Cold War Era

Never underestimate your enemy: US Navy A-7 pilot recalls the mock dogfight he had against a Danish F-104 flying low and fast

‘I had the opportunity, in the late 70’s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast, 400+ knots,’ former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot.

Known as “the missile with a man in it,” the stubby-winged Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was the first US jet fighter in service to fly Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. Designed as a high-performance day fighter, the F-104 had excellent acceleration and top speed, according to Smithsonian website. Armed with a six-barrel M-61 20mm Vulcan cannon, it served as a tactical fighter, and when equipped additionally with heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles, as a day-night interceptor.

On May 18, 1958, an F-104A set a world speed record of 1,404.19 mph, and on Dec. 14, 1959, an F-104C set a world altitude record of 103,395 feet. The Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb.

The Starfighter could held its own also against more modern fighters thanks to its speed and vertical climb.

The F-104 was also a capable dogfighter as David Tussey, former US Navy A-7 Corsair II pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘I had the opportunity, in the late 70’s to tangle with an F-104 (Danish) down low and going pretty fast, 400+ knots. I was flying an A-7E on an airspace penetration training mission flying from a carrier in the North Sea into Denmark.

‘As expected, I was intercepted by an F-104. I turned on him pretty aggressively. I was amazed that the F-104, not known for dogfighting, was nonetheless quite able to hang with me through several turns and reversals. The A-7E isn’t a true dogfighter, and perhaps such an engagement against a more formidable aircraft would have ended otherwise, but I was quite impressed how maneuverable the F-104 was, even down at 300′ or so.’

Tussey concludes;

‘Never underestimate the enemy.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and Own work RuthAS via Wikipedia

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-104G Starfighter Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG 71) “Richthofen”, JA+240, 1965
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • Just reeks of a need to put content out instead of something worth it. Guys - don't become the main stream media. Please.

    I ask nicely 🤣🫡

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