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From: shuksan! (Mike Schmitt)
Newsgroups: sci.military

> From: (Andres C. Gaeris)
> 	Yesterday I saw a "Wings" chapter dedicated to the F-104 Starfighter.
> As I expected, the increible losses of about 200 F-104 planes by the
> FRG Luftwaffe was commented, but no explanation was given about this weird
> fact. Considering that the other operators of the Starfighter (Japan, USA
> and other NATO countries) did not suffer similar levels of attrition even
> with a worse mistreatment of this exigent aircraft, what it is really the
> cause of these losses?

  Luftwaffe pilots flew the '104' like they drive their Mercedes on the
  Autobahn - and I'm serious.  I've been in enough manuevers where Luftwaffe
  F104s were in support - I've been on hilltops looking "DOWN" into the 
  cockpit - coming in so close I could tell if the pilot shaved or not -
  put that together with the tremendous 'wire-hazard' problem - wires and
  electric train wires meander through the valleys - F104 pilots like to
  fly "LOW" very LOW through the valleys - the have no margin for error.

  I've been flying border traces in my OH-58 Scout helicoptor and have 
  F104 pilots fly UNDER me - I've seen them fly UNDER high bridges - 
  I've seen them PULL UP to come over a hill - and almost take my antenna
  off my track.  

  I'd venture to guess that the majority of accidents were pilot error.
  I have no facts - just judgement - observation - and many officer club
  discussion with 20 year old, unmarried, dashing, gallant, daring, porsche
  racing luftwaffe 104 drivers.  (I guess this deserves one smiley :-)  ) 

  I'm sure glad we're supported by 20 year old, unmarried, dashing, gallant
  daring, porsche racing USAF A-10 pilots!  The difference is:  You can't
  HEAR the A-10 coming at you!!!

  mike schmitt


I was stationed  with the USAFE 50th Ammunition Supply Squadron near Morbach, 
FRG from 1976-1980 and saw German Starfighters a lot.  Three events come to 

1)  Like all NATO (and French) air forces, the Luftwaffe used our bomb dump as 
a practice target - completely illegally, I hasten to add.  All of these air 
arms would practice bombing and strafing runs; a worthwhile enterprise designed 
to deny enemy resupply of things that go *BANG* during warfare (check the 
dates of aasignment - warfare was a real concept).  F-104s regularly passed 
over the outlaying portions of the dump at under 100 ft AGL.  Quite noisy.  
Scared the living daylights out of you the first time one made a pass like that 
from behind you.  No warning at all and then, suddenly, ROAR.  I thought a 
weapons storage shelter had blown up the first time I heard it.

2)  A flight of 4 FRG F-104s crashed into the hills on the banks of the Mosel 
while I was there (the exact location escapes me, but it was in the vicinity of 
Wittlich and was in between Hahn AB and Spangdhalem/Bitburg ('cause we all went 
out to help pick up the pieces).  The weather was crappy, as usual, and mission 
was penetration and radar avoidance.  The flight was in the Mosel Valley, down 
between the river bank's hills (which usually run about 500 feet above the 
river).  I don't know if the pilot was turning to conform to the river's 
course, or was 'popping up' to start the attack run, but the flight leader was 
too low, poked his nosecone into the top of the hill on the river bank, and the 
rest of the flight followed him right in.  It was not considered to be a major 
event or disaster (like the T-birds crash at Nellis - 1981??); it was just 
another training accident.

3)  I was walking across the main entrance to the bomb dump, between the 
storage and handling break room and the headquarters building one morning and 
saw an F-104 heading towards me down the entrance road.  He was _quite_ low, 
and passsed overhead at about 50 ft AGL.  The exhaust actually knocked me down.

These three examples tell the tale of the Luftwaffe F-104s.  They were used in 
conditions and with tactics incompatible with their design as a straight line 
interceptor.  The flying weather in Central Europe, quite frankly, sucks rocks 
most of the time, and when you turn a rocket sled into a dogfighter/bomber and 
force it to fly in the crud day after day, you get accidents.  The German 
pilots worked very hard to make _this_ airplane work in _their_ conditions, and 
had to push the envelope to do it.  About 200 times or so, they pushed just a 
bit too hard.

BTW, I always thought the F-104 to be the sharpest looking fighter around until 
I saw an F-16 for the first time!

    Loyd M. Enochs (ex-USAF) - Dynamics Research Corporation - Andover, MA
    Computer Systems Analyst - Smart Data System (F-117 Maintenance and 
    Operations computer system) 

From: (LT Scott A. Norton, USN)

I'll concur with the flying habits of  German F-104 pilots.  During
a NATO exercise I was in, they liked to fly supersonic on the deck,
frightening us poor ship drivers.  One day, a 104 flew under a
LAMPS helo that was on final for recoverey on it frigate.  The US
admiral said "NEGAT" to any further 104 flights in the area.


I remember a newspaper article (some British rag but can't recall
which) which attributed a lot of the losses to the quality of the
ground crew. A large fraction of them were allegedly conscripts with
little interest in what they were doing. Pilots died because for
instance oxygen bottles weren't replaced or refilled (an awkward thing
to find out at 50,000 feet). It also stated that one or two select
squadrons had most of the good ground support and suffered very few losses.

From: (Ed Rasimus)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: F-104 accidents, was F-108
Date: Thu, 05 Sep 1996 14:48:27 GMT

72740, wrote:

>    Quite true, you pitch up to gain altitude...  If you had an early
>model 104, you zoom up and roll inverted to eject, since you had a
>downward ejecting seat.  :-))
>   With europe's weather sometimes you didn't have much chance to
>eject, that fast, that low, you didn't have time to see the ground
>coming up at you to eject.

You are correct that early model Zippers had downward ejection--"A"
models. They were modified and all later models, including all
aircraft sold to European nations had conventional ejection.

I will contend until the day I die that the greatest contributing
factor to the Luftwaffe's problems with the 104 was the policy of
selecting 100% of pilot training graduates for 104 assignment. During
the mid-60's fully one third of pilot production at Williams AFB was
German. All of them were pipelined upon graduation to Luke where they
received 104 training. 

The quality spread of German input was very similar to the quality
spread of US trainees. There were a few very good ones, a bunch of
average pilots and a couple of marginal guys in every class. US
graduates competed for assignments and more than 90% went to some form
of crewed airplane where they could be "seasoned" for several more
years. Only the top one or two graduates went to single-seat fighters.
The Germans meanwhile sent all of their grads to a very demanding
airplane. The result was inevitable.

From: (Ed Rasimus)
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military
Subject: Re: quickie: wild-weasel definition
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 22:28:04 GMT

Mary Shafer <> wrote:

>Belgium is flatter than Germany, which makes NOE flight much safer.
>The Luftwaffe used the F-104 as an all-weather airplane from the
>get-go, which Lockheed hadn't really designed it to be.  It took them
>a little while to iron it all out.

Don't make the mistake of comparing the USAF versions with the F-104G.
The Luftwaffe bought their little "pocket rocket" with  virtually the
same avionics that the F-105D had, including the radar, the doppler
(originally, then replaced with an INS), the nuclear Toss-Bomb
Computer, ILS, and the very full-featured auto-pilot.

It wasn't a "day-fighter" like the A and C models, but was designed
from the "get-go" as an all-weather strike aircraft. (And, please note
that "strike" in NATO terminology means nuclear.)

 Ed Rasimus                   *** Peak Computing Magazine
  Fighter Pilot (ret)         ***   (
                              *** Ziff-Davis Interactive
                              ***   (

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