The primary mission of the F-102 Delta Dagger was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. It was the world’s first supersonic all-weather jet interceptor and the USAF’s first operational delta-wing aircraft. The Deuce (as the F-102 was dubbed by its pilots) made its initial flight on Oct. 24, 1953, and became operational with the Air Defense Command in 1956.
In a wartime situation, after electronic equipment on board the F-102 had located the enemy aircraft, the F-102’s radar would guide it into position for attack. At the proper moment, the electronic fire control system would automatically fire the F-102’s air-to-air rockets and missiles.
The biggest drawback to the F-102 was its lack of speed. It was a supersonic aircraft, but only by a small margin.
With external tanks attached, it was limited to Mach .95.
‘I was an F-102 pilot for several years. Virtually all of our aircraft were fitted with under-wing aux. fuel tanks. They were limited to less than Mach 1.0.
‘I was also selected to be a “Functional Test Pilot.” What this means is that after an aircraft undergoes certain repairs, it must be test flown to verify airworthiness. One of the test points is supersonic flight. To accomplish this, the aux. fuel tanks are removed.
‘These were always “fun” flights because we could really wring the aircraft out: High roll rates, high G turns, at both high and slow speeds, minimum control speed limits, stability checks at both high and slow speeds … and going supersonic.
‘When “going super” the only indication was the rapid altimeter and vertical speed fluctuation. The “ride” did seem to smooth out. The flight controls were also a little stiffer.’
‘The cockpit noise level never changed because the only real “noise” in the cockpit was that of the air conditioning system … and it didn’t care what speed we were flying.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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