The CF-104 Starfighter is a Cold War Era fighter that is part of an Air Force exhibit that pays tribute to the Canadians who stood ready to defend Canada throughout the Cold War.
The CF-104 in the Cold War Hangars at The Military Museums made its first flight on the 2nd of October, 1962 at Cartierville, Quebec. It was the 146th CF-104 of the 200 single-seat aircraft ordered by the RCAF to fulfill its NATO commitment in Europe. After several test flights and troubleshooting it was Taken On Strength by the RCAF in July, 1963.
The aircraft was then partially disassembled by removing the wings and the aft section and on December 12, transported by C-130 Hercules to #2 Fighter Wing, Grostenquin, France where it was assigned to 430 Squadron. A few months later #2 Wing was closed and 846 was transferred to #1 Fighter Wing, Marville France where it was flown in a photo reconnaissance role by both 439 and 441 Squadrons.
In March 1967, 1Wing Marville was closed and all assets and personnel were relocated to the new 1Wing at Lahr in Southern Germany. In 1971, Canada sold the aircraft to the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) as part of a force reduction as Canada moved from the Photo Reconnaissance and Nuclear Strike roles to conventional operations.
Renumbered as R-846 the aircraft was modified to meet the RDAF air-to-air requirements. In 1984, 846 was retired and for the next 16 years spent its days on display in a museum in Billund, Denmark, then into storage when the museum closed.
The CF-104 acquired by the AFMSA
In 2010, Steve Alex, an aircraft broker in Maine, purchased the aircraft and transported it to the US. The aircraft was then purchased by the Air Force Museum Society of Alberta in 2012 and transported by truck to Calgary in June 2013 where an extensive restoration (5,000 hours) took place. The aircraft has been restored to its original look as it was first seen in the skies over Europe.
Starfighter history with the RCAF
There is a significant historical connection between Albertans and the Starfighter. In 1960, RCAF Station, Cold Lake, Alberta, was chosen as the training base for the CF-104s and for 23 years the unique look and sound of the aircraft became familiar to many Albertans.
Canadair built 200 single-seat aircraft (12701-12900) during the 1960's. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation of Palmdale, California built 38 dual-seat aircraft (12638-12668) to provide the RCAF commitment to NATO during the Cold War.
There were 113 Canadian aircraft lost during the 24-year era of the Starfighter. 37 pilots lost their lives while flying the CF-104, only four fatal crashes were due to aircraft system failures. The principal reason for these crashes was due to bird strikes or other factors resulting in engine failure.
Most crashes were from the nature of Canada’s NATO role which necessitated flying at high speeds at extreme low levels. Combined with the poor visibility of European skies this resulted in many aircraft being involved in controlled flight into terrain accidents.
Although the Starfighter was designed in the US as a high speed, high altitude interceptor, the Canadian role in NATO was vastly different. From 1961 until 1971 the aircraft was used in two different roles; as a nuclear strike aircraft and as a photo reconnaissance platform.
After Canada left the nuclear age, the Starfighters were converted to conventional attack with the addition of a 20mm cannon and various conventional bombs. All these roles required high speed flight at very low levels between 200 and 500 feet above ground.
CF-104 - Starfighter
- Crew: 1-2
- Empty Weight - 6,300 Kg
- Maximum Takeoff Weight - 12,860 Kg
- Fuel Load - 5,140 Litres
- Powerplant - Orenda GE J79-OEL7
- Thrust - 10,000 lbs, with Afterburner - 15,800 lbs
This was the most advanced fighter jet engine of its day. With afterburner on, it could consume all fuel onboard in under 17 minutes.
- Maximum Speed - 1,550mph or 2,500 km/h, MACH 2
- Service Ceiling - 58,000 ft ASL
In 1967, Wing Commander Bud White set a Canadian altitude record of 100,100 feet in a slightly modified flight-test aircraft. Proving that the Starfighter was indeed a rocket ship.
- Guns - Vulcan M61A1 multi-barrel 20mm Cannon (5,000 rounds per minute)
- CRV-7 rockets, CBU 1, BL-755 and Mk82 500lb bombs
- MK28RE 70 kiloton nuclear weapon (US controlled)