F-104 Types

From its very first flight until the day the last operational F-104 received its last modification, the Starfighter has been flown in a wide range of versions. Beneath we made a line-up of all these versions to give an overview about the differences.



The XF-104 was the prototype of the Starfighter powered by a General Electric J65 engine. In total two aircraft were build of which the second one had a more powerful afterburner version of the J65 (w-6) which was later also installed inside the first prototype. Both aircraft were lost in accidents in April 1954 and in July 1957. In 1957 the testrole had already been taken over by the first pre-production Starfighters. The XF-104 was shorter than the final F-104 design and also had very straightforward inlets without the lateron introduced104 specific inlet- cones. The aircraft was capable of reaching MACH 1.79. Photo shows the first prototype not long before it was lost in an accident. Note the typical inlets without the lateron traditional cones.


In 1955 Lockheed build the first of 17 YF-104A pre-production Starfighters. These 17 aircraft have been used purely as test-aircraft or special projects. It was the first Starfighter having the General Electric J79 GE3 adopted. The first YF-104A aircraft was delivered to the USAF in December 1955. Test areas included aerodynamics, weaponry, BLC, radar, avionics, J79 engine, climate-operations and eventually also Drone-electronics. The photo shows the second build YF-104A during one of its first testflights. It is still lacking the centerline fin and hook. Note the camera mounted on the bottom of the aft section for test monitoring.


From the YF-104A Lockheed build the F-104A aircraft. This aircraft (total of 153 build) was purely designed for air-superiority as a pure-Mach2 interceptor. The aircraft was powered by the General Electric J79-GE3B engine which was replaced  in some aircraft late sixties by the more powerfull GE-19 engine. This photo was taken at Andrews Air Force Base during an open house in 1964. It shows 56-851 from 319 FiS with the latest version of the J79 engine. Note the designation used by 319 FiS, here the "B" flight. Likely this aircraft was flown by the squadron commander of 319FiS.

Lockheed F-104A-1-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1018/1024 @ 56-730/736
Lockheed F-104A-5-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1025/1035 @ 56-737/747
Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1036/1051 @ 56-748/763
Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1052/1076 @ 56-764/788
Lockheed F-104A-20-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1077/1113 @ 56-789/825
Lockheed F-104A-25-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1114/1165 @ 56-826/877
Lockheed F-104A-30-LO Starfighter c/n 183-1166/1170 @ 56-878/882


The GF version was an F-104A model specifically modified to test the General Electric J79-engines. Tests were executed together with General Electric (example: ex-YF-104A 55-2959 and 969) Years later the G add-on was introduced to identify instructional airframes. It is unknown if aircraft from the 6512th OMS also received this type-designations in the 70s. Here we have a photo of GF-104A 55-2959 taking off for a J-79 engine test-flight. Please note the typical yellow band with GE (General Electric) logo on the tail fin. Still looking for GF confirmation...


For testing purposes sometimes an F-104A was modified by Lockheed to forfill the specific needs. Most of the times the aircraft was tested by the AFFTC and ARDC.. The photo shows JF-104A 56-750 taken at Edwards AFB in October 1967. Note the typical long pitot tube with sensor interfaces inside for test flight measurements. Currently this aircraft is owned by Scott Vetter trying to get this aircraft flyworthy again which is a very demanding project.


To be used as unmanned drone-aircraft and number of retired YF-104A and F-104A aircraft have been modified into QF-104A. Pilots flew the aircraft remotely from the ground  (take off and landing) and from flying control aircraft (in the sky), which was not an easy task considering the high take-off and landingsspeeds of the Starfighter. Most of the QF-104As have been shot by missiles. Aircraft received stunning orange color schemes. Beneath a photo taken from aircraft 55-2971 during one of its unmanned drone-flights. Note the antenna behind the cockpit and under belly, the typical dayglow orange colorscheme and the empty cockpit.... The photo was taken from another F-104 Starfighter flying in formation together with a T-33 as well.


The JQF-104A was used as test drone aircraft and flown by pilots. Lateron also these aircraft were modified to normal QF-104A and been shot down.


For specific astronaut testing and experimental purposes, three F-104A have been modified towards NF-104A. The NF-104 is a modified F-104A, with a 6,000-pound thrust liquid fuel rocket engine(LR-1212/AR2) in addition to the conventional jet engineThis aircraft had enlarged wing and tailsections and on several positions on nose and wings small boosters were added to assure proper steering control on high altitude. The aircraft was serviced with the ARPS (Aerospace Research Pilot School). The photo shows NF-104A 56-756. On the tailsection the rocketdyne engine can be clearly seen and also the longer inlet cones are visible.


The USAF was interested in obtaining a batch of RF-104A recce Starfighters but due to the problems encountered with the early aircraft they cancelled the order in January 1957. Serials planned were 56-939 till 956 as model Model 383-93-04.


Proposed trainer version of the F-104A Interceptor. However the USAF decided to have two-seaters capable of carrying weapons and ordered the F-104B version instead.


Trainer version of the F-104A interceptor. It has been used by the Air Forces of the US, Pakistan, Jordan and Taiwan. Here we have a photo of F-104B 57-1294 of the first USAF Starfighter user 83 FiS. It was taken in 1960 during an open house and still has the typical early downwards ejectionseat system. This can be seen by the old canopy layout which was different then the ones used lateron. In Total 26 aircraft were manufactured.

Lockheed F-104B-5-LO Starfighter c/n 283-5006/5014 @ 57-1294/1302
Lockheed F-104B-10-LO Starfighter c/n 283-5015/5023 @ 57-1303/1311
Lockheed F-104B-15-LO Starfighter c/n 283-5024/5025 @ 57-1312/1313


For the fighter-bomber role within the USAF Tactical Air Command this version has been created out of the existing F-104A interceptor. In total 77 aircraft were build. This model did receive a later version of the General Electric GE7 engine. Here is a photo of 57-926 operated by 479 TFW. Note the refuelling probe which was added to the F-104C for increasing operational range when used as fighter bomber aircraft.

Lockheed F-104C-5-LO Starfighter c/n 383-1171/1226 @ 56-883/938
Lockheed F-104C-10-LO Starfighter c/n 383-1227/1247 @ 57-910/930
Lockheed F-104C-15-LO Starfighter @ 57-931/1293 cancelled.


For testing purposes sometimes an F-104C was modified by Lockheed to forfill the specific needs. Most of the times the aircraft was tested by the AFFTC and ARDC. (example: USAF 56-888, 889 and 57-920). The photo is showing JF-104C 56-888 during an open house at Kirtland AFB, the airbase where this aircraft was operated.


The F-104D version was build to train the F-104C pilots within the TAC. Next to the USAF also the Taiwanese Air Force has used this version. The photo shows F-104D 57-1334 serving the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.  In Total 21 aircraft were manufactured.

Lockheed F-104D-5-LO Starfighter c/n 483-5026/5032 @ 57-1314/1320
Lockheed F-104D-10-LO Starfighter c/n 483-5033/5040 @ 57-1321/1328
Lockheed F-104D-15-LO Starfighter c/n 483-5041/5046 @ 57-1329/1334
Lockheed F-104D-20-LO Starfighter @ 57-1335/1417 cancelled.


In fact a stripped version of the F-104D, this F-104F was specifically build (30 in total) to train the future German Air Force F-104G pilots especially. Since they were only meant as training aircraft it was not expensive and a good alternative to fill up the gap until the first TF-104Gs would be delivered. The photo shows F-104F 29+01 landing at Jever. Note the camouflaged inletcones since these aircraft did not have specially heated air-intake systems which was one of the main differences with the lateron obtained TF-104Gs.


The F-104G Super Starfighter was a strengtened version of the F-104C with new avionics and all-weather capabilities. It also got a new more reliable J79-GE11A engine and a longer tailsection as known from the F-104B and D two-seaters. Since the aircraft was heavier then the C it got also a stronger undercarriage with bigger wheels. In total 1320 aircraft have been manufactured and assembled all over the world. Two types could be distinguished being the FB (Fighter Bomber) version and the AWX (All-Weather Interceptor) version. The photo is showing a FB version of the Starfighter from 311squadron of the Royal Dutch Air Force. It is seen here over Eindhoven Air Base in September 1982. Note the ECM systems beneath the nose which was only adopted by the Dutch.


To develop technology to make aircraft more manouvrable the MBB company in Germany modified an F-104G into a CCV (Computer Controlled Vehicle) and made it very instable by putting a lot of weight in the back. An extra tail wing was mounted behind the cockpit and special computer systems were added to the avionics for testing and control purposes. The information gathered was used during the development of the Tornado and Eurofighter aircraft. Currently this aircraft can be found inside a German museum.


For recconaisance purposes a special modification was made to the F-104G. Behind the front wheel bay a special housing was added which carried camera's. Some F-104Gs have been modified to the RF-104G version but also RF-104Gs have been modified back to F-104G standard. The last modification could be because the recconaisance role was not needed anymore or, as happened in Holland and Italy, the recconaisance role needed more modern equipment. The Dutch and Italian Air Force bought the Orpheus external pod which could be carried at the centerline location. This resulted in the removal of the old camera-system inside the aircraftbelly. The photo shows an Italian Air Force MM6632 showing the old RF-104G camera system behind the nosewheel. It was taken in Villafranca in February 1986.


For specific recconaisance purposes the Republic of China Air Force created a special radome with sensitive infra-red equipment which could be mounted on an everage F-104G aircraft specifically modified to support the equipment. An aircraft having operating this system was designated RF-104G-Ev (Evolution) and could be recognised easily since the radome was much longer then the ordinary F-104 radome. It is likely that initially the prototype radome has been used from the formerly developed RTF-104G of the German Air Force since there is quite some similarity. The photo shows a Taiwanese RF-104G with LOROP system landing after a mission. Watch the long nose !!!


The TF-104G was the trainerversion of the F-104G Super Starfighter purely meant for training and taxy-duties. The aircraft, of which a total of 220 aircraft were manufactured by Lockheed in the USA, was unarmed which means that the TF notation could be used. This aircraft was sold to various countries in the world or delivered by the USAF under MAP regulations.


In the late ninetees the Italian Air Force decided to modify their TF-104G to meet with the more modern technology requirements. Lots of avionics were replaced by more modern versions, wiring was replaced and cockpit layout was changed to match the F-104S/ASA-M standards. In fact the aircraft became slightly lighter.
The photo shows a TF-104GM (note the M-logo on the tail) during take off from Palme di Mallorca in Spain where it made a visit 3 June 2002.

RTF-104G (never build) and RF-104G-1

Late sixties the German Air Force studied a possible high-tech recconaisance version of the RF-104G and they decided that this should be a two-seat version although the system was tested on a single seat F-104G aircraft. The project was cancelled and the German Air Force replaced all RF-104G aircraft by the two-seat RF-4E Phantom. The photo shows the initial test aircraft also designated RF-104G-1, which was used in the US during testing the new developed recce system. (Aircraft c/n 8222, "EB+121")

F-104H and TF-104H

Low cost F-104G and TF-104G versions specifically meant for countries which had a need for a low-cost jet fighter. The version was not selected by any Air Force and never entered the prototype phase. Examples of competition was the F-5 in several countries and the Mirage V in Belgium.


The F-104J was a special version of the F-104G Super Starfighter build upon the specifications of the Japanese Air Selfe Defence Forces. It was flown in Japan only until a few were sold to Taiwan after they retired in Japan. The photo was taken during ACM excersises in 1980. During these exercises the Air Force used always exotic color schemes. In total 210 aircraft were build under license agreements in the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan.


The F-104DJ was a training version of the F-104J but capable of carrying at least some weapons as well. For this reason they have not been designated as TF-104J. In total 20 aircraft were menufactured, first used by the Japanese Air Self Defense Forces and lateron a number of remaining aircraft were transferred to Taiwan. The photo shows an ex-Japanese F-104DJ operated by the Taiwanese Air Force, taxying at CCK Air Base in October 1989.


For testing the ability of the 104 being used as drones, the Japanese Air Force created a YQF-104J drone prototype aircraft filled up with sophisticated sensors and measuring computers. The project resulted in the UF-104J(A) program.


The UF-104J was a special drone version of the F-104J which was tested extremely before being ready for its drone task. During this testing period it was always flying manned missions.


Unmanned drone-aircraft ready for being used for missile shooting exercises. The aircraft were controlled remotely by pilots via computers on the airbase. Photos of UF-104JA aircraft are very rare, especially in color. Shown is a photo found inside a Japanese magazine. If you look very closely you will notice that the serial of the aircraft was changed from 46-8633 into 46-3633. Also the drones behind got new serials.


Three F-104G Super Starfighter aircraft have been ordered by the NASA for high-speed experiments and astronaut training. The aircraft differed from the ordinary F-104G by the removal of all military equipment decreasing the overall weight drastically. The photo shows aircraft 813 the 3rd build F-104N and also the only one which was lost during a very tragic accident.


Special build civil version of the F-104 for record flight purposes using a US NAVY Phantom engine and hybrid airframe. It was build in 1977 and was lost due to a crash in February 1978 after setting some serious records in October 1978. We have here one of the rare photographs taken of the Red Baron, back in 1977 when the engine was not yet installed. It got a J-79 engine obtained from a US Navy F-4 Phantom aircraft which was modified for more thrust, for example to add special water injection systems inside to increase the pressure within the compressors.
Read more about the development of this aircraft here and about its records here.


Based upon the CL-901 Lockheed concept the FIAT factory in Italy delevopedan improved version of the F-104G. The aircraft had modified inlets with extra doors to serve the needs of the more powerfull General Electric GE-19 engine. It had extra fins on its aft fuselage to improve the stability in flight and it was capable of firing the more modern Sparrow radar-guided missiles using the new adopted NASARR R-21G/H radar which has moving-target indication and tracking capability. More sophistated avionics made the S complete. The "S" was choosen for the capability of carrying the Sparrow missiles. The photo beneath shows the F-104S MM6731 5-44 after landing at Leeuwarden Air Base on 10 June 1983. Not the extra fins beneath the Italian roundels. In total 246 aircraft were manufactured and two F-104Gs were modified to F-104S prototype.


In December 1984 the AMI started the S/ASA (Aggiornamento Sistema d'Arma, or Updated Weapons System) modification program, To extend the life-time of the F-104S, the aircraft got some improvements. This version was designated as ASA. It had a Fiat R21G/M1 radar, a four-digit NATO IFF, an improved weapons delivery computer, and the addition of an automatic pitch control computer. The ASA F-104S had provision for the use of the all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinder in place of the original rear-attack AIM-9Bs. It had the ability to carry the Selenia Apside 1A medium- to long-range radar-guided air-to-air missile which replaced the outdated Sparrow missiles. The photo was taken in May 1996 at Beja AB showing Italian aircraft MM6776.


The most modern F-104 version ever used was without any doubt the ASA-M version. This version was needed when the Italian Air Force again needed to extend the life of the existing ASA aircraft due to the delay in the replacement program. The aicraft got new computers, new wiring, new avionics (more in line with the instruments and equipment used inside the AMX and Tornado aircraft). Due to the lower weight of the replaced computer equipment its performance was improved.
The photo is showing MM6759 at Istrana AB in 2002. The aircraft was stationed at Istrana for QRA duties.
Note the live-sidewinder missiles on the wingtips.


Prototype aircraft to test the CF-104 Specific avionics. It was a modified ex USAF F-104A (56-770) with the F-104G known larger tailsection of which only 1 was created and can still be found preserved inside an Air Museum in Canada.
The photo is showing the CF-104A in flight during testing. The inlet shows the difference with the lateron build CF-104 which had heater systems implemented. Formerly it was a USAF F-104A 56-770 which got lateron serial 12700/104700. On the picture it still wears an intermediate serial "60770".


Special version of the F-104G Super Starfighter build according the specifications of the Royal Canadian Armed Forces. Some Canadian aircraft have been transferred to the Norwegian, Danish and Turkish Air Forces. The aircraft was powered by the F-104C implemented GE7 version of the J79 engine which was one of the differences with the normal F-104G aircraft. Sometimes the wrong designation "CF-104G" is use to identify the aircraft. The photo shows a Canadian CF-104 during exercise Tactical Air Meet 1980. In total 200 aircraft were manufactured.


The CF-104D was available in two versions. First a training version (Mk 1) of the CF-104 and then there was an operational (Mk 2) version, capable of carrying at least some weapons as well. These had a centreline pylon for weapons and were intended from the start to be assigned to 1 Air Division in Europe. The photo is showing a Turkish Air Force CF-104D aircraft. It was formerly used by the Canadian Air Force and delivered mid 80s. In total 38 aircraft were build by Lockheed.


Improved Starfighter version of the F-104G, proposed by Lockheed. The Italian Air Force used this version as base for their developed F-104S version late sixties. Sadly no color photos are known of the CL901 prototype. The picture was taken in 1966 showing the CL-901 taking off for a test-mission. You can clearly see the extra vins behind as the F-104S adopted lateron, as well as the other engine (GE-19).


The Lockheed CL-1200 Lancer was a company-funded proposal for a derivative of the F-104 Starfighter intended for the export market. The CL-1200 design retained the F-104 fuselage, though with a shoulder-mounted wing of larger area moved further aft and a changed tailsection to a more convential shape. It was proposed in August 1970. This project became never successful since more low cost fighters had been introduced to the market like the Northrop F-5. Sadly there are no color photos known of it. That's why we put a b&w picture here... It is still unknown what happened to this experimental airframe.


Developed out of the CL-1200, Lockheed made one final attempt to keep the 104 alive. They modernised the airframe and added a more powerfull turbofan(Pratt&WhitnyTW30-PW100) engine. Only the nose section was kept the same since also the typical 104 inlets had been disappeared and be replaced by rectangular engine air intakes. At one time, the Air Force considered buying one experimental X-27. However, the X-27 program was terminated due to lack of funds. Photo shows the only created Mock-Up of this variant, which never flew.


Other Lockheed Variants (studies)
Lockheed has designed a lot of models around the 104 basic disign. However all stayed at the drawing boards and never resulted in a prototype nor a mock-up.
Some examples are mentioned beneath:

CL-704 : VTOL strike and reconnaissance aircraft originally proposed in 1962. It had 2 x 7 RollsRoyce RB181 vertical lift engines inside the two enlarged tiptanks on
its wingtips.(see drawing beneath). In stead of the J79 the aircraft should be powered by a Rolls Royce RB168R. Project was cancelled.
CL-901 TDN: Special version based on CL-901 with canards mounted behind the cockpit section. (See beneath)
CL-958 : Mach 2.4 version with J79-GE19 engine - longer and higher fuselage and different, more sharp, shaped wings.
CL-981-20 : Mach 2.4 version with J79-GE19 engine - increased wingarea, longer wings, increased range and weaponload.
CL-984 : Mach 2.4 version, in fact a CL-901 version with different avionics and radar.
CL-1007 : Mach 2.2 version, in fact a hybrid CL-901/984 version with different avionics and radar (F15J) C
: Mach 2.4 version with R21G Nasarr and increased range capability (CL-901 based)
CL-1200-1 : Special version of the CL-1200 with a more powerful engine and different tail section. (See drawing beneath)
CL-1200-LF2 : Lightweight Fighter concept based on CL-1200 with shorter fuselage and turbofan engine (P&W TF30)
CL-1400 : CL-1200 with longer fuselage, more powerful engine (axial) and increased range. (See drawing beneath)
CL-1400N : Special Navy version of the CL-1400 concept. Cockpit moved to the front for better view during landing. (See drawing beneath)
X-27T : Special training version of the X-27 single seat Lancer aircraft. (See drawing beneath)
Ryan F-104 VTOL project : This was a joint Ryan/ Lockheed VTOL project initiated in 1962 where a revolutionary helicopter like construction was build on top
of the fuselage. The triangle rotating wing with special winglets powered by the J79 would bring the 104 up in the sky vertically and when forward speed had been
achieved the triangle wing was locked for horizontal flight. (See drawing)











X27 trainer

X27 trainer


F-104E (US Navy version XF5V-1) Fantasy.

There have been a lot of rumours about a special US Navy (carrier operated) version of the F-104 Starfighter. This type F-104E should receive official Navy model-type designation XF5V-1.
The modifications were designed by Lockheed project engineer A.P. Rilfool and included general strengthening of the main landing gear, extending the length of the nose wheel gear to increase angle of attack on
takeoff, extending the wing tips slightly as well as giving them the capability of being folded. The F-104 central ventral fin was replaced by twin ventral fins offset from the centerline of the aircraft, and the
arresting hook was strengthened to allow for deck landings. The only other modification was the canopy, which was redesigned to hinge from the rear, instead of from the side, as per the Air Force counterpart.
See also story at: http://www.internetmodeler.com/2004/april/aviation/f-104e.php
However this story was complete rediculous and based on pure fantasy!!
US Navy China Lake expert Gary Verver stated: When sounded out the Lockheed engineers name is “April Fool” and the pilots name is “I be Fooling you”.
The story is not true, but it is a great story and actually ran in the last issue of the Hook magazine. (photo beneath by Terry Moore)



EADS study project (Germany)

In Germany a number of studies have been initiated from around 1963 to improve the F-104 Starfighter since it was German most important fighter aircraft. Only the CCV version was really build.
All the others stayed on the drawingboards and to be honoust they were a little bit too prestigious..