F-102 & F-106: The Two Deltas
The United States Air Force (USAF) put out a requirement for an aircraft that could reach 50,000 feet in 4 minutes and be in service by 1954. The USAF chose Convair’s YF-102A proposal on September 11, 1951. The F-102 Delta Dagger was the first supersonic all-weather interceptor. It was the first fighter aircraft designed without provision for a gun. The view at the time was guns were passé for fighters. The F-102 made its first flight on October 24, 1953.[i]
The first F-102 prototypes couldn’t break the sound barrier in level flight. This meant it was unsuitable as an interceptor. Engineers solved the problem by changing the fuselage from straight to a “coke bottle” configuration. The redesigned F-102 flew on December 20, 1954. F-102s became operational with the Air Defense Command (ADC) in 1956.[ii] Convair produced 875 F-102As and 111 TF-102A trainers. In 1977 the Air National Guard had 38 in service. Greece had 20 F-102s and Turkey had 40.[iii]
The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was initially designated the F-102B. The F-106 has an airframe similar to the F-102. The F-106A made its first flight on December 24, 1956. The F-106B made its first flight on April 9, 1958. The F-106 was equipped with a 20mm cannon. The USAF received its last of 274 Delta Darts in July 1960.[iv]
[i] Airplanes of the Past, F-102 Delta Dagger, https://www.airplanesofthepast.com/f102-delta-dagger.htm, last accessed 7/22/2020.
[ii] Airplanes of the Past, F-102 Delta Dagger, https://www.airplanesofthepast.com/f102-delta-dagger.htm, last accessed 7/22/2020.
[iii] Arsenal of Democracy by Tom Gervasi, © 1977 by Tom Gervasi and Bob Adelman, P. 122.
[iv] Modern Fighter and Attack Aircraft, by Bill Gunston, © 1980 Salamander Books, Ltd., P.42.
F-102 In Service and Legacy
The USAF deployed F-102s to Thailand in 1961. In March 1962 the USAF deployed them in South Vietnam.[i] Their purpose was to defend against North Vietnamese Air Force attacks. These attacks never came. On November 27, 1964 an engine failure caused the first loss of an F-102 in Vietnam. The Viet Cong destroyed 3 F-102s on the ground in an attack on Da Nang Air Base on July 1, 1965. F-102s flew bomber escort and ground attack missions. The first F-102 shot down was on December 15, 1965. Enemy groundfire shot down the F-102 while it was on a close air support (CAS) mission. Small arms fire shot down a F-102 within a minute of it taking off on December 14, 1966. A mortar attack destroyed a F-102 on the ground at Biên Hóa Air Base on May 12, 1967. The F-102 was only involved in one dogfight. On February 3, 1968 a MiG-21 shot down a F-102. The F-102 pilot died when the aircraft exploded. The last F-102 loss in Southeast Asia was because of an engine failure on January 7, 1969. Of the 14 F-102s lost in Southeast Asia 4 were to engine failure. In a 45 day period the 509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) flew 199 sorties and is credited with; destroying 106 buildings and damaging 59 others, sinking 16 sampans, and destroyed one bridge. They remained deployed to Southeast Asia until the end of 1969. A total of 141 F-102As were lost from all causes in the 14 years of operation during the era of the Vietnam Conflict.[ii]
The Class A accident rate for the F-102 was 13.69 per 100,000 flying hours. The USAF and Air National Guard (ANG) lost 269 F-102s and 70 pilots died in these crashes.[iii] The USAF converted 6 F-102s to QF-102s[iv] and used them as target drones. The USAF retired the QF-102s in 1986. The USAF retired the other F-102s in 1976.
Long after the F-102’s retirement an urban legend formed that President George W. Bush enlisted in the Texas ANG and trained as an F-102 pilot to avoid service in Vietnam. The claim was the F-102 was the one fighter aircraft not used in Vietnam.[v]
In the 1974 Greece-Turkey clash over Cyprus Hellenic Air Force F-5As claim to have shot down two Turkish Air Force F-102As. Greece claims a Sidewinder air-to-air missile shot down one the other fell to cannon fire.[vi] Turkey claims its F-102As shot down two F-5As. Neither side has admitted any air losses in the conflict. Greece and Turkey retired the F-102s in 1979.
[i] 456 FIS.org, https://www.456fis.org/PRESIDENT_BUSH_&_THE_F-102.htm, last accessed 7/25/2020.
[ii] Global Security.org, https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-102a-ops.htm, last accessed 7/26/2020.
[iii] Aerospace Web.org, F-102 in Vietnam, http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0185.shtml, last accessed 7/26/2020.
[iv] A “Q” as the first letter of an Air Force aircraft designation indicates the aircraft is a target drone.
[v] If someone wanted to avoid the draft there were much safer options than flying in a “century series” fighter.
[vi] Joe Baugher.com, F-102s with Greece and Turkey, http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/f102_5.html, last accessed 7/25/2020.
F-106 Delta Dart
On December 15, 1959 Major Joe Rogers flew an F-106A, Serial Number 56-0467, flew 1,525.95 mph (2,455.77 km/h), Mach 2.39 over an 11-mile (18 km) course. This set a speed record for a single engine jet aircraft that still stands today.[i] Major Rogers received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the DeLavaulx Medal, and the Thompson Trophy for this flight.[ii] The F-106A, 56-0467, crashed and was damaged beyond repair on August 14, 1961. The pilot, James Wilkinson, climbed out of the aircraft with only minor injuries.[iii]
The F-106 initially had problems with its ejection seat. The first 12 pilots who ejected from F-106s died.[iv]
The F-106 was equipped to carry an AIR-2A Genie, an air-air missile with a 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead. It was also equipped with a Hughes MA-1 electronic fire control system that interfaced with the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), an air defense computer system. This meant the F-106 could fly under computer control for most of its mission. The combination would make it a formidable opponent against an enemy bomber formation.[v] The F-106 was deployed to South Korea during the USS Pueblo incident. The USAF converted some of their F-106s to target drones. The last of its QF-106s was destroyed in August 1988. [vi] The F-106 never flew in combat.[vii]
NASA used an F-106, serial number 57-2516, for flight tests. NASA designated it NASA 816. From 1979-86 NASA used it for Storm Hazards Research. In 1985 NASA carried out Off Surface Flow Visualization System tests. Beginning 1986 NASA conducted Vortex Flap Flight Experiments. NASA retired its F-106 in 1998. [viii]
[i] F-106 Delta Dart.com, https://www.f-106deltadart.com/speedrecord.htm, last accessed 7/28/2020.
[ii] F-106 Delta Dart.com, https://www.f-106deltadart.com/speedrecord.htm, last accessed 7/28/2020.
[iii] F-106 Delta Dart.com, https://www.f-106deltadart.com/speedrecord.htm, last accessed 7/28/2020.
[iv] NASA.gov, https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/F-106, last accessed 7/29/2020.
[v] F-106 Delta Dart.com, https://www.f-106deltadart.com/speedrecord.htm, last accessed 7/28/2020.
[vi] NASA.gov, https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/F-106, last accessed 7/29/2020.
[vii] F-106 Delta Dart.com, https://www.f-106deltadart.com/speedrecord.htm, last accessed 7/28/2020.
[viii] NASA.gov, https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/F-106, last accessed 7/29/2020.
F-102 & F-106 Stats
Mach 1.25 (825 mph)
Mach 2.3 (1,525 mph)
6 AIM4Falon AAMs or 2xAIM 26 AAM w/nuclear warhead.
1xM61A1 20mm cannon, 4xAIM 4 AAMs, 1xAIR-2 Genie AAM w/nuclear warhead.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Robert Sacchi