The F-104 Starfighter (Jun 1965)

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was designed as an air superiority fighter and first entered service with the USAF in January 1958. The F-104C version was equipped as a fighter-bomber carrying up to 2,000lbs of bombs and was also capable of in-flight refuelling. Two F-104C squadrons of the 479th TFW deployed from George AFB, California to Da Nang on temporary duty between April and October 1965 and were assigned to the 6252nd TFW. The 479th TFW’s third squadron, the 435th TFS, arrived in October and remained in theatre until the Squadron converted to the F-4 Phantom in August 1967. The Starfighter was intended to be used in Vietnam mainly for MiGCAP and escort duties but saw little action in the air-to-air role. As early as June 1965 the Starfighter was also being used for close air support and six of the 14 F-104s lost during the war were lost during close air support or armed reconnaissance missions. Five of the Starfighters downed during MiGCAP or escort duties were lost in accidents, only one aircraft was lost in combat when it was shot down by Chinese MiG-19s after the Starfighter had inadvertently strayed into Chinese airspace near Hainan Island. The 435th TFS gave up its F-104s in July 1967 and moved to Ubon to convert to the more capable F-4D Phantom.