Lockheeds for the Navy: The F-104 in U.S. Navy Markings

By Terry Moore


A 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.

Instead, 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.

The 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.

The Model

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 scrap box.

Here is a good source of information about China Lake and VX-5, where you will find absolutely NO information whatsoever on this aircraft!

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