15 October 1955: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Lieutenant Gordon L. (“Gordo”) Gray, Jr., United States Navy, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record For Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers when he flew a pre-production Douglas Aircraft Company YA4D-1 Skyhawk light attack bomber, Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (Bu. No.) 137820, to an average speed of 1,118.7 kilometers per hour (695.128 miles per hour).¹
The Douglas A4D-1 Skyhawk is a single-place, single-engine, delta-winged light attack bomber designed for operation from aircraft carriers. It is 39 feet, 4 inches (11.989 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 6 inches (8.382 meters) and overall height of 15 feet (4.572 meters). Its empty weight is 8,400 pounds (3,810.2 kilograms). It was powered by a Curtiss-Wright J65-W-2, a licensed-production version of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire axial flow turbojet engine, which had a 13-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. It produced 7,200 pounds of thrust (32.03 kilonewtons).
The A4D was in production from 1956 to 1979. 2,960 one- and two-place aircraft were built. The Skyhawk remained in service with the United States Navy until 2003.
10 September 1956: North American Aviation test pilot Joel Robert (“Bob”) Baker made the first flight of the F-107A-NA 55-5118, a pre-production tactical fighter bomber, reaching a speed of Mach 1.03. On landing the drogue parachute did not deploy and due to the high speed on rollout, the nose gear strut collapsed, causing minor damage to the new aircraft.
The F-107A was designed as a Mach 2+ fighter bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The plan to carry a Mark 7 bomb in a centerline recess in the aircraft’s belly resulted in the radical appearance of the airplane, with the engine intake mounted above and behind the cockpit.
Based on the F-100 Super Sabre, it was originally designated F-100B, but this was changed to F-107A prior to the first flight.
The North American Aviation F-107A was a single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter bomber. It was equipped with a very sophisticated stability augmentation system. The F-107A was 61 feet, 10 inches (18.847 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 7 inches (11.151 meters) and height of 19 feet, 8 inches (5.994 meters). Its empty weight was 22,696 pounds (10.295 kilograms) and had a maximum takeoff weight of 41,537 pounds (18,841 kilograms).
The airplane was powered by a Pratt & Whitney YJ75-P-11 afterburning turbojet which produced a maximum 24,500 pounds of thrust (108.98 kilonewtons).
This gave the F-107A a maximum speed of 890 miles per hour (1,432 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 1,295 miles per hour (2,084 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters). It could climb at an initial rate of 39,900 feet per minute (202.7 meters per second) and had a service ceiling of 53,200 feet (16,215 meters).
The Mark 7 was a variable-yield fission bomb that could be pre-set to detonate with ranges between 8 and 61 kilotons. It weighed approximately 1,700 pounds (771 kilograms).
The second F-107A, 55-5119, was the weapons test aircraft and was armed with four 20mm M39 cannon with 200 rounds per gun.
The F-107A was in competition with Republic’s F-105 Thunderchief, which was selected by the Air Force for production. Only three F-107A test aircraft were built.
After Air Force testing, two F-107s, 55-5118 and 55-5120, were turned over to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station for use as research aircraft. John Barron (“Jack”) McKay was assigned as the project pilot. 55-5118 made only 4 flights for NACA before being grounded. 55-5120 made 42 flights.
Today, 55-5118 is at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. Its sister ship, 55-5119, is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The third airplane, 55-5120, was damaged on takeoff with test pilot Scott Crossfield in the cockpit, 1 September 1959. It was not repaired.
3 September 1954: At the Dayton Air Show, being held for the first time at the James M. Cox Municipal Airport, Major John L. (“Jack”) Armstrong, U.S. Air Force, flew his North American Aviation F-86H-1-NH Sabre, 52-1998, to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 500 Kilometers Without Payload, averaging 1,045.206 kilometers per hour (649.461 miles per hour). ¹
The North American Aviation F-86H was a fighter-bomber variant of the famous Sabre Jet day fighter. It was equipped with a much more powerful General Electric J73-GE-3 turbojet engine. The engine was larger that the J47 used in previous F-86 models, and this required a much larger air intake and airframe modifications. The fuselage was 6 inches deeper and two feet longer than the F-86F. This accommodated the new engine and an increase in fuel load. The tail surfaces were changed with an increase in the height of the vertical fin and the elevators were changed to an “all-flying” horizontal stabilizer. The first F-86Hs built retained the six Browning AN-M3 .50 caliber machine guns of the F-86F, but this was quickly changed to four Pontiac M39 20 millimeter revolver cannon.
The F-86H Sabre was 38 feet, 10 inches (11.836 meters) long with a wingspan of 39 feet, 1 inch (11.913 meters) and overall height of 14 feet, 11 inches (4.547 meters). Empty weight was 13,836 pounds (6,276 kilograms) and gross weight was 24,296 pounds (11,021 kilograms).
The F-86H was powered by a General Electric J73-GE-3D or -3E engine, a single-spool, axial-flow, turbojet engine, which used a 12-stage compressor section with variable inlet vanes, 10 combustion chambers and 2-stage turbine section. It produced 8,920 pounds of thrust (39.68 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m. (%-minute limit). The J73 was 12 feet, 3.2 inches (3.739 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.8 inches (0.935 meters) in diameter and weighed 3,650 pounds (1,656 kilograms).
The F-86H had a maximum speed of 601 knots (692 miles per hour/1,113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 536 knots (617 miles per hour (993 kilometers) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The fighter bomber had an initial rate of climb of 12,900 feet per minute (65.53 meters per second) and it could reach 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) in 5.7 minutes. The service ceiling was 50,800 feet (15,484 meters). With a full load ofbombs, the F-86H had a combat radius of 350 nautical miles (402 statute miles/648 kilometers) at 470 knots (541 miles per hour (870 kilometers per hour). The maximum ferry range was 1,573 nautical miles (1,810 statute miles/2,913 kilometers).
F-86H Sabres (after the first ten production airplanes) were armed with four Pontiac M39 20 mm autocannon with 150 rounds of ammunition per gun. In ground attack configuration, it could carry a maximum bomb load of 2,310 pounds (1,048 kilograms), or one 12–24 kiloton Mark 12 “Special Store” that would be delivered by “toss bombing.”
The F-86H Sabre became operational in 1954. 473 F-86H Sabres were built before production ended. By 1958 all that remained in the U.S. Air Force Inventory were reassigned to the Air National Guard. The last one was retired in 1972.
John Leroy Armstrong was born in Orange County, California, 19 July 1922. He was the fourth child of Milton Williams Armstrong, an engineer, and Olive M. Meyer Armstrong. As a child, he was called “Jake.”
Major Armstrong had been a fighter pilot during World War II, flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, initially with the 554 Fighter Training Squadron, 496th Fighter Training Group.
On 13 March 1944, Armstrong made a forced landing at North Killingholme when his fighter ran out of fuel.
2nd Lieutenant Armstrong was assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group based at RAF Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, England, 26 March 1944. He flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
The 79th transitioned to the P-51 Mustang. Armstrong was promoted to first lieutenant 26 June 1944. He was officially credited with having destroyed one enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On 28 August 1944, while flying his 30th combat mission, his North American Aviation P-51D-5-NA Mustang, 44-13791, Guardian Angel, was shot down by anti-aircraft gunfire while he was attacking a railway roundhouse at Bad Greuznach, Germany. Armstrong bailed out but was captured. He was held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I at Barth, Western Pomerania. Armstrong was returned to U.S. military control in June 1945.
Major Armstrong had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters (six awards), the Purple Heart, the Prisoner of War Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Two days after setting the speed record, Jack Armstrong was attempting to increase his record speed. The Sabre broke up in flight and Major Armstrong was killed.
John Leroy Armstrong’s remains were buried at the Loma Vista Memorial Park, Fullerton, California, 11 September 1954.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Robert M. White (AFSN: 0-24589A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Mission Commander and Pilot of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 11 August 1967. On that date, Colonel White led the entire combat force against a key railroad and highway bridge in the vicinity of Hanoi. In spite of 14 surface-to-air missile launches, MiG interceptor attacks, and intense anti-aircraft artillery fire, he gallantly led the attack. By being the first aircraft to dive through the dark clouds of bursting flak, Colonel White set an example that inspired the remaining attacking force to destroy the bridge without a single aircraft being lost to the hostile gunners. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel White reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Action Date: 11-Aug-67
10 August 1961: A Republic F-105 Thunderchief lifted the largest load ever carried aloft by a single-engine aircraft when it carried a payload of over 14,000 pounds (6,350.3 kilograms) during a test.
In this photograph, F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 is loaded with sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs, which actually weigh approximately 820 pounds (372 kilograms) each.
The Thunderchief is the largest single seat, single engine aircraft ever built. It was a Mach 2 fighter-bomber, designed for NATO defensive tactical nuclear strikes with a nuclear bomb carried in an internal bomb bay. It is best known, though, as a fighter bomber used in the Vietnam War. Because of its very high speed it was employed as a “Wild Weasel”, attacking surface-to-air missile sites.
Republic Aviation Corporation built 833 F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers at its Farmingdale, New York factory. 610 of those were single-seat F-105Ds. The F-105D Thunderchief was 64 feet, 3 inches (19.583 meters) long (excluding pitot boom) with a wingspan of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters) and overall height of 19 feet, 8 inches (5.994 meters). It had an empty weight of 26,622 pounds (12,076 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 50,511 pounds (22,911 kilograms).
The F-105D wings were swept 45° at 25% chord. The angle of incidence was 0° and there was no twist. The wings had 3° 30′ anhedral. The total wing area was 385 square feet (35.8 square meters).
The Thunderchief was powered by one Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W engine. The J75 is a two-spool axial-flow afterburning turbojet with water injection. It has a 15-stage compressor section (8 low- and and 7 high-pressure stages) and 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages.) The J75-P-19W is rated at 14,300 pounds of thrust (63.61 kilonewtons), continuous power; 16,100 pounds (71.62 kilonewtons), Military Power (30-minute limit); and Maximum Power rating of 24,500 pounds (108.98 kilonewtons) with afterburner (15-minute limit). The engine could produce 26,500 pounds of thrust (117.88 kilonewtons) with water injection, for takeoff. The J75-P-19W is 21 feet, 7.3 inches (6.586 meters) long, 3 feet, 7.0 inches (1.092 meters) in diameter, and weighs 5,960 pounds (2,703 kilograms).
The maximum speed of the F-105D was 734 knots (845 miles per hour/1,360 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.11—at Sea Level, and 1,210 knots (1,392 miles per hour, 2,241 kilometers per hour)—Mach 2.11—at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). The combat ceiling was 51,650 feet (15,743 meters) and maximum unrefueled ferry range was 1,928 nautical miles (2,218 statute miles/3,571 kilometers).
The F-105D was armed with one 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon and 1,028 rounds of ammunition. It had an internal bomb bay and could carry bombs, missiles or fuel tanks on under wing and centerline hardpoints. The maximum bomb load consisted of sixteen 750-pound (340 kilogram) bombs. For tactical nuclear strike missions, the F-105D could carry one Mk-28 “special store” in the internal bomb bay.
The F-105 Thunderchief was designed as a supersonic tactical fighter bomber rather than an air superiority fighter. Still, during the Vietnam War F-105s shot down 27 enemy MiG fighters. 24 of those were shot down with the Thunderchief’s Vulcan cannon.
Of the 833 F-105s, 395 were lost during the Vietnam War. 334 were shot down, mostly by antiaircraft guns or missiles, and 17 by enemy fighters. Another 61 were lost due to accidents. The 40% combat loss is indicative of the extreme danger of the missions these airplanes were engaged in.