‘I had the opportunity, in the late 70’s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast, 400+ knots,’ former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot.

Known as “the missile with a man in it,” the stubby-winged Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the first US jet fighter in service to fly Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. Designed as a high-performance day fighter, the F-104 had excellent acceleration and top speed, according to Smithsonian website. Armed with a six-barrel M-61 20mm Vulcan cannon, it served as a tactical fighter, and when equipped additionally with heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles, as a day-night interceptor.

On May 18, 1958, an F-104A set a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph, and on Dec. 14, 1959, an F-104C set a world altitude record of 103,395 feet. The Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb.

The Starfighter could held its own also against more modern fighters thanks to its speed and vertical climb.

The F-104 was also a capable dogfighter as David Tussey, former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘I had the opportunity, in the late 70’s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast, 400+ knots. I was flying an A-7E on an airspace penetration training mission flying from a carrier in the North Sea into Denmark.

‘As expected, I was intercepted by an F-104. I turned on him pretty aggressively. I was amazed that the F-104, not known for dogfighting, was nonetheless quite able to hang with me through several turns and reversals. The A-7E isn’t a true dogfighter, and perhaps such an engagement against a more formidable aircraft would have ended otherwise, but I was quite impressed how maneuverable the F-104 was, even down at 300′ or so.’

Tussey concludes;

‘Never underestimate the enemy.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and Own work RuthAS via Wikipedia

F-104G Starfighter print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-104G Starfighter Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG 71) “Richthofen”, JA+240, 1965