Canadian Wings :: The History & Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force


Selected to replace the Sabre of Canada's air forces in NATO, the CF-104 Super Starfighter was the fastest aircraft to serve in the RCAF. It is derived from the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, popularly dubbed 'a missile with a man in it'.

Canada was the second NATO country to select the F-104G as its next generation combat aircraft. On July 2, 1959, plans were announced for the co-production of 200 CL-90 or CF-104 (originally CF-111) versions by Canadair Ltd, plus 38 two-seat CF-104Ds (originally CF-113) to be bought separately from Lockheed. The J79 engine would be produced under license by Orenda Engines Ltd of Malton, Ontario.

The airframe, built under licence by Canadair, is propelled by the Orenda-built J-79 turbojet engine to speeds up to 1,500 mph Nine world records have been broken by the Starfighter. It has held the speed of 1,404.09 mph and the altitude record of 91,243 feet, both made in May of 1958, and seven time-to-altitude records.

Originally the  CF-104 was a tactical-bomber assigned the double role of nuclear strike reconnaissance and tactical reconnaissance. Strike reconnaissance calls for all-weather operations at supersonic speeds and varying altitudes. In tactical reconnaissance it is equipped with a photo reconnaissance system designed specifically for low altitude and high speed, which  was installed in the Starfighter in a centerline fuselage pod carried on the standard bomb-rack. The CAF later changed the role of the Starfighter to conventional attack and the M61A1 cannon was retrofitted and the aircraft now carried US Snakeye "iron" bombs, BL755 cluster bombs and Canadian-designed CRV-7 rocket pods.

In service with the RCAF and CAF there was a total of 110 aircraft lost due to accidents, earning the Starfighter the nickname of "Widowmaker" in the air force.  Although this high accident rate was more a contribution of the low-level role than any problem with the aircraft.  CF-104s were initially assigned Canadian serials 12701 through 12900. On May 18, 1970, they were reserialed as 104701 through 104900.

Beginnning in 1983 the CF-104 Starfighter was replaced in Canadian service by the CF-18 Hornet and the last CF-104 was struck-off-strength by No. 441 Squadron on March 1, 1986.  542 CF-104s were transferred to Turkey in March 1985 and the balance were broken down for spares or preserved in museums.

aircraft specifications
CDN Reg: CF-104
US/NATO Reg.: F-104G
Manufacturer: Canadair license-built version of Lockheed design
Crew / Passengers: one or two pilots in ejection seats
Power Plant(s): one General Electric (Orenda) J-79-OEL-7 turbojet with afterburning (10,000 lbst to 15,800 lbst in afterburner)
Performance: Max Speed: Mach 2.2 1,450 mph (2,334 km/h) Cruising Speed: Mach 1.2, 915 mph ( 1,473 km/h) Service Ceiling: 58,000 ft (17,660 m) Range: 2,180 miles (3,510 km)
Weights: Empty: 14,082 lb ( 6,387 kg) Gross: 28,779 lbs (13,510 kg)
Dimensions: Span: 21 ft 11 in (6.68 m) w/o tip tanks Length: 54 ft 9 in (16.69 m) Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m) Wing area:196 sq ft (18.21 sq m)
Armament: Provision for one 20 mm M61A-1 cannon, plus bombs, rockets, or tanks on under wing or fuselage pylons
Canadian based CF-104 Starfighter of No. 417 Squadron, CFB Cold Lake, AB (CF Photo)

Canadair CF-104 Starfighter

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