A very late Republic F-84F in German service

Started by Pellson, December 14, 2022, 07:43:36 AM

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Apart from a ravaging corrosion problem and an engine rendering the Thunderstreak the need for a runway that would have made the space shuttle feel nimble, the F-84 was actually not that bad. It wasn't the easiest aircraft to fly, but then again, people actually still brag about the Lightning, so..
Anyway - as earlier described elsewhere - what if Republic actually did something about the Thud's worst flaws? The aircraft was in widespread use, rugged and simple to maintain and given some modern nav/attack systems in addition to the basic fixes, it could very well have lasted longer. This is the first installation on that theme.

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The F-84F Thunderstreak in continued NATO service
The American Republic F-84F Thunderstreak was widely used throughout NATO, and almost half of the 2711 units built were transferred to Europe for service within the allied air forces there. France was the first country to receive Thunderstreaks in 1955, but within a few years, also the air forces of Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, West Germany, Greece and Turkey also flew these sturdy fighterbombers.

Aeronautical evolution went fast at that time, and already in the early 1960's, most of the European F-84F's were being replaced with the new and more than twice as fast F-104G Starfighter. While the F-84F's had had their limitations, mainly in high-speed operations at low altitude and general high-altitude performance, the F-104G was a beast, and in particular in Germany, the Luftwaffe experienced substantial losses, 44 aircraft crashing within two years. As a consequence, in 1966, the Luftwaffe halted all low-level Starfighter operations, restricting them to medium and high-altitude interception duties. To fill the gap, the venerable F-84F was brought out of storage.

Not knowing for how long they would have to rely on the Thunderstreak, the Germans took the opportunity to try to remedy some of the worst vices of the aircraft. The German company Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm was lended an airframe for rebuild and trials, and within seven months, the prototype was flying. The changes were substantial but hard to detect from a distance. The original American J65 engine was replaced with a British AS Sapphire, giving about 20% more thrust. While this didn't improve the top speed, it significantly improved climbing and maneuvering and guaranteed a take-off roll with full load shorter than 2000 m under normal European circumstances, a significant improvement in its own. Adding a chord extension to the outer wing, also providing a vortex inducing dogtooth to the leading edge, did much to improve low-level, high-speed performance, and as a bonus, significantly improved stall characteristics, making it much easier to fly the aircraft safely close to its limits. The four 0,5 cal guns in the nose were replaced with two 30 mm French DEFA cannons, improving efficacy against armoured targets. Improved navigation and communication systems were integrated together with a laser ranger and marked target seeker (LRMTS), located behind transparent sections in the intake splitter wall.
Altogether, this produced a surprisingly effective strike and close air support aircraft, and during two years from 1967, more than 250 German Thunderstreaks were taken in hand for conversion and redelivered to the Bundeswehr, adding a third squadron to five fighterbomber wings (Jagdbombergeschwadern, or JaboG in German terminology), and fully equipping all three sqns of JaboG 35. The Belgian, Dutch and Italian air forces soon followed suit, each upgrading their remaining fleets.
However, already in 1968, improved training, both of pilots and ground crew, had significantly impacted the flight safety record of the Starfighters throughout Europe, and the much higher attack speed of the F-104 was seen as imperative in dealing with Soviet air defence systems, particularly in the nuclear penetration role. Accordingly, Thunderstreak operations were again wound down and many airframes stored. All four air forces however kept some numbers flying, partly as they were better suited for close air support than the lightning-fast Starfighters, but also to keep older pilots rotating out of Starfighter assignments active on a less demanding but still useful asset. They were also used to maintain useful air trim in reservist pilots. While only about a third of the upgraded airframes were in active use at any given time, the aircraft were rotated between storage and active duty, evening out wear and tear.

In Germany, JaboG 35 was renumbered JaboG 38 in 1975, concentrating the Luftwaffe Thunderstreaks to one wing with four squadrons. Maintaining the CAS role together with the LeKG's (light fighterbomber wings) operating Fiat G.91R's, the wing was kept active until 1983 when it finally phased out its old F-84F's and reverted to training Tornado crews as an operational conversion unit. At this time, some of the F-84F's had been repainted in the new all green wraparound Norm 83 scheme.

In 1969, Belgium and the Netherlands formed a joint wing at Weelde Air Base, just on the Belgian side of the border. Here, they operated two squadrons each, the Belgian 6th and 12th sqns and the Dutch 704th and 705th sqns. As in Germany, this wing kept only a small active cadre, mainly filling its ranks with reservists.
The Belgian aircraft flew in US SEA camouflage, and the Dutch in the same grey/green scheme as applied to NF-5A's. Pilots from both countries regularly flew each other's mounts as the aircraft were kept and maintained on a fully shared basis. Both air forces ceased Thunderstreak operations in 1981 and the wing was disbanded.

The Italians flew their final F-84F's on the regular roster with no 50 sqn at Piacenza. When that unit finally got its Starfighters, as the final F-104 sqn in the Aeronautica Militare Italiano, also Italy chose to allocate a separate reservist sqn, selecting the no 52 Stormo, a number with proud traditions from WW2. The 52nd stayed at Piacenza in parallel with the Starfighters until 1985 when finally disbanding. The Italian Thunderstreaks followed the Starfighters changes in camouflage, ending up in a grey/green over bare metal scheme in the late seventies.
France however chose to retire its Thunderstreaks, instead flying Super Sabres and later Jaguars in the close air support role.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


Very nice and I just love what you've done with the outer wings.


Quote from: SPINNERS on December 14, 2022, 09:56:16 AMVery nice and I just love what you've done with the outer wings.
It did work out nicely, didn't it? And it's also such a subtle modification, so if I hadn't described it in the text, some people would likely have been scratching their heads forever, seeing that something wasn't quite right but not spotting it..  ;)
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


That wing mod is lovely ..they have a much better shape now and it makes that bird look a heap better as the original wings looked strange with how wide they were at the tips.
Very nice matey  :thumbsup:
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Very good! And i agree with Wardukw, those wings looks much better than the original things. :thumbsup:
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