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F-94 Starfire

The roots of development for the F-94 lay in the WW II P-80 Shooting Star, USAF's first truly operational jet fighter. Specifically, however, the F-94 interceptor stemmed from Lockheed's successful conversion of the basic P-80 into a two-seat trainer. This TF-80c, first flown in March 1948, became the T-33 in mid-1944. The F-94 was born the same year.

The GOR called for the extra punch of an all-weather jet interceptor. Early availability took precedence over it capability to counter any threat beyond that of the TU-4(Russian equivalent to the B-29).

One week after re-endorsing continued development of the Northrop F-89, the Air Force dirceted production of the two-place, radar-equipped F-80 (christened F-94 in 1949. Two major factors prompted the decision. The North American F-82 (the only "all-weather interceptor" available) was highly unsatisfactory. More over, operation integration of its replacement would probably be delayed, since the F-89 was an entirely new design. North American never built any interceptor-type F-82s. But the two-engine, twin-fuselage, low-wing, long-range escort fighter could be converted into a single-place interceptor by removing the controls and canopy from the right-hand cockpit. The F-82Fs, -Gs, and -Hs, officially classified as figherter-interceptros, were two-seaters with a radar operator in place of the copilot. These F-82s actially could not cope with nad weather. Even as night fighters, their performace was becomin obsolete.

Secretary of Defenze Forrestal's approval of the future interim F-94 in November 1948, followed by President Truman's release of funds, led to a Janurary letter contract with Lockheed. This LC was replaced a few months later by a definitive contract (AF-1849) covering 150 F-94 productions (later reduced to 109).

The first flight of the aircraft was made on 16 April 1949 by a radar equipped TF-80. By on of two T-33A trainers (improved, redesignated TF-80Cs), modified modified for the interceptor role by adding radar noses and rearfuselage afterburners. Lockheed used the converted T-33s as F-94 prototypes to speed development, but both were little more than TF-SOCs. In effect, production aircraft flight-tested before the end of 1949 comprised 75 percent standard P-80C parts. Like the F80/T-33 Shooting Stars, the Starfire's first model (F-94A) had wing tip drop tanks. Advertising the Starftre's last model (F-94C) in later years, Lockheed praised it as "an engineering achievement of creating a more advanced model out of an existing airplane." By then, however, the Air Force generally believed this was the aircraft's foremost shortcoming.

The F-94 program changed twice in less than a year. Despite reduction of the Air Force's size, procurement quickly rose to 288-almost double the quantity sought in January 1949. The August detonation of an atom bomb in Russia forced another evaluation of Air Force planning. The F-94 procurement was raised again in December (to 368 aircraft) because "foreign posses sion of the atomic bomb necessitates acceleration of the USAF program to modernize its interceptor and all-weather force at the earliest possible time." Growing F-94 importance brought re newed, concerted efforts to improve the aircraft's overall perform ance. Lockheed proposed and the Air Force bought the F -97A, a drastically redesigned F-94. When technical hindrances immedi ately arose, the Air Force had to endorse still another, but far less ambitious, F-94 configuration. This became the F-94B, while the F-97A ended up as the F-94C.

F-94As began reaching air defense units about 6 months behind schedule. These makeshift interceptors were received at McChord and Moses Lake, Wash., by the 325th Fighter Wing of the Conti nental Air Command. CONAC, formed on 1 December 1948, included the Air Defense Command, the Tactical Air Command, and nine fighter squadrons formerly assigned to the Strategic Air Command. The rationale for CONAC (under economy programs of the pre-Korean years) was to train all fighter units for both tactical and air defense action. This would make many more aircraft available for all missions.

By the end of the year, CONAC's operational inventory counted 60 of the new F-94A. The F-94A's Allison J-33 engine, slated for the F-94B, did not work well. Despite improvement, it still suffered from turbine blade failures 2 years after the first F -94A had become operational. Also, the F-94's fuel system was far from perfect; the aircraft was unstable and hard to maneuver at high altitude. Moreover, the cockpits were too small. The pilot and radar operator found it impossible to get in and out quickly during alerts and scrambles. They had to fly in a cramped position. Even more vital, the clearance for seat ejection was slight.

The Air Force got Lockheed to correct the ejection seats and cockpits of 330 F-94 (A and B) aircraft for some $4.5 million. Minor improvements, already scheduled by the Air Force, would be done concurrently with the Lockheed modification. Excluding the coat of ordnance and government-furnished aeronautical equipment (GFAE).

All 109 F-94As were accepted by the Air Force between December 1949 and December 1950-14 in FY 50, and 95 in FY 51. Cost per aircraft was: 258,123.00-airframe, $193,721; engine (installed), $45,227; electronic, $4,014; armament, $15,161.

A few ANG squadrons, federalized during the Korean War, flew F-94s in late 1951. Upon reverting to inactive status, their planes stayed with active Air Defense Command units. Nonetheless, no F-94As remained in the USAF inventory in mid-1954. ADC was established on 21 March 1948. It lost its major air command status and became an operational command under CONAC in December 1948, but reemerged as a major air command on 1 January 1951.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:31:49 ZULU