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F-102 & F-106: The Two Deltas

Updated on August 7, 2020
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F-106 at Randolph AFB, May 1982F-106 Randolph AFB, TX circa 1980.F-106 Randolph AFB, TX Circa 1980.F-102 Medina AFB, TX, circa 1980F-102 Lackland AFB, TX, 1977An F-106 of the New Jersey Air National Guard, Andrews AFB, circa 1985.
F-106 at Randolph AFB, May 1982
F-106 at Randolph AFB, May 1982 | Source
F-106 Randolph AFB, TX circa 1980.
F-106 Randolph AFB, TX circa 1980. | Source
F-106 Randolph AFB, TX Circa 1980.
F-106 Randolph AFB, TX Circa 1980. | Source
F-102 Medina AFB, TX, circa 1980
F-102 Medina AFB, TX, circa 1980 | Source
F-102 Lackland AFB, TX, 1977
F-102 Lackland AFB, TX, 1977 | Source
An F-106 of the New Jersey Air National Guard, Andrews AFB, circa 1985.
An F-106 of the New Jersey Air National Guard, Andrews AFB, circa 1985. | Source


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,, last accessed 7/22/2020.

[ii] Airplanes of the Past, F-102 Delta Dagger,, 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,, last accessed 7/25/2020.

[ii] Global,, last accessed 7/26/2020.

[iii] Aerospace, F-102 in Vietnam,, 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, F-102s with Greece and Turkey,, 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,, last accessed 7/28/2020.

[ii] F-106 Delta,, last accessed 7/28/2020.

[iii] F-106 Delta,, last accessed 7/28/2020.

[iv],, last accessed 7/29/2020.

[v] F-106 Delta,, last accessed 7/28/2020.

[vi],, last accessed 7/29/2020.

[vii] F-106 Delta,, last accessed 7/28/2020.

[viii],, last accessed 7/29/2020.

F-102 & F-106 Stats

Maximum Weight
32,000 lbs
35,000 lbs
Maximum Speed
Mach 1.25 (825 mph)
Mach 2.3 (1,525 mph)
1,100 miles
1,150 miles
6 AIM4Falon AAMs or 2xAIM 26 AAM w/nuclear warhead.
1xM61A1 20mm cannon, 4xAIM 4 AAMs, 1xAIR-2 Genie AAM w/nuclear warhead.

Source: Arsenal of Democrary by Tom Gervasi (c) 1977 by Tom Gervasi and Bob Adelman

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


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