TESTING A 'CENTURY'
As a modern-day test pilot you rarely get the chance to test fly the 'old' classics. In the days of test pilots such as General Chuck Yeager there was a new and wonderful prototype to fly every month. Now they are fewer and further between - even rare; indeed, a test pilot might not get the chance to fly a 'new' type of fighter in his test career. This is why when I was given the opportunity to test fly the F-100 Super Sabre, I jumped at the chance. The F-100 is one of those classics that relied on sheer power and good looks. It was the first of a series of fighters known as the 'Century' Series and it was affectionately known as the 'Hun'. The one that I was lucky enough to flight test (N2011V) was finished in splendid shiny metal and was based at Fort Wayne, Indiana in the USA.
Derived by North-American, as its name suggests, from the F-86 Sabre, the F-100 Super Sabre was the first truly supersonic fighter to enter service anywhere in the world. Its predecessor and other swept-wing contemporaries could only manage supersonic flight in a dive. However, the Super Sabre could manage Mach 1.25 in level flight and was a major step up in top speed for a fighter.
F-100 EARLY HISTORY (back to top)
Design work on a Sabre development began as a private venture in February 1945. It was named after the angle of its wing sweep-back (45 degrees) as the Sabre 45. It bore little resemblance to the F-86
Sabre except in basic configuration and structural design. After two years' of project design, and the increasing capability of the Russians, the USAF started to take an interest in the new design and in November 1951 an order was placed for two prototypes and a production run of 110 aircraft; the designation F-100 was allocated at this time and so was born the first of the 'Century' series of fighters - the 'Hun'.
Productions Starts (back to top)
Out of the USAF contract two YF-100A prototypes were built, the first of which (52-5754) was flown by George Welch, at Edwards AFB, on 25 May 1953. It exceeded the speed of sound in level flight on its first two flights of 55 and 20 minutes! The second prototype (52-5755) was similarly flown on 14 October 1953. These aircraft were powered by the XJ57-P-7 turbo jets. To counter the Mig 15 threat, progression into production was rapid and the first production aircraft flew on 29 October 1953 (F-100A, 52-5756), again piloted by George Welch. On the same day the first YF-100A, flown by Frank Everest, set a world speed record of 755.149 mph (1215 kph). In September 1954 the 479th Fighter Day Wing, of Tactical Air Command, started equipping with the new fighter. The initial production aircraft differed from the prototypes in having a shorter fin and rudder of increased chord. The 9700 pounds static thrust, J57-P-7 engine was used for these early aircraft.
Early Problems (back to top)
Unfortunately, the urgency to put the aircraft into service meant that the aircraft's testing was not fully complete before the first squadron delivery. In the rush there was a serious miscalculation about the directional stability of the aircraft, which ultimately resulted in the loss of four aircraft during the first year of testing. After George Welch was killed in the crash of an F-100A the entire fleet was grounded on 12 October 1954. The decision was quickly made to re-shape the fin and rudder to a design that resembled the original YF-100A surfaces. Deliveries of the modified F-100As began from the Los Angeles factory in the spring of 1954.
Fighter To Fighter-bomber (back to top)
It soon became clear that the F-100A would not be an air superiority fighter in the tradition of the P51 and F-86. It was at this point (1953) that the decision was made to develop the aircraft as a fighter bomber, the first of which (NA-214) was ordered in December 1953 as an F-100C. The first production F-100C flew on 17 January 1955 piloted by Al White. On 20 August 1955 this aircraft established a new world speed record of 822.135 mph (1323 kph), flown by Colonel Harold Hanes, USAF. This was the first 'official' record above Mach 1, because international regulations did not allow air-launched flights, thereby excluding General Chuck Yeager in the Bell X1. Operational experience and design refinement led to further improvements in the form of the F-100D (NA-223) which first flew on 24 January 1956 piloted by Dan Darnell.
Time For A Two Seater (back to top)
The first two-seater was flown on 6 August 1956 with the designation TF-100C (54-1966) and it served as the prototype for the F-100F. The F-100F (56-3725) first flew on 7 March 1957, again piloted by Al White. In 1959 production of the two-seaters stopped after 339 had been built. The introduction of the two-seater did little to stem the F-100s accident rate, and in fact over one quarter of the F-100Fs were destroyed by accidents!
Basically, the two-seat F-100F is a stretched F-100D. It retained the air superiority and fighter-bomber combat capabilities and was used as a pilot trainer. It carried the same conventional weapons as the D model, but in lesser quantities. Bombs of the 1000 (4), 750 (6) and 500 (6) pound classes could be carried on the wing stations. Up to thirty-eight 2.75-inch rockets could be carried in pods. The maximum external load was 5000 pounds as compared to 7040 pounds for the D model. The same special stores carried on the F-100D could be delivered by the F-100F. A centreline station for such stores was provided for all F-100Fs. The outboard guns were deleted, and the two remaining 20mm cannons were supplied with 175 rounds of ammunition each instead of 200 rounds, which the previous models carried. Some of the F models were modified to carry Sidewinder air-to-air and Bullpup air-to-ground missiles. Fuel capacity, both internal and external, was the same as the F-100Ds.
SUCCESS IN NUMBERS (back to top)
At its peak the Super Sabre equipped a total of 16 USAF Wings and 4 of those saw service in Vietnam, starting in 1966 and ending in 1971, flying over 360,000 missions! It also equipped the USAF's Thunderbirds Display Team for 13 years. Several other nations also used the 'Hun' including the Chinese, the Turks, the Dutch and the French. F-100 production ended in October 1959 after a total of 2,294 aircraft had been built. The aircraft last saw active service in the US on 10 November 1979 with the 181st Tactical Fighter Group (Air National Guard) at Hulman Field, Indiana.
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