherlands and 52 from Canada. In total, Turkey received over 400 Starfighters from various sources, although many of these aircraft were broken up for spares without ever having been flown. Turkey retired the F-104 in 1995.


The F-104G CCV (Control-Configured Vehicle) is a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter modified by Messerschmitt-Blokm (MBB) in Germany. The Germans understood that future fighters would need to achieve high agility as well as the ability to fly at high angles of attack. These capabilities required an unstable aircraft configuration. The aim was to develop and test a highly unstable fighter with a fly-by-wire quadruple electronic flight control system. Flying for the first time on November 20, 1980, the aircraft carried out 120 flights in five different CCV configurations. Flight after flight, the Starfighter slowly changed from a stable aircraft to an unstable platform, shifting the neutral point and centre of gravity of the Starfighter by adding additional ballast the forward “duck” canard wing atop the forward fuselage. These tests eventually led to the development of a delta-canard control system later adopted by the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Fokker originally built the aircraft in this image under license in 1963 for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF, or KLu). The aircraft flew with WTD 61 Squadron for testing and the registration was changed to 23 + 91 and later to 98 + 36. Here, you can see the two neutral point circles and the destabilizing “duck” canard wing, which is really another F-104 tail mounted near the nose of the aircraft. Engineers would add ballast packages to various parts of the aircraft, internally and externally, to shift the aircraft’s normal neutral range and test the CCV’s flight system’s ability to stabilize the aircraft.


I wanted to include an “x-ray” image to show the complex internal structure. Like many of my other models, I used a mostly SNOT (MSNOT?) assembly method. This means a lot of complicated internal mounting and connection arrangements. The basic design elements of this F-104 are reverse-facing top and bottom plate arrangements that define the Starfighter’s profile in elevation and reverse side plate arrangements that give the aircraft’s profile in plan.

Most of the time, a simple shape is easy to assemble but with complex curves, the intersections of these two profiling systems become tricky. I used the F-104’s fuel tank (located behind the cockpit) as the main intersection point (there are also other, bulkier connecting points in the aft fuselage). Here I could create a four-way connecting system and bring together the top, bottom, and two side plate arrangements and make it look like the fuel tank!

The overall goal of my designs is to find a compromise between being hyper-accurate with the profile and finding a building system that best captures my perception of the design. The overall design of the Starfighter is very sleek and fluid. I wanted to capture that in this model but it meant there would be a few compromises. Overall, I am happy with how the F-104 turned out, but I had to make the elevation profile of the “lawn dart” nose a bit deeper than it should be. This was because of the complex connections in the nose and my desire to keep the tapering shape consistent. I tried many variations of the nose but in the end, I settled on a compromise that works for my intentions.


My intention was to design a single airframe to accommodate the many F-104 variants. Due to the complicated interior structural arrangements and the different front landing gear orientation, I went with two basic airframes: a single-seat and tandem-seat. From these basic frames, I could add the early and late model tailplane designs, the refuelling probe, and a host of weapons and avionics. I also included the wingtip extensions and rocket engine tail configuration of the NF-104A test aircraft.

The first row contains the centerline ordinance, including a B43 nuclear bomb, two AIM-9 Sidewinders mounted on the catamaran pylons, a centerline fuel tank, bombs, and the Vinten VICON recce pod. The second row contains the wingtip-mounted ordinance, including the AIM-9 Sidewinders and the wingtip-mounted fuel tanks. The third row contains an underwing-mounted ordinance, including an AIM-9 Sidewinder, an AS.34 Kormoran, fuel tank mounted on a pylon, a double bomb rack, and a single bomb pylon. The F-104 carried many more different types of ordinance, avionics, and other weapons, but I didn’t model them all.

One final point: for complex landing gear arrangements, I like to model the landing gear in the extended and retracted positions to ensure that they fit inside the fuselage and extend to their proper location when deployed. Here you can see the extended main gear placed in its proper position.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information and specifications. And a big thanks to everyone who comments and supports these projects. Your interest keeps me inspired and keeps me building. Thanks!




Comments

 I made it 
  June 1, 2018
Quoting Kingfisher 007 I love the way that you have managed to slowly increase the cylindrical size along the length of the body. It looks very streamlined. It is a real shame that there are no flat surfaced wing elements that we can use for our models.
Thanks, Kingfisher! I'm glad you like the model. The tapering fuselage caused me many headaches and I do wish that Lego provided flat angled plates for wings. Oh well, I guess it reminds everyone that this is made from Lego after all!
 I like it 
  May 23, 2018
I love the way that you have managed to slowly increase the cylindrical size along the length of the body. It looks very streamlined. It is a real shame that there are no flat surfaced wing elements that we can use for our models.
 I made it 
  May 11, 2018
Quoting Jack Sparrow Wow. Perfectly executed aircraft, mate! Love it. :-)
Thanks for the support, Jack!
 I like it 
  May 10, 2018
Wow. Perfectly executed aircraft, mate! Love it. :-)
 I made it 
  May 10, 2018
Quoting W Navarre Classy, superb, and awesome!
Thanks! I'm glad you like the model.
 I like it 
  May 10, 2018
Classy, superb, and awesome!
 I made it 
  May 10, 2018
Quoting Daniel H. This is absolutely fantastic! Excellent work!
Thanks, Daniel! I'm glad you like the model!
 I like it 
  May 10, 2018
This is absolutely fantastic! Excellent work!
 I made it 
  April 6, 2018
Quoting Henrik Jensen Nice to read the little background story, and I also can tell you why Legoland was closed! Legoland is not in Copenhagen, it`s in Billund!
Haha! I always remembered Legoland being in Copenhagen, but I was 7 years old at the time. Time to update my memories with Google Maps!
 I like it 
  April 6, 2018
Nice to read the little background story, and I also can tell you why Legoland was closed! Legoland is not in Copenhagen, it`s in Billund!
 I made it 
  April 6, 2018
Quoting James Douglas Great star fighter! Looks very neat and slick. Keep up the AWSOME work!
Thanks, James! I'm glad you like the model.
 I like it 
  April 6, 2018
Great star fighter! Looks very neat and slick. Keep up the AWSOME work!
 I made it 
  April 5, 2018
Quoting Henrik Jensen Absolutely brilliant work Kurt! As you may know, the F-104 is one of my favorite fighter jets from the cold war era, and a very interesting plane for me, because I have worked with maintenance of the radar system of these planes. A real pleasure to see the increase in detailing and shaping compared to my own model which is only half size of this one. Yours is truly amazing! Also a pleasure, as always, to read through all the historical details of this fantastic aircraft, and I really appreciate the added pictures of the two Danish Starfighters on an intercept mission over Skagen. I certainly would love to build it in real bricks, but at this scale I wouldn`t know were to keep it.
Thanks, Henrik! I've marvelled over your Starfighter models for a while and they served as an inspiration for my design. My mother's family is from Holstebro and I remember visited Denmark when I was little and travelling to Skagen. It was a powerful place for me, especially when I saw two Saab 35 Drakens flying overhead, which gave me the idea for the two RDAF F-104s! Coincidently, we also tried to visit Legoland in Copenhagen but it was closed. The saddest day ever! Thanks for the support and continued interest in my work.
 I like it 
  April 5, 2018
Absolutely brilliant work Kurt! As you may know, the F-104 is one of my favorite fighter jets from the cold war era, and a very interesting plane for me, because I have worked with maintenance of the radar system of these planes. A real pleasure to see the increase in detailing and shaping compared to my own model which is only half size of this one. Yours is truly amazing! Also a pleasure, as always, to read through all the historical details of this fantastic aircraft, and I really appreciate the added pictures of the two Danish Starfighters on an intercept mission over Skagen. I certainly would love to build it in real bricks, but at this scale I wouldn`t know were to keep it.
 I made it 
  April 5, 2018
Quoting Nick Barrett Wow. So, so good! Awesome write-up as well; it's good to learn something.
Thanks, Nick! I'm glad you like the model and the write-up.
 I like it 
  April 5, 2018
Wow. So, so good! Awesome write-up as well; it's good to learn something.
 I made it 
  April 4, 2018
Quoting Jeremy McCreary Another masterpiece, Kurt! The Enterprise cameo was priceless -- by far my favorite episode in the 1st Star Trek series. The F-104 always struck me as unusually awkward-looking for a fighter, but not in those tiger stripes! That one deserves its own MOCpage. Really.
Thanks, Jeremy! I knew the adult Lego fans would get the Star Trek reference. I've always loved the F-104's shape; its shape struck me as so decidedly purposeful, meant for speed just like a missile. I always thought it didn't get the respect it deserved. As for the tigerstripe camo, that took a while to arrange on the model and then it spent a few hours in Photoshop getting the rough edges, but worth it in the end! Thanks for noticing!
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  April 4, 2018
Another masterpiece, Kurt! The Enterprise cameo was priceless -- by far my favorite episode in the 1st Star Trek series. The F-104 always struck me as unusually awkward-looking for a fighter, but not in those tiger stripes! That one deserves its own MOCpage. Really.
 I made it 
  April 4, 2018
Quoting Marty Fields Brilliant work, Kurt. One of my favorite fighters. Always thought it amazing how it could fly with such tiny wings.
Thanks, Marty! Kelly Johnson knew something about airplane design if he could get a lawn dart to fly!
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  April 4, 2018
Brilliant work, Kurt. One of my favorite fighters. Always thought it amazing how it could fly with such tiny wings.
 I made it 
  April 4, 2018
Quoting BATOH rossi well, only the latest evolution is missing, the F-104 ASA-M remained in service in the AMI until the arrival of the Eurofighter. fantastic work Kurt, as always!
Thanks for the support, BATOH! The upgrades the ASA-M brought were mostly internal. Although significant to the capability and performance of the aircraft, they weren't enough for me to add a second model. Perhaps at a later date I'll add the ASA-M upgrade!
 I made it 
  April 4, 2018
Quoting Gabor Pauler H**y s**t! This is all I can say, as my jaw totally dropped. Had we such a MOC once in a week, MOCPages would not perish...
Thanks, Gabor! I'm glad you like the model and I appreciate the emphatic support. I think if we can all continue to post significant work, we can still carve out a meaningful place in the MOCPages environment for projects like this.
 I made it 
  April 4, 2018
Quoting James Donovan Truly Excellent! I enjoyed all the shots and love the nod to Star Trek with the shot sent to intercept USS ENTERPRISE. fantastic model! one of my favorite aircraft.
Thanks, James! The subtle nod to Star Trek was a must when I began building the model. As a kid and before the internet, any opportunity to get a glimpse of an F-104 in action was special. This wacky Star Trek episode was a favourite because of it!
 I like it 
  April 4, 2018
well, only the latest evolution is missing, the F-104 ASA-M remained in service in the AMI until the arrival of the Eurofighter. fantastic work Kurt, as always!
 I like it 
  April 4, 2018
H**y s**t! This is all I can say, as my jaw totally dropped. Had we such a MOC once in a week, MOCPages would not perish...
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Truly Excellent! I enjoyed all the shots and love the nod to Star Trek with the shot sent to intercept USS ENTERPRISE. fantastic model! one of my favorite aircraft.
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Ron L. Mitchell Iconic!
Thanks, Ron!
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Iconic!
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  April 3, 2018
Quoting Mark B. Absolutely spectacular! What drew my my attention first is the shaping of the inlets - you totally nailed that. Your thorough rendering of all of the variants is impressive. Once again, you've turned one of the "ugly ducklings of the Cold War into a very interesting subject.
Thanks, Mark! The inlet cones and the nose gave me the most headaches, so I'm glad you approve! Although, I'm afraid I have to disagree with you on the "ugly duckling" categorization: I think the F-104 is beautiful and graceful in its simplicity and design. Ever since I could identify airplanes as a kid, the Starfighter has been the epitome of the jet fighter. Always has been, and always will be!
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Absolutely spectacular! What drew my my attention first is the shaping of the inlets - you totally nailed that. Your thorough rendering of all of the variants is impressive. Once again, you've turned one of the "ugly ducklings of the Cold War into a very interesting subject.
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Tom's MOCs Fantastic! BTW, what do you use to create the digital renderings? Are they from a hacked version of LDD, adding so many varieties of landscape backgrounds and insignia? Thx.
Thanks, Tom! I'm glad you like the models. The digital renderings begin with a snapshot taken in LDD as a PNG file. I export that into Photoshop and then add background and livery. The backgrounds of the landscape are mostly from Google Maps or snapshots I take when I'm travelling (clouds and such). I blur the backgrounds and run an "Artistic" filter over them to make them less photo-realistic. The specific livery is taken from airplane model decal sheets that I find or buy online. The rest is just Photoshop manipulation, gradients, masks, etc. to achieve canopy highlights, exhaust, smoke, or anything else that needs editing.
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  April 3, 2018
Fantastic! BTW, what do you use to create the digital renderings? Are they from a hacked version of LDD, adding so many varieties of landscape backgrounds and insignia? Thx.
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Misa Nikolic Another great MOC, love the Star Trek reference. Do you live in Edmonton, by any chance? I want to buy you a beer.
Thanks, Misa! I'm glad you like the Bluejay 4 reference. I don't live in Edmonton but my wife's family lives in Sherwood Park. The next time I'm out that way, I'll let you know. Thanks for the continued support!
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Another great MOC, love the Star Trek reference. Do you live in Edmonton, by any chance? I want to buy you a beer.
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Michiel Norp brilliant fighter build . the F104 had some remarkable nicknames.. not all good
Thanks, Michiel. I'm glad you like the model. The Starfighter was a controversial aircraft with many outstanding characteristics and many fatal (literally) flaws.
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
brilliant fighter build . the F104 had some remarkable nicknames.. not all good
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Zach Sweigart Wow, Kurt! This is an amazing model. I love the care and attention to detail you've invested into all of the different versions and liveries. Fantastic work.
Thanks, Zach! I'm glad you like the model.
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Wow, Kurt! This is an amazing model. I love the care and attention to detail you've invested into all of the different versions and liveries. Fantastic work.
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Clayton Marchetti I just got done checking this out on Flickr. As always a brilliant and thorough job!
Thanks, Clayton! I'm glad you like the model. Too bad the images on MOCPages are so small. This is one area where it could be improved.
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  April 3, 2018
I just got done checking this out on Flickr. As always a brilliant and thorough job!
 I made it 
  April 3, 2018
Quoting Seaman SPb Fantastic work! Very beautiful!
Thanks, Seaman!
 I like it 
  April 3, 2018
Fantastic work! Very beautiful!
 
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