North American F-100 Super Sabre: Aircraft profile
The F-100 was the USAF's first operational aircraft capable of flying faster than the speed of sound (760 mph) in level flight.
It made its initial flight on May 25, 1953, and the first production aircraft was completed in October 1953. North American built 2,294 F-100s before production ended in 1959.
Designed originally to destroy enemy aircraft in aerial combat, the F-100 later became a fighter-bomber. It made its combat debut during the Vietnam Conflict where it was assigned the task of attacking such targets as bridges, river barges, road junctions and areas being used by infiltrating enemy soldiers.
The F-100C, which made its first flight in 1955, featured such advances as an in-flight refueling system, provisions for extra fuel drop tanks and bombs under the wings and an improved electronic bombing system.
Span: 38 ft. 10 in.
Length: 53 ft. 11 in. (with pitot boom extended); 47 ft. (with boom folded)
Height: 15 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 36,549 lbs. maximum
Armament: Four M39 20mm cannons and 42 2.75-inch rockets or 5,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J57-P-21 of 16,000 lbs. thrust with afterburner
Maximum speed: 900 mph
Cruising speed: 600 mph
Range: 1,350 miles
Service ceiling: 51,000 ft.
Source: US Air Force
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard (ANG) until 1979. As the first of the Century Series collection of USAF jet fighters, it was capable of supersonic speed in level flight, and made extensive use of titanium throughout the aircraft.
The F-100 was originally designed as a higher performance follow-on to the F-86 Sabre air superiority fighter. Adapted as a fighter bomber, the F-100 would be supplanted by the Mach 2 class F-105 Thunderchief for strike missions over North Vietnam. The F-100 flew extensively over South Vietnam as the Air Force's primary close air support jet until replaced by the more efficient subsonic A-7 Corsair II The F-100 also served in several NATO air forces and with other US allies. In its later life, it was often referred to as "the Hun," a shortened version of "one hundred."
Design and development
In January 1951, North American Aviation delivered an unsolicited proposal for a supersonic day fighter to the United States Air Force. Named Sabre 45 because of its 45° wing sweep, it represented an evolution of the F-86 Sabre. The mockup was inspected 7 July 1951 and after over a hundred modifications, the new aircraft was accepted as the F-100 on 30 November 1951. On 3 January 1952, the USAF ordered two prototypes followed by 23 F-100As in February and an additional 250 F-100As in August.
The YF-100A first flew on 25 May 1953, seven months ahead of schedule. It reached Mach 1.05 in spite of being fitted with a de-rated XJ57-P-7 engine. The second prototype flew on 14 October 1953, followed by the first production F-100A on 9 October 1953. The USAF operational evaluation from November 1953 to December 1955 found the new fighter to have superior performance but declared it not ready for widescale deployment due to various deficiencies in the design. These findings were subsequently confirmed during Project Hot Rod operational suitability tests. Particularly troubling was the yaw instability in certain regimes of flight which produced inertia coupling. The aircraft could develop a sudden yaw and roll which would happen too fast for the pilot to correct and would quickly overstress the aircraft structure to disintegration. It was under these conditions that North American's chief test pilot, George Welch, was killed while dive testing an early-production F-100A on 12 October 1954. A related control problem stemmed from handling characteristics of the swept wing at high angles of attack. As the aircraft approached stall speeds, loss of lift on the tips of the wings caused a violent pitch-up. This particular phenomenon (which could easily be fatal at low altitude where there was insufficient time to recover) became known as the "Sabre dance".
Nevertheless, delays in the F-84F Thunderstreak program pushed the Tactical Air Command to order the raw F-100A into service. TAC also requested that future F-100s should be fighter-bombers, with the capability of delivering nuclear bombs.
The F-107 was a follow-on Mach 2 development of the F-100 with the air intake moved above and behind the cockpit. It was not developed in favor of the F-105 Thunderchief, which would become noted for its weaknesses in close-in air combat.
The F-100A officially entered USAF service on 27 September 1954 with 479th Fighter Wing at George AFB. By 10 November 1954, the F-100As suffered six major accidents due to flight instability, structural failures, and hydraulic system failures, prompting the Air Force to ground the entire fleet until February 1955. The 479th finally became operational in September 1955. Due to ongoing problems, the Air Force began phasing out the F-100A in 1958, with the last aircraft leaving active duty in 1961. By that time, 47 aircraft were lost in major accidents. Escalating tension due to construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 forced the USAF to recall the F-100As into active service in early 1962. The aircraft was finally retired in 1970.
The TAC request for a fighter-bomber was addressed with the F-100C which flew in March 1954 and entered service on 14 July 1955 with 450th Fighter Wing, Foster AFB. Operational testing in 1955 revealed that the F-100C was at best an interim solution, sharing all the vices of the F-100A. The uprated J57-P-21 engine boosted performance but continued to suffer from compressor stalls. On a positive note, the F-100C was considered an excellent platform for nuclear toss bombing because of its high top speed. The inertia coupling problem was more or less addressed with installation of a yaw damper in the 146th F-100C, later retrofitted to earlier aircraft. A pitch damper was added starting with the 301st F-100C, at a cost of US$10,000 per aircraft.
The addition of "wet" hardpoints meant the F-100C could carry a pair of 275 US gal (1,040 L) and a pair of 200 US gal (770 L) drop tanks. However, the combination caused loss of directional stability at high speeds and the four tanks were soon replaced by a pair of 450 US gal (1,730 L) drop tanks. The 450s proved scarce and expensive and were often replaced by smaller 335 US gal (1,290 L) tanks. Most troubling to TAC was the fact, that, as of 1965, only 125 F-100Cs were capable of utilizing all non-nuclear weapons in the Air Force inventory, particularly cluster bombs and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. By the time the F-100C was phased out in June 1970, 85 had been lost in major accidents.
The definitive F-100D aimed to address the offensive shortcomings of the F-100C by being primarily a ground attack aircraft with secondary fighter capability. To this effect, the aircraft was fitted with autopilot, upgraded avionics, and, starting with the 184th production aircraft, the Sidewinder capability. In 1959, 65 aircraft were modified to also fire the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground missile. To further address the dangerous flight characteristics, the wing span was extended by 26 inches (66 cm) and the vertical tail area was increased by 27%.
The first F-100D (54-2121) flew on 24 January 1956, piloted by Daniel Darnell. It entered service on 29 September 1956 with 405th Fighter Wing at Langley AFB. The aircraft suffered from reliability problems with the constant speed drive which provides constant-frequency current to electrical systems. In fact, the drive was so unreliable that USAF required it to have its own oil system to minimize damage in case of failure. Landing gear and brake parachute malfunctions claimed a number of aircraft, and the refueling probes had a tendency to break away during high speed maneuvers. Numerous post-production fixes created such a diversity of capabilities between individual aircraft that by 1965 around 700 F-100Ds underwent High Wire modifications to standardize the weapon systems. High Wire modifications took 60 days per aircraft at a total cost of US$150 million. In 1966, Combat Skyspot program fitted some F-100Ds with an X band radar transmitter to allow for ground-directed bombing in inclement weather or at night.
In 1967, the USAF began a structural reinforcement program to extend the aircraft's service life from the designed 3,000 flying hours to 7,000. Over 500 F-100Ds were lost, predominantly in accidents. After one aircraft suffered wing failure, particular attention was paid to lining the wings with external bracing strips. During the Vietnam War, combat losses constituted as many as 50 aircraft per year. On 7 June 1957, an F-100D fitted with an Astrodyne booster rocket making 150,000 lbf (667.2 kN) of thrust successfully performed a zero length launch. The capability was incorporated into late-production aircraft. After a major accident, the USAF Thunderbirds reverted from F-105 Thunderchief to the F-100D which they operated from 1964 until it was replaced by the F-4 Phantom II in 1968.
The F-100 was the subject of many modification programs over the course of its service. Many of these were improvements to electronics, structural strengthening, and projects to improve ease of maintenance. One of the more interesting of these was the replacement of the original afterburner of the J-57 engine with the more advanced afterburners from retired Convair F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors. This modification changed the appearance of the aft end of the F-100, doing away with the original "petal-style" exhaust. The afterburner modification started in the 1970s and solved maintenance problems with the old type as well as operational problems, including compressor stall problems.
The F-100F two-seat trainer entered service in 1958. It received many of the same weapons and airframe upgrades as the F-100D, including the new afterburners. By 1970, 74 F-100Fs were lost in major accidents.
By 1972, the F-100 was mostly phased out of USAF active service and turned over to tactical fighter groups and squadrons in the Air National Guard. In Air National Guard units, the F-100 was eventually replaced by the F-4 Phantom II, A-7 Corsair II, and A-10 Thunderbolt II, with the last F-100 retiring in 1979. In foreign service, Danish and Turkish F-100s soldiered on until 1982.
After Super Sabres were withdrawn from service, a large number were converted into remote-controlled drones (QF-100) under the USAF Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) program for use as targets for various anti-aircraft weapons, including missile-carrying fighters and fighter-interceptors, with FSAT operations being conducted primarily at Tyndall AFB, FL. A few F-100s also found their way into civilian hands, primarily with defense contractors supporting USAF and NASA flight test activities at Edwards AFB, CA.
Project High Wire
High Wire was a modernization program for selected F-100Cs, Ds and Fs. It consisted of two modifications:
1. Electrical rewiring upgrade
2. Heavy maintenance and IRAN upgrade.
Rewiring upgrade operation consisted of replacing old wiring and harnesses with improved maintainable designs. Heavy maintenance and IRAN (inspect and repair as necessary) included new kits, modifications, standardized configurations, repairs, replacements and complete refurbishment.
This project required all new manuals (TOs) and incremented (i.e. -85 to -86) block numbers. All later production models, especially the F models included earlier High Wire mods. New manuals included colored illustrations. All manuals will have the Roman numeral (I) added after the aircraft number (i.e. T.O. 1F-100D(I)-1S-120, 12 January 1970).
The F-100D arrived in Southeast Asia in 1962 and began flying combat missions, used primarily for close air support and ground attacks within South Vietnam.
On 18 August 1964 the first F-100D to be shot down by ground fire was being piloted by 1st Lt Colin A. Clark, of the 428th TFS; Clark ejected and survived. On 4 April 1965 an F-100 piloted by Capt Donald W. Kilgus shot down a North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17, using cannon fire. Although not officially confirmed, this represented the first aerial victory "kill" by US forces in Vietnam.
The Hun was also deployed as a two-seat F-100F model which saw service as a "Fast-FAC" or "Misty-Fac" (forward air controller) in North Vietnam, spotting targets for other fighter-bomber aircraft and conducting SAR (Search and Rescue) missions as part of the top-secret Commando Sabre or "Misty" Operation based out of Phu Cat Airbase. It was also the first Wild Weasel SEAD aircraft whose specially-trained crews were tasked with locating and destroying enemy air defenses. Four F-100F Wild Weasel Is were fitted with an APR-25 vector radar homing and warning (RHAW) receivers, IR-133 panoramic receivers with greater detection range, and KA-60 panoramic cameras. The RHAW could detect early-warning radars and, more importantly, emissions from SA-2 Guideline tracking and guidance systems. These aircraft deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand in November 1965, and began flying combat missions with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing in December. They were joined by three more aircraft in February 1966. All Wild Weasel F-100Fs were eventually modified to fire the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.
By war's end, 242 F-100 Super Sabres had been lost in Vietnam, as the F-100 was progressively replaced by the F-4 Phantom II and the F-105 Thunderchief. The Hun had logged 360,283 combat sorties during the war and its operations came to end on July 31, 1971.
* The first operational aircraft in United States Air Force inventory capable of exceeding the speed of sound in level flight.
* On 29 October 1953, the first YF-100A prototype set a world speed record of 755.149 mph (656.207 knots, 1,215.295 km/h) at low altitude.
* On 20 August 1955, an F-100C set the first supersonic world speed record of 822.135 mph (714.416 knots, 1,232.098 km/h).
* On 4 September 1955, an F-100C won the Bendix Trophy, covering 2,235 miles (2,020 nm, 3,745 km) at an average speed of 610.726 mph (530.706 knots, 982.868 km/h).
* On 26 December 1956, two F-100Ds became the first-ever aircraft to successfully perform buddy refueling.
* On 13 May 1957, three F-100Cs set a new world distance record for single-engine aircraft by covering the 6,710 mile (5,835 nm, 10,805 km) distance from London to Los Angeles in 14 hours and 4 minutes. The flight was accomplished using inflight refueling.
* On 7 August 1959, two F-100Fs became the first-ever jet fighters to fly over the North Pole.
* The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds operated the F-100C from 1956 until 1964. After briefly converting to the F-105 Thunderchief, the team flew F-100Ds from July 1964 until November 1968, before converting to the F-4E Phantom II.
Prototype, later designated TF-100A; two built.
9 test unmanned drone version: 2 D-models, 1 YQF-100F F-model,see DF-100F, and 6 other test versions.
Single-seat day fighter; 203 built.
RF-100A (Slick Chick)
F-100A modified for photoreconnaissance, six modified in 1954 (53-1545,1546,1547,1548,55-1551,55-1554). Unarmed, with camera installations in lower fuselage bay. Retired from USAF service in 1958. Four transferred to Republic of China Air Force, retired in 1960.
See North American YF-107
Proposed interceptor version of F-100B, did not advance beyond mockup.
Additional fuel tanks in the wings, fighter-bomber capability, probe-and-drogue refueling capability, uprated J57-P-21 engine on late production aircraft. First flight March 1954; 476 built.
One F-100C converted into a two-seat training aircraft.
Single-seat fighter-bomber, more advanced avionics, larger wing and tail fin, landing flaps. First flight 24 January 1956; 1,274 built.
Two-seat training version, armament decreased from four to two cannon. First flight 7 March 1957, 339 built.
This designation was given to one F-100F that was used as drone director, s/n 56-3984.
Three F-100Fs used for test purposes, the prefix N indicates that modifications prevented return to regular operational service.
Specific Danish designation given to 14 F-100Fs exported to Denmark in 1974, in order to distinguish these from the 10 F-100Fs delivered 1959-1961.
Another 209 D and F models were ordered and converted to unmanned radio-controled FSAT (Full Scale Aerial Target) drone and drone directors for testing and destruction by modern air-to-air missiles used by current Air Force fighter jets.
Unbuilt all-weather export version for Japan.
Unbuilt variant with a J57-P-55 engine.
Unbuilt version with simplified avionics.
Proposed French-built F-100F with Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engine.
Data from Quest for Performance
* Crew: 1
* Length: 50 ft (15.2 m)
* Wingspan: 38 ft 9 in (11.81 m)
* Height: 16 ft 2¾ in (4.95 m)
* Wing area: 400 ft² (37 m²)
* Empty weight: 21,000 lb (9,500 kg)
* Loaded weight: 28,847 lb (13,085 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 34,832 lb (15,800 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney J57-P-21/21A turbojet
o Dry thrust: 10,200 lbf (45 kN)
o Thrust with afterburner: 16,000 lbf (71 kN)
* *Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0130
* Drag area: 5.0 ft² (0.46 m²)
* Aspect ratio: 3.76
* Maximum speed: 750 kn (864 mph, 1,390 km/h)
* Range: 1,733 NM (1,995 mi, 3,210 km)
* Service ceiling 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
* Rate of climb: 22,400 ft/min (114 m/s)
* Wing loading: 72.1 lb/ft² (352 kg/m²)
* Thrust/weight: 0.55
* Lift-to-drag ratio: 13.9
* Guns: 4× 20 mm (0.787 in) M39 cannon
o 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or
o AGM-12 Bullpup
* Bombs: 7,040 lb (3,190 kg) of weapons, including
o Conventional bombs or
o Mark 7 nuclear bomb or
o Mk 28 nuclear bomb or
o Mk 38 nuclear bomb or
o Mk 43 nuclear bomb or
o Mk 57 nuclear bomb or
o Mk 61 nuclear bomb nuclear weapons
* Minneapolis-Honeywell MB-3 automatic pilot
* AN/AJB-1B low-altitude bombing system
* AN/APR-26 rearward radar warning
More photos: North American F-100 Super Sabre photo gallery
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