Formation of three F-94Cs (S/N 51-5642, 50-1063 and 51-5549) of the 354th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif.,

Formation of three F-94Cs (S/N 51-5642, 50-1063 and 51-5549) of the 354th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Oxnard Air Force Base, Calif.

The F-94 came about during a time of rapid change in the aviation world, but it had an eventful, if short, life.

By the end of World War II, air forces around the world were aware that a new age of aviation was dawning: The Jet Age. In 1948, the newly-formed United States Air Force called out to designers for a radar-equipped jet interceptor to replace the piston-engine F-81 and F-82. The threat of war with the Soviet Union was already very real, and their Tupolev Tu-4 (a copy of the American B-29) was an intercontinental threat, in and of itself.

The Air Force needed a fast interceptor, that could fly at night and be able to detect incoming bombers on its own. Curtiss-Wright designed the XF-87 “Blackhawk” to fill this role, but it was scrapped for poor performance. Lockheed was asked to submit a design on an emergency basis, so the company took aspects of its successful TF-80C jet trainer. The TF-80, later called the T-33 “Shooting Star” was a two-seat training version of the F-80 “Shooting Star,” and the prototype plane they would give birth to would share 75 percent of the original TF-80’s parts. Notably, the engine was upgraded from the J-33 turbojet seen on the T-33 to the Allison J-33-A-33 afterburning turbojet. The extra power was required due to the added weight of electronic equipment, including the radar and the Sperry A-1C gunsight.

This made the F-94 the first American production jet that used an afterburner.

The first production F-94, the F-94A variant was armed by four .50 in. M3 Browning machine guns in the fuselage. Its two wingtip fuel tanks could be replaced by 1,000 bombs, making the F-94 a versatile fighter-bomber. in 1951, the F-94B version entered service with upgraded electronics, engine, and an Instrument Landing System.

The F-94C was the first variant to bear the “Starfire” name, but when it went into service, the entire F-94 family adopted the moniker. The “C” was a very different airplane, so different that Air Force officially were originally going to call it the F-97. The F-94C had its guns replaced with rockets, wings thinned out, and tail surface swept back. The engine was swapped out for a Pratt & Whitney J48, which gave a big increase in power, especially when the afterburner was fired up.

In March 1951, the Air Force sent F-94Bs into combat over Korea. During the Conflict, an F-94 was credited with the world’s first jet-versus-jet air combat victory, when it defeated a MiG-15 with guns. Only one F-94 was officially lost in combat, though a few others crashed during the deployment.

Despite its combat successes, the F-94 was retired from USAF service in 1959, as a flurry of new and more advanced jet fighters came into production. They remained in Air National Guard service until 1960.

Specifications

General (F-94C)

Crew: 2
Length: 44 ft 6 in
Wingspan: 42 ft 5 in
Height: 14 ft 11 in
Empty weight: 12,708 lb
Engine One Pratt & Whitney J48-P-5 turbojet, putting out 6,350 lbf (8,750 lbf with afterburner)

Performance (F-94C)

Maximum speed: 640 mph
Combat Range: 805 mi
Ferry range: 1,275 mi
Ceiling: 51,400 ft
Thrust/weight: 0.48

Armament

F-94A/B: Four .50 in. M3 Browning machine guns
F-94C: 24 or 48 2.75 in (70 mm) Folding-Fin aerial Rockets

Wingtip fuel tanks could be replaced with 1,000 lb. bombs.

F-94 “Starfire” Photo Gallery

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