Lockheed F-104G Starfighter page
Even as a child I was fascinated by the Starfighter, it really was the classical fighter aircraft. Frequently you could see him in the news or read about it, well not all was good news (the ones that crashed stayed in ones memory...) but as an aircraft lover you could not ignore it. Eventually this aircraft played a mayor role in Belgian aeronautical history and did so for most of the rest of Europe too. Eventually I decided a walkaround was needed. However a simple walkaround or even a superwalkaround would not do justice to this aircraft, that is why I made a dossier of it!
This will be one of the biggest Superwalkarounds ever but not only that! For once I will not only use my own photographs but also those of friends photographers. That is why the name of each photographer will be visible on each photograph. Actually this is the only method to link each photograph to each photographer or event.
In the first instalment you can find 538 photographs in the first six parts of the superwalkaround. Of these 445 were made by myself and some 93 by Luc Janssen who was so kind to make these available for use on my website. Many of these details are so rare you could probably not find them anywhere else so sit back and enjoy the sheer number of details. Just remember al these photographs are copyrighted and you have no permission to use them in any publication or anywhere else without written permission by me!
What's next? I still have a large amount of slides and digital files to process. Slides need to be scanned and processed and digital files need their own processing before they can be used in the walkaround. How much.... 4 to 500 files at the moment to sift through. How many will make it to the site who knows? And there may be some surprises I did not mention just yet... So you need to be patient and come back regularly to see if there are new parts posted!
This site is not a history site but for this subject I asked my good friend Peter Gordts to write a short history of the Starfighter in Belgium service. He did this in his own style based on a a profound knowledge of the subject and I really thank him for this!
From now on you can leave a message in the Guestbook on top of the page!
Gosselies, Thursday April 11, 19631. After the usual speeches and far from usual flying displays by Major ‘Bobby’ Bladt and Captain ‘Pete’ Tonet, No. 1 Wing Commander Flying Lieutenant-Colonel ‘Steve’ Cailleau sets off in the Belgian Air Force’s first operational F-104G. Their destination is Beauvechain air base, near Louvain. The airplane in question, FX04 (C/n 9019, SOC 1977, now in the collection of The Golden Falcon Museum at Beauvechain), was not the BAF’s first Starfighter. In February and earlier in April FX01, FX03 and FX02 had already been delivered to No. 350 Squadron.
These four aircraft were preceded by yet another ‘Belgian’ Starfighter, in the Netherlands... The ‘MTU F-104’, joint Dutch-Belgian Mobile Training Unit based at Twenthe Air Base, saw air force personal through their conversion to the new type. It had at its disposal a flight simulator and an instructional airframe, this being FX-1. Of importance is the hyphen, which was never used in any of the markings on BAF’s Starfighters.
This ‘first Belgian’ one-o-four, spectacularly presented in bad weather to the press on Monday December 4, 1961 as the very first F-104 assembled in Europe, was in fact build and test flown at Lockheed in Palmdale, California. It was disassembled and transported by freighter to Belgium, where it was re-assembled as ‘pattern airframe’ by and for SABCA-Fairey in Gosselies. One Lockheed issued photograph of FX-1 streaking past the camera at low level clearly shows the Belgian roundels on the underside of the wings2. This aeroplane (C/n unknown), which also sported a big-sized Belgian flag on its fin, isn’t to be mistaken for FX01 (with a zero in stead of the hyphen), taken on charge as C/n 9016 at Gosselies and issued to No. 350 Squadron on February 14, 1963 as the Belgian Air Force’s real first Starfighter.
The choice of the Starfighter as the BAF’s ‘new generation’ jet interceptor in 1959-1960, undoubtedly also motivated by similar economical and political reasons as in the other concerned NATO states, has been elaborated in some excellent publications. Suffice to say that the hundred3 F-104Gs received by the BAF were all locally assembled between 1963 and 1965 by the so-called West Group, part of a multinational programme combining aircraft production plants in West Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium (plus Italy later-on).
West Group comprised SABCA-Fairey, responsible for airframes and final assembly, Fabrique Nationale (FN) for the license built engines and MBLE, ACEC as well as Bell Telephone for the electronic components. The twelve TF-104Gs in the BAF’s inventory were built in the USA by Lockheed between 1964 and 1968. The ‘mother company’ in California also cut the metal for the first thirteen Starfighters assembled in Belgium. These, plus the first two one-o-fours completely manufactured by West Group (C/n 9001 to 9015) were delivered between 1962 and 1963 to the German Air Force. In total 87 Starfighters for the Bundesluftwaffe and Marineflieger would be assembled in Belgium, using parts ‘Made in Germany’: radomes, air scoops, ducts and aft fuselage sections by Siebel; nose landing gear by Dornier and dive brakes, main landing gear doors, horizontal stabilizers, fins and rudders manufactured by Heinkel.
Well before the first delivery of its Starfighters the BAF began conversion of its first pilots to the new and exciting ‘weapons system’. At first only fly-boys with at least 2,500 flying hours on jets were allowed to convert to the ‘missile with a man in it’. This impossible rule had soon to be relaxed to a more reasonable 1,200 hours experience. The ‘happy few’ converted to the F-104 in the US, the majority of the Belgian pilots – after a theoretical course in Twenthe, the Netherlands – together with their Dutch colleagues in Ausbildungsgruppe/WaSLw 10 in Nörvenich and Jever.
1. Date given by Bob Verhegghen in Starfighter. De geschiedenis van de Lockheed F-104G in dienst van de NATO, Uitgeverij 17, Brussel, 1982, page 23, and confirmed by a contemporary article Testpiloten van de F 104 G (source unknown). Jan Govaerts, former Zipper driver and renowned specialist on the history of the Starfighter in the BAF, consistently mentions April 18, 1963 in his publications.
2. Arthur Reed, F-104 Starfighter, Modern Combat Aircraft 9, Ian Allan, Shepperton, 1981, page 92.
3. In fact 101 Starfighters were built/assembled by West-Group. C/n 9058 (destined to become FX27) was destroyed after a flame out during its pre-delivery flight on November 21, 1963. SABCA test pilot Bernard Neefs managed to eject safely. In June 1964 a ‘second’ FX27 was taken on charge at Gosselies (C/n 9082)
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