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Digital Subscriptions > Scale Aircraft Modelling > January 2018 > Aircraft in Profile

Aircraft in Profile


The F-105 Thunderchief

Republic F-105B-1-RE Thunderchief 54-0102 seen on Rogers Dry Lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, California on 16 December 1959. Note the windows behind the canopy on the first F-105Bs’

The story of military aviation is filled with underachievers, aircraft of enormous potential that were designed for wars that never came, that cost taxpayers billions, and that would no doubt have gone down in history as war winning weapons had the opportunity arisen. Then there are the workaday types that got on with the job, were obliged to rise to an occasion and either sank or swam according to the circumstances. Squarely in this latter category is the unlovely F- 105 Thunderchief, an aircraft that went to fight in the wrong war to such an extent that it had to be redeployed due to high combat losses.

Republic Aviation commenced development of the Thunderchief as an internal project to replace the RF-84F Thunderlash, a design that had successfully employed wing root air intakes to allow cameras to be placed in a pointed nose. The design team led by Alexander Kartveli examined over a hundred conigurations before settling on the large single engined AP-63FBX (Advanced Project 63 Fighter Bomber, Experimental). The new machine was intended primarily for supersonic, low altitude penetration to deliver a single, internally carried nuclear bomb. The emphasis was placed on lowaltitude speed and light characteristics, range and payload. The aircraft was to be fitted with a large engine and a relatively small wing with a high wing loading for a stable ride at low altitudes, and less drag at supersonic speeds. Traditional fighter attributes such as manoeuvrability were a secondary consideration.

By the time the F-105 mock-up had been completed in october 1953, the aircraft had grown so large that the Allison J71 turbojet intended for it was abandoned in favour of the more powerful Pratt & Whitney J75.The YF-105A prototype first flew on 22nd october 1955, with the second YF- 105A following on 28th January 1956. In spite of being powered by a less potent J57-P-25 engine the first prototype attained a speed of Mach 1.2 on its maiden light, regardless of which Republic viewed the prototypes as being unrepresentative of the aircraft’s true capability thanks to changes prior to production. This led to a redesign of the fuselage to conform to area rule, giving it the characteristic wasp waist, which combined with the distinctive forward swept variable geometry air intakes that regulated airflow to the engine at supersonic speeds, and enabled the F-105B to attain a speed of Mach 2.15.

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January 2018