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North American F-100 Super Sabre Development & History

The F-100 Super Sabre was a swept-wing supersonic jet that served in the U. S. Air Force from 1954 to 1971; it remained active in the Air National Guard until 1979.

I've had an interest in the fighter jet since I saw my first F-100 Super Sabre in the mid-1950s at an air show at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana. It made a low approach just over the runway, and zoomed vertical above the dazzled crowds below.

North American F-100F S/N 63992North American F-100F S/N 63992

General Design Characteristics of the F-100 Super Sabre

The F-100 was the first Air Force jet fighter plane capable of supersonic speed in level flight. In addition to its nuclear bomb armament and four 20 mm cannons, the Super Sabre could be equipped to fire rockets and missiles, including the heat-seeking the GAR-8 Sidewinder. The F-100 had a service ceiling above 50,000 feet and a range of more than 1,000 statute miles.

While the later models of the F-100 had a speed in excess of 1,000 mph, earlier "A" and "C" models seta series of supersonic speed records. Colonel F.K. (Pete) Everest reached 755.149 mph in October 1953, and Colonel Horace Hanes topped 822 mph in August 1955.

In addition to the thin, highly swept wing and tail, the F-100 design incorporated other features that reflect an answer to the problem of supersonic flight. Heat-resisting titanium was used extensively throughout the plane. A low-drag, ultra-streamlined fuselage and canopy with but one thin-lipped air intake duct helped make supersonic speed possible. The canopy line matched the rear fuselage in a smoothly curving line so that from the side, the Super Sabre appeared to be slightly arched. The F-100 was the first Air Force fighter plane to utilize the low tail.

The F-100 was often referred to as "The Hun," an obvious reference to its "one hundred" designation.

F-100 Super Sabre Development and Production

Watch F-100 Super Sabre videos of U.S.A.F. Captain Robert L. Ward during his active duty at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana

The F-100 began life in January 1951 when North American Aviation presented an unsolicited proposal to the Air Force for a new generation of fighter airplane. Originally named "Sabre 45" because of its 45° wing sweep, it represented a logical evolution of the F-86 Sabre jet.

The Air Force was interested in the concept, and the plane was designated the F-100, with a buzz number of "FW". The YF-100A flew in May 1953 and reached a speed of Mach 1.05. The second prototype flew in October 1953, followed by the first production F-100A on October 9, 1953. Early prototypes and operational units suffered from stability, structural failures, and hydraulic system failures; a number of refinements were incorporated in the aircraft over its lifetime.

U.S. Air Force Tactical Air CommandThe F-100A officially entered Air Force service on September 27, 1954. The Tactical Air Command (TAC) requested a fighter-bomber variant of the aircraft, and North American thus produced the F-100C, which flew in March 1954 and entered service in July 1955.

The next model, the F-100D, was designed to address the offensive shortcomings of the F-100C by being primarily a ground attack aircraft, with fighter capability a secondary objective. The F-100D was fitted with autopilot, upgraded avionics, and in later production models a Sidewinder capability. The F-100F two-seat trainer entered service in 1958.

Deployment of the F-100 Super Sabre

During its service career, the F-100 was deployed around the world, from Europe to Africa to Asia. It saw extensive service during the Viet Nam War.

401st Tactical Fighter Wing at England AFB in Alexandria, LouisianaIn 1961, at England AFB, Louisiana, the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing was equipped with four fighter/bomber squadrons of F-100s: the 612th, 613th, 614th and the 615th (Fighting Tigers). During the Berlin Crisis, the 614th was deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany to support the West Germans.

During its service career, hundreds of F-100s were lost in crashes. The F-100 was the subject of many modification programs over the course of its service, including improvements to electronics, structural strengthening, and projects to improve ease of maintenance.

End of Service Life for the Super Sabre

By 1972, the F-100 had been effectively phased out of active US Air Force service, with remaining F-100s assigned to Air National Guard tactical fighter groups and squadrons. It also saw service in the air forces of several other countries.

A total of 2,294 F-100s would ultimately be built.

Surviving F-100 Super Sabre Aircraft

Over thirty F-100 aircraft have been saved, restored and are on static display in the United States.

We've had the opportunity to view several of these, including those shown in the photos below.

The F-100F Super Sabre S/N 56-3844 named "Misty 1" is in flying status with the Collings Foundation’s Vietnam Memorial Flight Collection and Programs at Ellington Field, Houston Texas. The jet is painted in honor of Col. Bud Day, a Vietnam era POW ... see video below for Col. Day's flight in the F-100.

A Fascinating Story of Another F-100 Survivor

In 2012, the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum at the Akron/Canton Airport in Ohio completed restoration of an F-100D.

North American F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 before restorationNorth American F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 before restoration
Photo by the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum
F-100D, S/N 56-3081 was delivered to Cannon AFB, NM on June 19, 1957.  Since that date, 081 has led a very active life.  It flew to Asia and Europe to sit nuclear alert as part of the Cold War.  Later it was a training aircraft for new fighter pilots.

 

In 1967 it was deployed to do what it was designed for – combat.  56-3081 survived 3 years of combat in Vietnam then returned to the states, again for training purposes.  In April 1972 it began 6 years of active duty with the Air National Guard in Ohio, Iowa and Missouri  The Missouri ANG was the last combat unit to fly 081 as a piloted aircraft.

 

In the fall of 1978, 56-3081 was sent to the “bone yard” (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.  It sat there for 10 years before it was converted to a QF-100D drone (#339) in 1988.  56-3081 escaped combat damage in Vietnam but as a drone it was hit with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.  The missile came from the upper left rear striking the lower edge of the rudder then punching a hole in the left inboard aileron.  There was no explosion, probably a guidance only test.  Upon landing, the nose gear collapsed grinding off a good portion of the forward lower intake.

 

F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 during restoration
F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 during restoration
Photo from the Military Aviation Preservation Society (MAPS) Air Museum
In June 1998, 56-3081 was shipped to Clearwater, FL for display.  A few years later the facility closed and the 081 was disassembled and sent to a swampy field south of Winter Haven, FL (see photo).  In November 2004, the MAPS Air Museum rescued 081 from the swamp and transported it to Ohio.  Restoration began in June 2005.

The major damage to the aircraft (other than the sidewinder hit) was corrosion.  Many years in the Florida salt air took its toll (deep pits in thick skin, holes in thin skin, some panels corroded away).  The restoration team headed by Ken Ramsay at MAPS removed the corrosion and filled or replaced the skin.  The intake damage was repaired and missing components (pitot boom, air refueling probe, gear doors tail hook, tires, etc.) were obtained. 

On Sunday June 17, 2012, MAPS member Ken Ramsay dedicated his 7-year long project. Ken, being a former F-100 pilot, took on the task to restore the plane to static condition. It joins the ranks of the C-47, A7 and F-86D as aircraft that have been restored in the last four years by MAPS members. Visit the MAPS website for more info

Read more about the F-100D preservation project at the MAPS website

North American F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 after preservation at MAPS
North American F-100D Super Sabre 56-3081 after preservation at MAPS

Our Tribute to the F-100

Memories of England Air Force Base ... click to visit there now

This section of Planes Of The Past is meant to be a tribute to those who designed & built the F-100, the crews who flew her, and those who have worked tirelessly to preserve this groundbreaking airplane and its history.

Many have already done a tremendous job in documenting the Super Sabre in more detail on the Internet, both in text and pictures, and I will not attempt to recreate the work already done. The excitement I had when I assembled a Revell Kit of the F-100 with buzz number "FW-452" markings continues to this day.

Thanks to the U.S. Air Force for their images used on this page.

F-100 Super Sabre Photographs

North American F-100 Super Sabre in Atwater, California
S/N 53-1709 (displayed as F-100D -- 55-2789)
North American F-100C Super Sabre S/N 53-1709 (displayed as F-100D -- 55-2789)
North American F-100 Super Sabre, S/N 54-954, at Eglin AFB, Florida
North American F-100 Super Sabre, S/N 54-954
F-100D, S/N 53-503, perfectly in Pueblo, Colorado
F-100D Supr Sabre, S/N 53-503
F-100D, S/N 53-503
F-100D Supr Sabre, S/N 53-503
F-100D Super Sabre, S/N 53-503
F-100D Supr Sabre, S/N 53-503
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 52-5777, Buzz Number FW-777, at Ogden, Utah
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 52-5777, Buzz Number FW-777
F-100A Super Sabre, Buzz Number FW-777
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 52-5777, Buzz Number FW-777
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 52-5777
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 52-5777, Buzz Number FW-777
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler
Painted as 55-3537 FW-537 to resemble the F-100D flown in Viet Nam by Lt. Col. Paul N. Cohagan, in his memory; restoration funds were provided by the Cohagan family
Read an article about the restoration of this F-100
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler, Texas
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 painted as 55-3537 FW-537
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 painted as 55-3537 FW-537
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 painted as 55-3537, FW-537
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre 53537
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684
North American F-100A Super Sabre of the Tactical Air Command
North American F-100A Super Sabre of the Tactical Air Command
North American F-100F Super Sabre S/N 56-3837 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
North American F-100F Super Sabre S/N 56-3837
North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823, restored at Tucson
North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823
North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823
North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823
Tail Code LA of the North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823
Tail Code LA of the North American F-100C Super Sabre, S/N 54-1823
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1553, outside the gate of Ellsworth AFB
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1553
F-100 Super Sabre S/N 63880 in storage at AMARC
Lt. Col. Gene Gaddis still painted on the fuselage
F-100 Super Sabre in storage at AMARG
North American F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1533, Tail Code CC, 27th TFW,
at Baxter Memorial Park, Melrose, New Mexico
North American F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1533, Melrose, New Mexico
Newspaper Clipping: A pilot identified at Colonel Daniel steps down from the cockpit of an F-100
at England Air Force Base in May of 1957
Newspaper account: A pilot identified at Colonel Daniel steps down from the cockpit of an F-100 at Eng at England Air Force Base in May of 1957

F-100 Super Sabre Photographs by Planes of the Past Friends and Supporters

F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 41897, at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado
(photo by Michael Hoschouer)
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 41897, on display at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 56141, at Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis, New Mexico
(photo by Andrew Hersey)
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 56141, on static display at Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis, New Mexico
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1533, in Melrose, New Mexico
(photo by Andrew Hersey)
F-100A Super Sabre, S/N 53-1533, on display in Melrose, New Mexico
F-100D Super Sabre, S/N 63299, at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado
(photo by Michael Hoschouer)
F-100D Super Sabre, S/N 63299, on display at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado

F-100F Video of Flight of Col. Bud Day, Former Vietnam POW

USAF F-100 Super Sabre Photos

North American F-100 Super Sabre S/N 63748, Buzz Number FW-748
North American F-100 Super Sabre FW-748
U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre 63992
U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre 63992
U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre, S/N 63328, Buzz No. FW-328 at takeoff
U.S. Air Force F-100 Super Sabre, S/N 63328, Buzz No. FW-328 at takeoff (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)
Flight formation of four F-100C Super Sabre jet fighters with S/N 42105 in the foreground
Flight formation of four F-100 Super Sabre jet fighters
F-100 Super Sabre in USAF Thunderbird livery
F-100 Super Sabre in USAF Thunderbird livery

F-100 Super Sabre from the Planes O The Past Collection

F-100 Super Sabre S/N 41951 in flight
F-100 Super Sabre S/N 41951 in flight, as shown in this historic postcard

Related F-100 Historical Links

F-100 Super Sabre (F-100.org)
Super Sabre Database Project (SuperSabre.com)
The Super Sabre Society
SuperSabre.org

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