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RF-84F "Thunderflash"

Engine air intake ducts were located in the wing roots of the RF-84F rather than in the nose section. The elongated and enclosed nose contained 15 cameras: six standard forward-facing, one TriMetrogen horizon-to-horizon, and eight in oblique and vertical positions for target closeups. The RF-84F featured many firsts: the Tri-Metrogen camera, a computerized control system based on light, speed, and altitude, it adjusted camera settings to produce pictures with greater delineation and a vertical view finder with a periscopic presentation on the cockpit panel to enhance visual reconnaissance. Talking into a wire recorder, the pilot could describe ground movements that might not appear in still pictures.

Production of the RF-84F was linked to that of the F-84F. In both cases, the Korean War prompted the decision. The Tactical Air Command had to withdraw tactical aircraft from storage and modify active F-80s to meet the war's reconnaissance requirements. The RF-80 actually became the Air Force's recon workhorse in Korea, but thin plane could not fly at low altitude long enough to perform suitable visual reconnaissance. Nonetheless, the first RF-84F ordex was not formalized until 12 June 1961--2 weeks after satisfactory inspection of the mockup and 6 months past official endorsement~of the RF-84F full-scale production. The initial RF-84F contract only called for, two prototypes (later reduced to one), but the Air Force was already convinced the new aircraft would be the best in terms of endurance, speed, and sensors. The RF-84F would also be able to fly night missions by using magnesium flares carried under its wings in flash-ejector cartridges. Hence, the first 130 RF-84Fs were ordered before the new fiscal year (July 1961).

Before this flight, an F-84F prototype had already tested the RF-84F'a new air intake configuration. The test disclosed no serious impairment of overall aircraft performance.

Almost 1 year after delivery of the first F-84F. The Air Force accepted a second RF-84F in September.

Being almost identical to the F-84F, the RF-84F did not escape some of its predecessor's problems. Republic's shortage of forgings prevented further deliveries of the RF-84Fs until January 194. In April, after only 24 of the reconnaissance aircraft (counting the 2 released in 1963) had been accepted, engine troubles brought another delay. Eighteen months passed before RF-84F deliveries finally resumed in November 1966.

First with TAC, but in December 1966, SAC began equipping a Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Fighter, with a mix of RF-84Fs and ~ RF-84Ks. (The latter were specially configured RF-84Fs, developed during the Fighter Conveyor (FICON) B-36 project)

The RF-84F underwent most of the F-84F's production modifications. Likewise, while the first RF-84F lot was equipped with the 7,200-1b static thrust Wright J-6b-W-3 engine, later ones received the --W-7 (a 7,800lb static thrust version of the carne Wright engine).

With delivery of 28 RF-84Fs the last of 327 RF-84Fs ordered into production for the Military Assistance Program. There were 715 accepted--327 for MAP and 388 for the Air Force. Included in USAF total were 25 reconfigured RF-84Fs, subsequently identified as RF-84Ks. The Air Force accepted 24 RF-84Fs for its own use in FY 54, 163 (counting 6 future RF-84Ks) in FY 55, 137 (19 RF,84Ks included) in FY 56, and 64 in FY 57. All MAP RF-84Fs were accepted within 3 years---47 in FY 55, 174 in FY 56, and 106 in FY 57. Cost per aircraft was: $667,608.00: airframe, $482,821; engine (installed), $95,320; electronics, $21,576; ordnance, $4,529; armament, $63,632.

Originally fitted for the boom type of aerial refueling, the RF-84F was later modified for the probe and drogue method.

SAC's 71st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing flew the last RF-84F/K mission an 22 May 1957. Within the next 12 months, TAC turned over the remainder of its RF-84Fs to the ANG.

The Berlin crisis brought the recall of the ANG's 117th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, equipped with about 60 RF-84Fs. The 117th returned to state control after the crisis.

The drain of TAC units to Southeast Asia in the late 1960's rendered TAC dependent upon ANG units for support of other contingency plans. Hence, by 1967 six of seven RF-84F ANG squadrons had attained either C-1 or C-2 readiness status. The same rating system still applied in mid-1973. The Air Force gave C-1 ratings to units that were fully combat ready and C-2 ratings to those substantially combat ready. Units marginally combat ready received a C-3 rating; the ones not combat ready, a C-4--the lowest rating. USAF plans called for the ANG to keep at least three RF-84F squadrons through fiscal year 1976. However, more advanced aircraft became available, and the ANG disposed of its RF--84Fs more rapidly. On 26 January 1972, the last RF-84Fs were flown to a storage depot. They had belonged to the 155th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, which traded them for RF-4Cs.

RF-84Fs were flown by the Chinese Nationalist Air Force as well as by air forces of eight other countries: Germany, France, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway. In the late 1950's the Italian Air Force put into practice President Eisenhower's "Open Skies" aerial inspection proposal for enforcing arms limitation agreements. While crisscrossing Italy at 550 mph (477.5 kn), RF-84Fs were able to photograph small vehicles and people as well.



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