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F-94B Starfire

The F-97A (redesignated F-94C) was ordered right after the F-94A. The third model followed the F-94A in production and became the F-94B. New features of the F-94B included, gyroscopic instrument (Sperry Zero Reader) for more accurate landings in bad weather; high pressure oxygen system; improved hydraulic system; and larger, better-shaped, external fuel tanks. These were mounted along the airplane's center line instead of being suspended from the wings, as on the F-94A.

A converted F-94A, the 19th production, flew the maiden flight in December 1950. F-94Bs began reaching the operational forces a few months later. Despite its new features, the F-94B closely resembled the F-94A. The two had similar engines and cockpits, the same configuration weaknesses, and deficient fuel systems. Thus, they shared identical operational problems and required like postproduction modifications. Lacking adequate anti-icing equipment, neither the F-94A nor F 94B could qualify as an all-weather interceptor. The B's windshield-but not the A's-did have some kind of anti-icing system. Pending something better, ADC welcomed the B.

A handful of F-94Bs soon joined the 15 F-94As allocated to the Far East Air Forces in March 1951. The aircraft were so few, however, that they could not be easily spared. Hence, they did not enter the Korean war until late December 1951, when the 68th FIS posted two F -94s on strip alert at Suwon Air Base. The Air Force hurried the conversion of FEAF's old F-82s to more modern F-94Bs. In addition, it deployed the 319th FIS to Korea.. This unit's F-94Bs went into operation at Suwon on 22 March 1952. Even then the aircraft's involvement was limited to local air defense scrambles under positive ground-radar control. The new F-94s were fitted with the latest fire-control system. to Produced by the Hughes Aircraft Company, the E-1 was the first in the E series of sophisticated fire-control systems that were to equip more modern planes. The Air Force ordered the system in June 1948, when it asked that the AN/AP" radar (being developed for the tail defense of the B-36) be adapted to the Northrop F-89. A November amendment of the June contract extended the requirement to the F-94. The modified AN/APG-3 radar was redesignated AN/ APG-33 and the entire system, including its A-1C gunsight, became the E-1 in late 1949. It was installed in early F-89s as well as F-94As and -Bs. Low powered, the E-1 was fairly primitive alongside the E-5 of the rocket-firing F 94C. The system was nevertheless a pioneer achievement. The Air Force, therefore, did not want them to fly over enemy territory where this secret electronic equipment could be compromised. The re striction was not lifted until nearly a year later-after continued B 29 losses were tied to the ineffectiveness of fighter-escorts equipped with the older airborne-intercept radars. The 319th FIS in November 1952 began using some of its F 94Bs as a screen between the Yalu and Chongehon rivers. Soon after, F -94s also flew within a 30-mile radius of the B-29 targets. Enemy planes usually retreated rather than come up against F-94 barrier patrols.

Although not too successful against low-flying aircraft, few planes proved as reliable as the F -W against the enemy in the Korean war, even in nasty weather and darkness. Besides B 29 escort duties and enemy fighter interception missions, F --94s protected B-26 light bombers and could fly deep into North Korea when most other aircraft were grounded due to bad weather. Korean veterans as a rule praised the F-94. It was rugged and could fly many hours without maintenance.

The Air Force lost 28 F-94s between January 1952 and 27 July 1953-the day the war ended. Only one of the 28 losses was due to direct enemy action. During the same period, F-94 pilots claimed four enemy planes destroyed. The Air Force accepted 356 F-94Bs, 176 F-94Bs in FY 51 and 180 in FY 52-the last four in January 1952. Cost per aircraft was: $196,248.00-airframe, $123,422; engine (installed, $31,336; electronics, $7,635; ordnance, $2,947; armament, $30,908.

The F-94B, like the F-94A, left the active force by mid-1954. The Guard still flew the two models in late 1957. Milestones included using the E-1 fire-control system, the F 94 made its first Korean kill at night, destroying a conventional, but speedy LA-9. The Starfire pilot (Capt. Ben L. Fithian) and observer (Lt. Sam R. Lyons) never saw the enemy plane until it burst into flames. F -94s shot down three other elusive enemy jets before the armistice.

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