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Canadair CF-104 Starfighter

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Title: Canadair CF-104 Starfighter  
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Canadair CF-104 Starfighter

CF-104 Starfighter
CF-104s of 417 Squadron near Cold Lake in 1976
Role Interceptor aircraft, Fighter-bomber
Manufacturer Canadair
Designer Lockheed Corporation
First flight 26 May 1961
Introduction March 1962
Retired 1995 Turkish Air Force[1]
Primary users Royal Canadian Air Force
Canadian Armed Forces
Number built 200
Developed from Lockheed F-104 Starfighter

The Canadair CF-104 Starfighter (CF-111, CL-90) was a modified version of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter supersonic fighter aircraft built in Canada by Canadair under licence. It served with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and later the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) until it was replaced by the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
    • AFCENT Tactical Weapons Meet (strike era) 2.1
    • AFCENT Tactical Weapons Meet (attack era) 2.2
    • Royal Flush 2.3
    • Tiger Meet 2.4
  • Variants 3
  • Operators 4
  • Accidents and incidents 5
  • Aircraft on display 6
  • Survivors 7
  • Specifications (CF-104) 8
  • Badges 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • Notes 11.1
    • Citations 11.2
    • Bibliography 11.3
  • External links 12

Design and development

In the late 1950s, Canada redefined its role in the nuclear strike mission.[2][3] At the same time, the RCAF began to consider a replacement for the Canadair F-86 Sabre series that had been utilized as a NATO day fighter.[4] An international fighter competition involved current types in service as well as development, including the Blackburn Buccaneer, Dassault Mirage IIIC, Fiat G.91, Grumman Super Tiger, Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, Northrop N-156 and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.[4] Although the RCAF had preferred the F-105 Thunderchief equipped with an Avro Canada Orenda Iroquois engine, eventually the choice for a strike-reconnaissance aircraft revolved around cost as well as capability.[5] [N 1]

A Canadian government requirement for a license manufacture also favoured the Lockheed proposal due to a collaboration with Canadair based in Montreal. On 14 August 1959, Canadair was selected to manufacture 200 aircraft for the RCAF under license from Lockheed. In addition, Canadair was contracted to manufacture wingsets, tail assemblies and rear fuselage sections for 66 Lockheed-built F-104Gs destined for the West German Luftwaffe.[6][N 2]

Canadair's internal designation was CL-90 while the RCAF's version was initially designated CF-111, then changed to CF-104. Although basically similar to the F-104G, the CF-104 was optimized for the nuclear strike/reconnaissance role, fitted with R-24A NASARR equipment dedicated to the air-to-ground mode only as well as having provision for a ventral reconnaissance pod equipped with four Vinten cameras. Other differences included retaining the removable refuelling probe, initial deletion of the fuselage-mounted 20 mm (.79 in) M61A1 cannon (replaced by an additional fuel cell) and the main undercarriage members being fitted with longer-stroke liquid springs and larger tires. The first flight of a Canadian-built CF-104 (s/n 12701) occurred on 26 May 1961.[8] The Canadair CF-104 production was 200 aircraft with an additional 140 F-104Gs produced for Lockheed.[7]

Operational history

417 Sqn CF-104 at CFB Moose Jaw in 1982

The CF-104 entered Canadian service in March 1962. Originally designed as a supersonic interceptor aircraft, it was used primarily for low-level strike and reconnaissance by the RCAF. Eight CF-104 squadrons were originally stationed in Europe as part of Canada's NATO commitment. This was reduced to six in 1967, with a further reduction to three squadrons in 1970.[9] Up to 1971, this included a nuclear strike role that would see Canadian aircraft armed with US-supplied nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with Warsaw Pact forces.

When the CAF later discontinued the strike/reconnaissance role for conventional attack, the M61A1 was refitted, along with U.S. Snakeye "iron" bombs, British BL755 cluster bombs and Canadian-designed CRV-7 rocket pods. Although Canadian pilots practised air combat tactics, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles were never carried operationally by Canadian Starfighters (however, examples provided to other air forces, such as Norway and Denmark, did carry Sidewinders on a twin-rail centreline station and the wingtip rails). The CF-104D two-seater did not normally carry any armament except for a centreline practice-bomb dispenser.

There were 110 class A accidents in the 25 years that Canada operated the CF-104 resulting in 37 pilot fatalities. Most of these were in the early part of the program centering around teething problems. Of the 110 class A accidents 21 were attributed to foreign object damage (14 of which were birds), 14 were in flight engine failures, 6 were faulty maintenance, 9 were mid air collisions. 32 struck the ground flying at low level in poor weather conditions. Of the 37 fatalities 4 were clearly attributable to systems failures, all of the others were attributable to some form of pilot inattention.[10]

The accident rate of the 104 compares favourably to its predecessor, the F-86 Sabre. In only 12 years of operation the F-86 had 282 class A accidents with a loss of 112 pilots. The Sabre was also a simpler aircraft and was flown at altitude.[11]

The CF-104 was nicknamed the "Widowmaker" by the press but not by the pilots and crews of the aircraft. David Bashow states on page 92 of his book "I never heard a pilot call it the Widowmaker". Sam Firth is quoted on page 93 in Bashow's book "I have never heard a single person who flew, maintained, controlled, or guarded that aircraft of any force (and that includes the Luftwaffe) call it the Widowmaker". The pilots did refer to it, in jest, as the "Aluminium Death Tube", "The Lawn Dart" and "The Flying Phallus" but generally called it the 104 (one oh four) or the Starfighter.[10]

Low level attack runs in the 104 were done visually at 100 feet AGL and at speeds up to 600Kts. Low level evasive maneuvers could increase speeds to supersonic.[12]

The 104 was very difficult to attack owing to its small size, speed, and low altitude capability. Dave Jurkowski, former CF-104 and CF-18 pilot is quoted "Because of our speed, size and lower level operations, no Canadian Zipper driver was ever 'shot down' by either air or ground threats in the three Red Flag Exercises in which we participated." [13]

The CF-104 was very successful in operational exercises held by NATO. The Canadians first took part in the AFCENT Tactical Weapons meet in 1964 and did so every year after that. This meet was a competition between squadrons from Belgium, France, Germany, USA, Britain, and the Netherlands. Scores were based on several factors. Bomb accuracy, time on target, navigation, mission planning and aircraft serviceability. Pilots were chosen at random from the various squadrons to accurately represent operational capabilities.[14]

AFCENT Tactical Weapons Meet (strike era)

  • 1964: (first participation) Best team went to the 2 Canadians taking part.[15]
  • 1965: Best Nation went to the Canadians, Top individual score went to F/L Frioult of 427.[16]
  • 1966: RCAF was second best Nation, Top individual score went to F/L Morion of 421.[17]
  • 1967: RCAF best team, McCallum and Rozdeba received awards[14]
  • 1968: Second Best Team (427)[18]
  • 1970: Canadians were 1st in strike event.[19]

AFCENT Tactical Weapons Meet (attack era)

biennial schedule.

  • 1974: (first participation) Top attack pilot Canadian Larry Crabb[20]
  • 1976: 1CAG - Highest scoring nation[21]
  • 1978: The meet was renamed the Tactical Air Meet the scoring was marred by squabbles and announced a tie.[22]
  • 1980: The Canadians did "well"[22]
  • 1982 onward: the meet was changed to a non-competitive setup.[22]

Royal Flush

A competition for Recce squadrons. The Canadians first took part in 1966 and managed the following awards:[23]

  • 1968: First place.[18]
  • 1969: First and Second place (441, 439)[18]
  • 1970: 439 won the day competition. (Canada had no IR equipment)[18]

Tiger Meet

A competition between NATO squadrons with cat mascots.[24]

  • 1979: Silver Tiger Trophy [24]
  • 1981: Silver Tiger Trophy [24]
  • 1985: Silver Tiger Trophy [24]

In the late 1970s, the New Fighter Aircraft program was launched to find a suitable replacement for the CF-104, as well as the McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo and the Canadair CF-5. The winner of the competition was the CF-18 Hornet, which began to replace the CF-104 in 1982. All of the CF-104s were retired from service by the Canadian Forces by 1987, with most of the remaining aircraft given to Turkey.


Single-seat fighter-bomber version for the RCAF.
Two-seat training version for the RCAF.



Accidents and incidents

  • On 22 May 1983, during an airshow at the Rhein-Main Air Base, a Canadian CF-104 Starfighter crashed onto a nearby road, hitting a car and killing all passengers, a vicar's family of five. The pilot was able to eject.[25]

Aircraft on display

CF-104 displayed at CFB Borden
CF-104D Starfighter 104646 at the National Air Force Museum of Canada, CFB Trenton
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 63-899 on display at Krumovo.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 63-893 on display at Szolnok Aviation Museum in Szolnok.[33]
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-743 on display at Mafrak.
  • CF-104D cn. 104 637. Stored in Bodø. To be restored to flight condition.[34]
  • CF-104D cn. 104 730. Displayed at the Sola Air Museum in Stavanger.[35]
  • CF-104 cn. 104 755. Well kept at Kjeller, Lillestrøm.[36]
  • CF-104D cn. 104 766. Displayed on pedestal in front of Kjeller Air Station, Lillestrøm.[36]
  • CF-104 cn. 104 800. At Bodø High School for educational purposes.
  • CF-104 cn. 104 801. Displayed at the Norwegian Air Museum in Bodø.[36]
  • CF-104 cn. 104 836. Givend to Bardufoss High School. Displayed outside Bardufoss Air Station.[36]
  • CF-104 cn. 104 870. Well preserved at Bodø Air Station.
  • CF-104 cn. 104 882. Displayed as gatekeeper at Volvo Arero Norway, Kongsberg.[36]
  • CF-104 cn. 104 886. Privately owned at Rudshøgda, Hamar.
  • CF-104 cn. 104 889. At Torp Airport, Sandefjord.[36]
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-862 on display at Karachi.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-711 on display at Turkish Air Force Aviation Museum, Etimesgut, Ankara.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-713 on display at Diyarbakir Airbase.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-716 on display at Turkish Air Force Aviation Museum, Yesilkoy, Istanbul.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-739 on display at Erhac Airbase, Malatya.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-760 on display at city center, Turgutlu, Manisa.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-770 on display at Turkish Air Force Aviation Museum, Etimesgut, Ankara.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-786 on display at city park, Gaziemir, Izmir.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-808 on display on the gate at Diyarbakir Airbase.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-810 on display at Turkish Air Force Air Logistic Command, Etimesgut, Ankara.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-841 on display at Air Park, Kütahya.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-869 on display at Ordu.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-873 on display at Akinci AB, Ankara.
  • CF-104 Turkish Air Force 62-891 on display at gateguard Diyarbakir Airbase.
  • CF-104D Turkish Air Force 62-642 on display at Turkish Air Force Aviation Museum, Etimesgut, Ankara.


The Florida based civilian Starfighters Demo team currently operate one CF-104D and two CF-104 aircraft under the company RLB Aviation Inc.[37][38][39]

Mark Sherman from Phoenix, Arizona owns and operates a single CF-104D under the company Fuel Fresh Inc.[40]

Specifications (CF-104)

CF-104D in front of Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

General characteristics




See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ The McDonnell F-4 was never considered although many sources have listed it as a contender and the RCAF's preferred choice.
  2. ^ Canadair eventually built a total of 600 wing, tail and fuselage sections.[7]


  1. ^ "Historical Listings: Turkey, (TUR)."] World Air Forces. Retrieved: 10 June 2011.
  2. ^ Canadian Wings (2012). "Canadair CF-104 Starfighter". Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b Bashow 1990, p. 8.
  5. ^ McIntyre 1985, p. 6.
  6. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Canadair CF-104 Starfighter." American Military Aircraft, 6 October 2003. Retrieved: 1 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b Pickler and Milberry 1990, p. 186.
  8. ^ Stachiw 2007, p. 30.
  9. ^ Greenhous and Halliday 1999, p. 152.
  10. ^ a b Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p 92,93
  11. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 96
  12. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 119
  13. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 138
  14. ^ a b Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 47
  15. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 33
  16. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 37
  17. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 38
  18. ^ a b c d Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 52
  19. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 58
  20. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 78
  21. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 79
  22. ^ a b c Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 81
  23. ^ Bashow, David, "Starfighter", 1990, Fortress Plubications, p. 51
  24. ^ a b c d "Nato Tiger Meets". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  25. ^ Richadson, W. John and Tim West. "The Canadair CF-104.", 2010. Retrieved: 21 March 2011.
  26. ^ "Lockheed F-104A Starfighter." (Canada Aviation and Space Museum), 4 March 1954. Retrieved: 6 January 2013.
  27. ^ "Canadian Starfighter Museum". Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  28. ^ "CF-104 Starfighter." (Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum), 19 December 2009. Retrieved: 6 January 2013.
  29. ^ "Lockheed Starfighter." (Comox Air Force Museum). Retrieved: 6 January 2013.
  30. ^ "Canadair CF-104 Starfighter." (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum). Retrieved: 6 January 2013.
  31. ^ "Lockheed CF-104D Starfighter". Retrieved 5 July 2015. 
  32. ^ "Lockheed CF-104 Starfighter." The Canadian Museum of Flight via, 20 June 2008. Retrieved: 5 August 2013.
  33. ^ "F-104G (CF-104G), gift of the Turkish Air Force." Retrieved: 17 February 2008.
  34. ^ "Site for enthusiasts of the Norwegian F-104 Starfighters.", January 2008. Retrieved: 6 February 2008.
  35. ^ "CF-104." (Norwegian language). Sola Museum. Retrieved: 22 October 2008.
  36. ^ a b c d e f Oppdrag utført - Norges luftmilitære kulturarv (Glenne, Roar. 2012)
  37. ^ "N-Number Inquiry Results Registration N104RB Serial number 104632." Federal Aviation Administration, October 2009. Retrieved: 4 October 2009.
  38. ^ "N-Number Inquiry Results Registration N104RD & N104RN Serial numbers 104850 & 104759." Federal Aviation Administration, October 2009. Retrieved: 4 October 2009.
  39. ^ Wang, Ben. "Picture of the Lockheed CF-104D Starfighter aircraft.", September 2006. Retrieved: 4 October 2009.
  40. ^ "N-Number Inquiry Results Registration N104 Serial number 104633." Federal Aviation Administration, October 2009. Retrieved: 4 October 2009.


  • Bashow, David L. Starfighter: A Loving Retrospective of the CF-104 Era in Canadian Fighter Aviation, 1961-1986. Stoney Creek, Ontario: Fortress Publications Inc., 1990. ISBN 0-919195-12-1.
  • Francillon, R. J. Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913. London: Putnam, 1987. ISBN 0-370-30329-6.
  • Greenhous, Brereton and Hugh A. Halliday. Canada's Air Forces, 1914–1999. Montreal: Editions Art Global and the Department of National Defence, 1999. ISBN 978-2-92071-872-2.
  • McIntyre, Robert. CF-104 Starfighter (Canadian Profile: Aircraft No. 1). Ottawa, Ontario: Sabre Model Supplies Ltd., 1985. ISBN 0-920375-00-6.
  • Pickler, Ron and Larry Milberry. Canadair: The First 50 Years. Toronto: CANAV Books, 1995. ISBN 0-921022-07-7.
  • Stachiw, Anthony L. CF-104 Starfighter (Aircraft in Canadian Service). St. Catharine's, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2007. ISBN 1-55125-114-0.

External links

  • The International F-104 Society
  • Canadian Forces Historical Aircraft - CF-104
  • CF-104 at
  • Starfighters F-104 Demo team
  • Norwegian site with CF-104D restoration for flight
  • Canadair CF-104 Starfighter
  • Lockheed CF-104D Starfighter
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