F-100 Super Sabre

The North American F-100 Super Sabre was developed as a replacement for the venerable F-86 Sabre, following the same general design layout but with a capability of achieving speeds in excess of Mach 1.3 in level flight. Design work commenced in 1949 as a private venture by North American Aviation as the ‘Sabre 45’ (because the wings were swept back at 45˚), and on the 1st November 1951 the USAF placed a contract for two YF-100 (later YF-100A) prototypes and 110 F-100A production aircraft. The aircraft, which made great use if heat-resisting titanium for the first time, was developed very quickly. The first YF-100 prototype making its maiden flight at Edward’s Air Force Base on the 25 May 1953, and quickly living up to all expectations by exceeding Mach 1 during its initial flight.

The first production aircraft (F-100A) flew on the 29th October 1953 with Lieutenant Colonel Pete Everest at the controls, setting a new world speed record of 754.99 mph over a 15 km course at an altitude of 30 metres above the ground. Deliveries of aircraft to the USAF commencing in the following year and on the 29th September 1954 the USAF’s 479th Fighter Wing would gain the distinction of becoming the world’s first operational supersonic fighter formation. Stability problems would however plague the early production aircraft which would lead to modifications having to be made to the wings and fin. On February 26 1955 Test Pilot George F Smith ejected from an F-100 at supersonic speed, believed to be the first person to do so. In total the USAF would receive some 203 F-100A Super Sabres.

Eisenhower’s administration was keen to build its nuclear forces, and the USAF’s Tactical Air command was tasked with delivering nuclear weapons-hitherto the sole responsibility of Strategic Air Command. The F-100 was the only likely candidate in the inventory, so from early 1954 design work began on the fighter bomber F-100C (The F-100B had been an earlier attempt to modify the F-100A to carry bombs, but had been cancelled after the completion of just three machines). The F-100C, which entered service in 1956-57, provided an opportunity to include a number of improvements including strengthened wings to support the four wing mountings for bombs, missiles or rockets, a more powerful engine, and an inflight refuelling capability to extend the already impressive range. On August 20, 1955 an F-100C, piloted by Colonel Horace Hanes, would set the world’s first supersonic speed record at 822 mph. 476 F-100Cs were built before production switched to the F-100D.

The F-100D was the first version of the Super Sabre to be designed specifically for the fighter-bomber role (rather than simply converting the original fighter to carry munitions). Flown for the first time on January 24 ,1956 the F-100D would be built in greater numbers than any other model of this aircraft (A total of 1274 D-models were built in 19 production blocks) and incorporated a number of major alterations to fit its purpose. It was given a more powerful) Pratt and Whitney J57-P21A engine, a flapped wing and larger vertical tail. In addition its combat capability was enhanced with an increased offensive load capability, Electronic Counter-Measures Equipment (ECM), and a Low–altitude bombing system (LABS) for “tossing” nuclear weapons. The F-100D also featured the first autopilot designed for a supersonic jet.

The F-100 Super Sabre would see much service during the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1971, being employed in fighter, reconnaissance and ground attack missions mainly against targets enemy targets in South Vietnam (carrying air dropped munitions could severely restrict the range of the aircraft). The first F-100 Vietnam mission during the conflict occurred on June 9, 1964 when Super Sabres operating from Da Nang airbase in South Vietnam bombed a target in the Plaines des Jarres in neighbouring Laos. In fact during the Vietnam War USAF Super Sabres would conduct some 360,283 sorties (more than all the sorties carried out by the same companies P-51 fighter in World War II). Operations being conducted from four modern bases built for the USAF at Hien Hoa, Phan Rang, Phu Cat and Tuy Hoa. Despite the F-100 being not really suitable for low-level high-speed bombing it actually proved to be an effective weapon against the Communist foe. In total just 186 aircraft would be lost to anti-aircraft fire, and none at all in air combat.

The F-100 Super Sabre was eventually retired from front-line USAF service in 1972, but remained in use with Air National Guard squadrons until 1980. In total, by the time production ceased in 1959, some 2,300 Super Sabres would be built (1,955 of these being Single-seaters). Of the remainder 339 were built as the F-100F conversion trainer with a lengthened forward fuselage and a tandem-seat Cockpit, and others built (or converted to) RF-100A Photo Reconnaissance, TF-100C (A trainer based on the F-100C), DF-100F Drone director, QF-100 target tugs and NF-100F Commercial Research and Test aircraft.

In addition to the aircraft employed by the USAF North American Aviation also received orders from the Governments of France (F-100Ds), Turkey (mostly ex USAF machines), Denmark (F-100Ds plus six F-100F trainers) and Taiwan (F-100As). The Turkish aircraft were the last to be retired from active service in the mid-1980s.

Wingspan 11.81m 38ft 9 in
Length 15.09m 49 ft 6 in
Height 4.95m 16 ft 3 in
Wing Area 35.77 sq.m 385 sq.ft
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