Lockheeds for the Navy: The F-104 in U.S. Navy Markings
little known project that nearly came to fruition in the late 1950's was
the incorporation of the F-104 into U.S. Navy service. It was felt by
some that the Navy needed a defensive fighter with a high speed capability,
and one of the fastest aircraft was the U.S. Air Force F-104, a considerably
higher performing aircraft than the Navy F3H Demons which were soon to
be phased out of front line service. With the concerns of a relatively
tight defence budget, the costs incurred for a new design were much too
high for a totally new aircraft to be created.
the Navy procured 2 F-104's from Lockheed and modified them for naval
use. The 2 aircraft received the designation XF5V-1(F-104E) on April 1,
1960. The modifications were designed by Lockheed project engineer A.P.
Rilfool and included general strengthening of the main landing gear, extending
the length of the nose wheel gear to increase angle of attack on takeoff,
extending the wing tips slightly as well as giving them the capability
of being folded. The F-104 central ventral fin was replaced by twin ventral
fins offset from the centerline of the aircraft, and the arresting hook
was strengthened to allow for deck landings. The only other modification
was the canopy, which was redesigned to hinge from the rear, instead of
from the side, as per the Air Force counterpart.
aircraft were transported to NOTS China Lake and assigned to AIRDEVRON
5. First flight was made by the second aircraft on April 1, 1961 and was
flown by Cmdr I. B. Fulenya. Problems with the first aircraft delayed
its first flight for several weeks and finally took to the air with Lt
I. M. Joshin at the controls. Both aircraft went through a battery of
tests at China Lake including catapult launches and deck landing training
in anticipation of actual deck trials later in the year. Results were
promising, however, a production order was not forthcoming, primarily
due to problems with the extended wing tips and their susceptibility to
failure with very hard deck landings. On at least 2 occasions, 1 or both
extended wing tips failed at China Lake while landing. The problems could
not be rectified without a major redesign of the entire wing. Consequently,
actual carrier deck landing trials were cancelled, as was the entire project
on April 1, 1962. The 2 aircraft remained at China Lake for some time
and their ultimate fate is unknown to this day.
This is a representation of the 2nd XF5V-1(F-104E) upon its first flight
at China Lake on April 1, 1961. The Hasegawa 72nd scale F-104J kit was
used because if its close resemblance to the F-104E. It assembled without
too much difficulty, however, I encountered some problems with the forward
fuselage fitting the aft fuselage. It required a fair amount of putty.
Other than that it was a fairly straight forward assembly and conversion.
I extended the nose gear strut to the correct length, modified the canopy
so it was aft hinging, extended the wing tips, and replaced the central
ventral fin with 2 fins, offset from the centerline. The color scheme
was the basic Navy colors in use at the time, Light
gull grey with white undersides. Both test aircraft carried some red,
although it was different on each aircraft. The model is of the second
aircraft, hence the big 2 on the intakes. Decals were scrounged from the
Here is a good source of information about China
Lake and VX-5, where you will find absolutely NO information whatsoever
on this aircraft!