Republic F-105 Thunderchief

First flown October 22, 1965, the Republic F-105 was a large, Mach-2 fighter-bomber employed primarily as a ground attack aircraft.  The largest single-seat, single-engined aircraft ever produced, it could carry up to 7 tons of ordnance, including a nuclear weapon within its internal weapons bay.  Although designed for the nuclear role, it earned fame in the Vietnam conflict where it was the USAF’s primary ground attack platform for the early part of the conflict.  During the conflict, it pioneered the specialized mission of attacking enemy air defenses, to which the USAF came to apply the term “wild weasel.”  For obvious reasons, this was an especially dangerous type of mission and two F-105 pilots were awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for deeds done while flying them.  The F-105 continued in limited use until the early 1980s.  No other air force besides the USAF, including its reserve and Air National Guard affiliates, operated any of the 833 examples built.

The F-105 was overbuilt like most Republic products, making it lackluster in performance but able to absorb large amounts of battle damage.

F-105s were flown by the USAF Thunderbirds display team for 6 appearances in 1964, ending when one of the aircraft disintegrated during a performance, killing its pilot.  Though these performances must have been impressive, the F-105 was spectacularly unsuited to this role and the team quickly reverted to North American F-100s.

Over 100 F-105s remain on display at museums throughout the United States.  Two are displayed in France.  The F-105’s popularity as a museum display is explained by its late date of retirement and its significant Vietnam combat history.

F-105D 60-471

The Yanks Air Museum F-105D was deployed to Germany in the 1960s and returned to the United States until retired in 1981. 

F-105D 60-504 “Memphis Belle II”

It doesn’t look much like its namesake Boeing B-17, but the National Museum of the USAF F-105D has an impressive combat history.  It served in Vietnam with the  357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Takhli Air Base in Thailand, and claimed two MiG kills.  It has been on display at the museum since 1990.

F-105D 60-508

Somewhat unusual in being painted in the interceptor paint scheme of air superiority gray with buzz numbers, the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum F-105 reflects the type’s early career as a fighter.

F-105D 61-073

This Thunderchief is at Air Power Park in Hampton, Virginia. 

F-105D 61-106

This F-105 is displayed near the Kansas National Guard Museum at the Topeka airport. 

F-105D 62-4375

The Combat Air Museum displays this F-105D in the overall gray colors that the type wore when it was retired from Air National Guard units. 

F-105G 63-8320

The final production versions of the F-105, the F-105F and F-105G, had a stretched fuselage to accommodate a second cockpit.  These versions carried extra equipment and was specialized for the “wild weasel” role.  The National Museum of the USAF‘s F-105G started life as an F-105F, was credited with three MiG kills when with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Air Base in Thailand, and was then converted to become a wild weasel F-105G with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.  It is preserved in its wild weasel colors.

F-105G 63-8331

This betoothed specimen is at the Pacific Coast Air Museum.  The museum calls it an F-105F but it plainly has a second cockpit, which was actually implemented only with the G model, and other sources identify this as an F-105G-1-RE. 


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