The Weird Looking Tactical Fighter/Bomber – F-107A

The Weird Looking Tactical Fighter/Bomber – F-107A
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During the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Air Force was heavily involved in developing fighter jets, such as the P-80 Shooting Star, which brought America into the jet age. To counter the threat posed by the faster, swept-wing MiG-15 Fagot flown by Korean and Chinese pilots, the U.S. introduced the North American F-86 Sabre, which claimed a victory ratio of 10:1 over the MiGs by the end of the Korean War.

The next fighter to be introduced was the F-100 Super Sabre, which became the world’s first production fighter jet to achieve consistent supersonic-level flight. With a maximum speed of 848 mph, a range of nearly 1,294 nm, and a service ceiling of 44,900 ft, the F-100 served as the base for North America’s design of a nuclear-capable fighter bomber that could achieve sustained Mach 2 flight. The result was the YF-107, the Ultra Sabre or Super Super Sabre.

The F-107A had a unique design, with its air intake located on the top of the aircraft to allow for the aircraft’s underbelly to have a recessed area for carrying a strategic nuclear bomb. This design required a special vertical opening action for the canopy, and a nose cone to house a fire control radar. The F-107A also featured a one-piece movable vertical tail and roll control spoilers instead of ailerons.

Despite some issues during testing, including problems with the variable inlet duct, the F-107A had impressive specifications. Its single turbojet engine produced 24,000 lb of thrust, allowing for a top speed of 1,500 mph, a ceiling of 53,199 ft, a range of 2,414 miles, and a rate of climb of 39,900 ft/minute. In addition to carrying a tactical nuclear weapon, the F-107A could be armed with four 20mm M-39 cannons and carry up to 10,000 lbs of external bombs/missiles.

F-107A fighter bomber
North American F-107A (S/N 55-5119). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force initially ordered 33 F-107s, but a fly-off against Republic’s competing F-105 Thunderchief resulted in the Air Force choosing the F-105 instead. The F-107 order was reduced to just the three original aircraft, two of which would end up in air museums, and the third was destroyed.

Today, some air historians consider the F-107A to be the best fighter aircraft that the U.S. Air Force never bought.

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Sean Joseph

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