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F-84F Thunderstreak at Delta County Airport

F-84F Thunderstreak sitting atop its mounts at the entrance to the Delta County Airport (From Aerial Visuals)

The F-84F Thunderstreak was a fighter-bomber produced in the post WWII period that saw very little active combat service. The Delta County Airport received on loan from the United States Air Force after the F-84 fleet was decommissioned.

History of the Aircraft

The aircraft was created following World War II as a fighter-bomber aircraft designed to play a multi functionality role in the Air Force with the serial number 51-1713. A total of 2713 F-84F Thunderstreaks were built, and an even fewer 2112 made by republic[1]. It was first assigned to the USAF 366th fighter bomber wing, and was stationed at the Aviano Air Force base in Italy. During its stay here it was involved in the first squadrons to use the TDY rotations with NATO. It served under a mission ready status during this time in the cold war as it had the ability to carry nuclear ordinance anywhere within its 2200 mile range. The parent wing then absorbed the group and began assigning squadrons directly to wings in September 1957. However, by this time the plane had been moved to the USAF 3600th demonstration squadron.[10]

Four F-84F Thunderstreaks flying in formation. (From Boldmethod)

The demonstration squadron had previously been using the predecessor to the F-84F Thunderstreak, the F-84 Thunderjet, with its straight wings and outdated design it was a welcomed upgrade. The aircraft was transitioned to the USAF demonstration squadron sometime between early 1955 and early 1956, and was used as a training plane until June 1956, where it was transferred to an advanced flight school until February 1957. The move to use these planes as demonstration aircraft in not only training, but also airshows was made by Col. Jacksel M. Broughton, who later wrote the book “Thud Ridge” on his time over Vietnam. F-84’s took place in 91 airshows in their time in the 3600th demonstration squadron across the nation.[10]

Following its time as a demonstration plane, the aircraft was transitioned into the Ohio National Guard where it was placed in the newly formed 162nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. The F-84F fleet that was stationed there was designated to carry nuclear payloads. However the base never had a nuclear weapon enter the premises. In November of 1958, the squadron was re-designated the 162nd Tactical Fighter squadron. During the 1961 Berlin crisis, the squadron was activated and placed under federal control. Only 26 F-84F’s were transferred to Etain-Rouvres Air base in France as a direct response to the crisis, and this plane was not one of them , as it stayed in Ohio as a reserve Fighter Bomber. The plane remained at its base in Springfield Ohio throughout the crisis until it was once again transferred to the USAF 559th training squadron.[7]

The Thunderstreak again changed branches back into the Air Force when it was transferred to the 559th training squadron, and stationed at the MacDill Air Force base in Florida in early 1962. Its stay here only lasted mere months however when it was then transferred to the USAF 15th wing. The aircraft however remained stationed at MacDill for the rest of its stay in the U.S. Air Force. By this time the plane had already become quite obsolete, and was only called up for training, along with many F-84s from National Guard units, due to a lack of aircraft reserves. The plane was heavily weighed upon when the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted just south of Florida, when F-84F’s were one of the primary strike fighters that were on alert at the time. “At MacDill AFB, Florida, in 1962, I was a member of an F-84F aircraft weapons load team. Things got hot fast and furious, working 18+ hour days in the lead up to the Cuban Crisis” – Gary A. Long [1]. The unit however was labelled a mission ready unit when the Cuban Missile crisis took hold, and returned to training duty soon after the incident was quelled. The F-84F was kept at MacDill as a training aircraft until 1964 when the 15th Tactical Fighter wing phased out the highly obsolete Thunderstreak,and replaced it with the F-4C Phantom II from McDonnell Douglass. The plane was then sent to the Massachusetts American National Guard 101st Fighter Interceptor Squadron in 1964.[7]

Once it had returned to the national guard the F-84F Thunderstreak found itself in an operational role that it was quite frankly not suited for. It saw no action in its time here only flying routine flights and was still designated as a nuclear strike fighter until it was finally decommissioned in June of 1971 when the base received a new batch of F-100 Super Sabre’s directly from Vietnam. Following this the plane was put into storage at Otis Air Force base in Massachusetts until 1992 when It was loaned to the Delta County Airport in Escanaba Michigan to put on display. The plane was promptly demilitarized, had a false serial number of 51-1748 painted on its tail,[7] and placed on the mounts it still stands proudly on today.[3]

History of the F-84F Thunderstreak

F-84F Diagram (From War Thunder Forum)

The development of the F-84F Thunderstreak began in 1948 with the ambition to make a swept wing version of the F-84 in order to increase the performance of the aircraft. This was done on the principle that over half of the tooling for the F-84 Thunderjet could be used in manufacturing of the Thunderstreak,when in reality it turned out to only be around fifteen percent of the tooling[6]. Due to this the first Thunderstreak didn’t get off the ground until November 22nd 1952. This however did not deter the Air Force from buying the plane, as they still continued to purchase a large portion of the Thunderstreaks that were created, and during the delay they purchased some F-84G fighters to fill the gap until the Thunderstreaks were ready for combat.

The Thunderstreak had many flaws throughout its long career, and one of the largest ones was its abysmal takeoff speed. “Our F84F’s were affectionately called “lead sleds” and several of the pilots described taking off as grabbing the stick with both hands and “lifting up instead of pulling back on the stick as the only way to get her in the air” George Garrick [1]. This was due to the angle at which the engine had to be placed within the air frame since it couldn’t be lined up straight making it much harder to take off of a runway. This resulted in longer runways needed to take off. “On a hot day, 7,500 feet (2285 m) were needed for takeoff”[9]. The other primary issue with the Thunderstreak was its engine. When it was first produced it was highly unreliable, and had tendencies to stall in heavy rain. The engine also was known for blowing itself up, when under heavy throttle. “-when my Dad’s antique, but on duty F-84F “Super Hog” blew its one engine. First warning was a loud boom from the tail; and the exhaust temp was off the scale-“[2]. The engine was also a compromise as the initial plans called for a much stronger 10,000 lb thrust engine to be paced in the aircraft,but it was produced with a much less powerful 6’500 lb engine that gave it the nickname “The Super Hog”.

The predecessor to the F-84F, the Thunderjet, was the USAF’s primary strike fighter throughout the Korean war. Republic F-84s flew 86,408 missions, and shot down 105 MiG 15s [6]. The Thunderstreak however due to its delays, was not put in production early enough to see combat in the Korean war, and was only really used in the inter-war period between Korea and Vietnam. This resulted in the F-84F having very little combat experience compared to its older brother the Thunderjet.

During the time between Korea and Vietnam there was almost no use of the Thunderstreaks in a tactical sense since even when Vietnam was coming into focus, the F-84F was already a quite obsolescent aircraft, and was phased out in favor of the F-4 Phantom II and the F-100 Super Sabre. This lead to the majority of the USAF F-84F fleet being shifted to the Air National Guard units across the nation,or to reserve units that would only see combat if they are absolutely needed in combat. The only real activation of the F-84F fleet was during the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even then they never left the ground. The last On duty F-84F Thunderstreaks were decommissioned in 1971 and placed into storage, or given on loan to be placed on display or used in a museum.

Evolution of Aircraft following WWII

Near the tail end of World War II aircraft design was going through a massive shift in design. The P-51D Mustang and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt were the kings of the sky during WWII, but were almost instantly obsolete when the war ended, resulting in a massive amount of aircraft being designed and created. The jet engine was taking hold in the Air Forces of the world, and it was sparking a huge change in aviation and tactics. Planes could now fly higher, faster, and farther with the increased fuel efficiency of jet engines at higher altitudes. This lead to a whole new breed of supersonic fighters and super long range bombers that were changing the way that war was fought. Another big impact on aircraft was the invention of the nuclear bomb. This can be seen in the Thunderstreak, as it even as just a fighter-bomber had enough range thanks to its efficient cruising speed that it was one of the primary bombers that was going to be used for nuclear bombing. This new jet age of aerial combat much like the rest of warfare at this time, set up how we fight as a nation up to today even, with most of combat being deterred by long range missiles, and nuclear deterrents. The jet age began to show how obsolete our weapons on military aircraft had become as they were struggling to keep up with the increasing technology of fighters in this time. This lead to a movement away from normal firearms during Vietnam and the cold war, and a shift to tracking missiles and other more high tech radar guided weapons.

This wild wild west of aircraft design led to two primary fighters for the U.S. military, The F-84 Thunderjet which played a fighter-bomber role, and the North American F-86 Sabre. The Sabre played a purely fighter role, and was a highly effective dog fighter. It was the first American plane that could compete with the Russian MiG 15, an was highly effective throughout the Korean war. The F-84 was also a very effective aircraft, as a bomber with over 86,000 sorties flown against ground targets throughout the war, and just over 105 MiG 15 kills to its name[5].

Primary Sources

  1. Republic F-84F Thunderstreak – Fighter-Bomber,
  2. Lemmond, Bill.

Secondary Sources

  1. Henniger, Mike. Aerial Visuals – Airframe Dossier – Republic F-84F-25-RE Thunderstreak, s/n 51-1713 USAF,
  2. Loan Aircraft (NMUSAF)
  3. “History.” Delta County Airport.
  4. Past, Airplanes of the. “84F Thunderstreak Jet Fighter.” F,
  5. Rose, Scott. “Forgotten Jets (& Props) – A Warbirds Resource Group Site.” Forgotten Jets.
  6. 559th Flying Training Squadron.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 July 2019,
  7. “366th Operations Group.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Nov. 2019.
  8. “United States Air Force Thunderbirds.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Nov. 2019

For Further Reading