Lockheed F-104S Starfighter
All-weather high-performance supersonic interceptor, with a single powerful engine housed inside the lightest, most aerodynamically efficient airframe possible. The small trapezoid (razor-edged) wings were determined to be the most efficient shape for supersonic flight, however, their thinness meant fuel tanks, cannon, and landing gear had to be placed in the fuselage.
The F-104 was the first combat aircraft capable of sustained Mach 2 flight. Due to exceptional thrust-to-weight ratio it had excellent acceleration and rate of climb. It was extremely stable at high speed, very low level runs, and made a formidable tactical nuclear strike-fighter when used for high-speed surprise attacks. However, it was not a dog-fighter. It required a wide turning radius and high speeds for manoeuvring, thus, was unsuitable for low-speed turning combat. It was also extremely unforgiving to pilot error.
The F-104 served with the USAF from 1958 until 1969. In the Vietnam War it performed both air-superiority and air support roles from 1965 until 1967. F-104's were used by over a dozen air forces, most were phased-out in the late 1970s, however, NASA used several for supersonic and spaceflight tests until 1994, and the Italian Air Force retired their last F-104’s in 2004.
The F-104S featured radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, additional hardpoints for increased payload, a more powerful engine, and additional ventral fins to increase stability.
Armament: 20 mm M61 Vulcan ‘Gatling gun’ cannon (rate of fire of 6,000 rounds per minute), 7,500 lb payload on 9 hardpoints (Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, bombs, rocket pods, additional fuel tanks).