Although its construction is more than half a century old, its appearance
still seems to be futuristic. The rakish elegance and it phenomenal
speed and ability in ascending (at that time) made it be the epitome
of the "Pilot's Aircraft"!
Many, also modern types, got forgotten; but not the F-104!
In 1952, Lockheed
began on its own with studies, managed by "Kelly" Johnson,
for a light jet fighter. The order to construct two prototypes was given
on March 12, 1953, and already after less than 12 months, on February
28, 1954, the aircraft was airborne for the first time, flown by A.
W. "Tony" LeVier!
During the following time the F-104 broke many spectacular records.
As first aircraft without rockets it reaced Mach 2 during horizontal
flight in 1956. In 1958 the world-record for heights got improved to
27 811 m, another machine set a new speed-record with 2246.7 km/h. A
F-104 with an additional rocket engine even climbed up to 36 901 m in
Serial manufacturing started in 1956. However, the program got shortened
due to changes in demanded features. The USAF took only 300 F-104 although
722 were ordered in the beginning. It seemed as if the career of the
Starfighter wouldn't last too long.
An advertisement by the German Ministry of Defense changed everything.
The old F-84, F-86 and Hawker Seahawk were supposed to be replaced by
a single aircraft that could operate in all weather conditions. Lockheed
revised the F-104 in the whole. Multifunctional radar, reinforced structure,
extended payload and range enabled the F-104G to win against its competitors.
The first of 916 machines were delivered in 1959. Licenced manufacturing
by local companies was one important factor in the program. Many other
nations followed in this decision. Altogether 2600 machines were supposed
to be exported or manufactured under licence. The last ones of them
are still in service in Italy.
to political influences, the complex weaponsystem got introduced too
quickly, so there were of course many problems, to be seen from a crash-rate
that seemed to be overproportinally high. 116 pilots died in crashs,
292 jets got lost. The tragic that happened to those pilotes and their
bereaveds has to be pointed out. However, the dramatically exaggerated
way in reporting in the media could not be justified facing the statistics.
Within 30 years, over 2 millions of hours were flown. This means: there
was one crash in 6630 hours in flight. Compared to other aircrafts of
this time this is a normal value.
Still: every crash is one too much, and that is why this museum is also
for the memory of those who lost their lives in the 104, serving the
Federal Republic of Germany while trying to save peace by deterrence.
A sculpture at the entrance of the museum reminds us of the fact that
those sacrifices were not in vain in view of the peaceful end of the