F-80C "Shooting Star"
The F-80C was basically just an F-80B with an improved engine and armaments. Procurement began in 1950. Still little more than an improved F-80, the F-80Cs early days achieved scant recognition. Yet, it was this aircraft that introduced the jet fighter into the Korean conflict. Most FEAF fighter wings had F 80Cs, months before the Korean war. In May 1950, 365 of the 553 aircraft in FEAF operational units were F 80Cs.
Because of FEAF's defensive mission, F-80Cs on 25 June 1950 (when the war broke out) had only .50 caliber machineguns. As counter air interceptors, they were equipped with mid wing rocketposts for carrying up to 16 5 inch high velocity rockets. Designed as fighters, none of them were fitted with pylon bomb racks. The F-80C used the least fuel at 15,000 feet, but its range at that altitude was still quite short. Yet, before they knew it, the F-80Cs were tapped for all types of jobs from escorting B 29s to flying interdiction and close air support. As fighter bombers, they stood down on 1 May 1953, but a few remained committed to the interceptor role until the truce on 27 July.
The F 80C's radius of action was around 100 miles. With two Lockheed external 165 gallon tanks (and a full rocket load) it was only 225 miles. Lieutenants Edward R. Johnston and Robert Eckman of the 49th Fighter Bomber Wing at Misawa Air Base in Japan came up with one answer. Two center sections of a standard disposable tank were inserted in the middle of each of the two external tanks. These modified "Misawa" tanks each held 265 gallons enough fuel for 1 extra hour of flight and a 350 mile radius of action, depending on the type of combat mission. Every FEAF F 80C would get a pair of Misawa tanks, even though they might overstress the wing tips.
As early as March 1951, pilots realized the F-80C's shortcomings as escort. The MIGs were able to fly through bomber formations before the F-80Cs (100 mph slower at 25,000 feet) could engage them.21 The F 80Cs proved excellent fighter bombers and stood up well under rough field conditions. The strain of combat flying, however, caused them to deteriorate faster than they could be repaired. In 1952, they already required more routine maintenance for each hour flown than any other fighter, including the F51 of WW II note. In air to air combat, the F-80C's success was short lived. Soon, these aircraft relied on F-86 support to keep them out of MIG 15 gunsights. In the long run, enemy aircraft downed only 14 F 80cs. Still, operational losses were high (277), 113 of them due to ground fire. The 277 represented almost one-half of the entire F-80c production.
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