Tuesday, December 17, 2013

F - 100

North American F-100 Super Sabre

North American F-100 Super Sabre

First Flight:                       1953, May 25 (prototype)
Type:                                 single-seat fighter-bomber
                                          Pratt & Whitney J57-P21 turbojet
                                          7718kg / 17,000lb afterburning thrust
                                          20mm Pontiac M39E cannon (4)
                                                          200 rounds per gun
                                          3402kg / 7,500lb external armaments:
                                                          Bombs – Mk80 series, M117 bombs
                                                          Rocket pods and various missiles
                                                          AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM (2)
                                                          AGM-12C Bullpup B tactical air-to-surface missile
                Length:                 15.09m / 49ft 6in
                Height:                  4.95m / 16ft 3in
                                Wingspan:          11.81m / 38ft 9in
                                Wing Sweep:     45o
                                Wing Area:          35.77m2 / 385ft2
                Empty:                  9534kg / 21,000lb
                Combat:               13,633kg / 30,061lb
                Max Take-off:      15,813kg / 34,832lb
                Internal:                4500kg / 9512lb
                External:              4050kg / 8560lb – 2 drop tanks of various sizes
                Max Speed:        1390kph / 864mph
                Ceiling:              13,725m / 45,000ft
                Range:                3210km / 1995 miles with external drop tanks
                                            2415km / 1,500 combat range
                Climb:                4877m / 16,000ft per minute
                                          10,670m / 35,000ft @ combat weight = 3 min 30 sec

Larger fin on left added needed stability

How convenient it would have been for everyone if engineers could move a few things around on the proven F-86 Sabre and come up with the Air Force’s first truly supersonic fighter.  They certainly tried.  The problem was they could never overcome the liability of the Sabre’s 30o swept wing.  The F-86 just wasn’t going to make the grade so North American, makers of the F-86 and the legendary P-51 Mustang, was just going to have to clear off its drawing boards and start over from scratch.  They came up with a jet that was all new.  For starts, it had a 45o sweep to its wing.  The pilot who first took the plane out bet someone two beers that it would break the sound barrier on its initial flight.  He won his bet. 

CH-53, like one here, retrieved down jets in Vietnam

The F-100 was fast – certainly meeting the Air Force’s requirements of a fighter that would go supersonic while sustaining level flight.  The Soviet counterpart to this new Super Sabre would actually go faster but it had a different design philosophy.  Russian engineers were willing to sacrifice range for speed and maneuverability and they got what they wanted in this third generation, light-weight MiG jet.  The F-100 earned its respect, as it turns out, as a rugged ground attack aircraft.  It literally did some serious heavy lifting with more than a couple tons of ordinance hanging from its wings. 

F-100D in ground attack mission over Vietnam

The ultimate expression of this fighter-bomber was the F-100D and it slung a lot of mud striking targets in the jungles of Vietnam.  People will always talk about the treacherous missions that Phantom and Thud pilots took in Operation Rolling Thunder north of the DMZ.  Rightly so – these pilots took great risks and a lot of these guys didn’t return home, not for quite a while… some never.  Yet, what do we know of the F-100’s role in that war?  Fact is the F-100 flew more combat missions in Vietnam than any other aircraft.  In the space of five years – 1964 to 1969 – the four wings of Super Sabres stationed in Vietnam flew more sorties that 50,000 P-51 Mustangs did in all of World War II.  That’s 360,000 sorties if you’re keeping count.  It cost the Air Force 186 planes, mostly due to ground fire south of the DMZ.  The Super Sabre just didn’t have the needed range like the newer F-4s and F-105s.

Super Sabre drops Snake-eye Retarded Bomb

Most pilots liked flying the F-100.  It was robust, handling was decent and its systems were generally reliable.  It did have its faults, as you would expect.  The first generation of these aircraft, the F-100A, had a nasty tendency to break up in mid-air.  The aircraft was grounded in 1954.  It turns out that pulling out of a hard dive created stability problems that wrenched apart the airframe.  The problem was solved by giving the jet a larger fin and longer wings.  One problem that was never adequately addressed was the tricky nature of landing the plane.  The pilot had to keep his focus or risk stalling his jet or have it roll at a very inopportune time.  You had to come in fast and rely on your drag chute to keep from running off the runway.  It’s been described as a controlled crash.  Sounds like a carrier landing, doesn’t it.  Think about this: there were 1274 F-100Ds produced and over 500 of them were lost to accidents.  You just can’t sugarcoat a fact such as this.  No one tries to – they just don’t talk about it.  Maybe a lot has to do with the difficulty in keeping them maintained.  It’s the Cold War.  Everyone takes risks.  Stuff happens.

Jet tankers soon replaced slow props show here

These F-100s have their dive brakes deployed

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