F-100 Super Sabre, North American

F-100 Super Sabre

First operational supersonic fighter in the U.S. The F-100 had a long and distinguished career, but was not without problems. It was designed before the 'area rule' was known; its supersonic performance was achieved by streamlining and power. It was very big for a fighter aircraft when it was first flown, and heralded a new generation of bigger, faster, and heavier fighters: the "Century Series". As an interceptor, it was soon overtaken by newer designs; the F-100 was used mostly as a fighter-bomber. The RF-100 was a recce version of the F-100 Super Sabre with equipment in a rectangular fairing under the forward fuselage. There also was an NF-100 with a thrust-reverser for low-speed controllability tests.

The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a jet fighter aircraft that served with the USAF from 1954 to 1971 and with the ANG until 1979. It was the successor to the F-86 Sabre, the first of the century series of U.S. jet fighters, and the first U.S. fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight. In its later life it was often referred to as "the Hun", a shortened version of "one hundred". North American built 2294 F-100s before production ended in 1959.

Type: F-100D-75-NA Super Sabre
Country: USA
Year: 1956
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 7690 kg P&W J57-P-21A turbojet
Wing Span: 11.82 m
Length: 14.36 m
Height: 4.95 m
Wing Area: 35.77 m2
Wing loading: 352 kg/m²
Wing Aspect ratio: 3.76
Empty Weight: 9526 kg
Max.Weight: 15800 kg
Thrust/weight: 0.55
Max. Speed: 1390 km/h
Ceiling: 14820 m
Rate of climb: 113.8 m/s
Max. Range: 2690 km (others sources claim 3,210 km)
Armament: 4* 20mm M39 cannons, 3402 kg
Unit cost: 704,000 USD

Type: F-100C Super Sabre
Year: 1956
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 7690 kg P&W J57-P-21A
Wing Span: 11.82 m
Length: 14.26 m
Height: 4.75 m
Wing Area: 35.77 m2
Empty Weight: 9126 kg
Max.Weight: 15100 kg
Max. Speed: 1350 km/h
Ceiling: 14020 m
Max. Range: 2490 km
Armament: 4*g20 mm 2600 kg
Unit cost: 664,000 USD


In January 1951, North American Aviation delivered to the United States Air Force an unsolicited proposal for a supersonic day fighter. Named Sabre 45 because of its 45 wing sweep, it represented evolution of the F-86 Sabre. The mockup was inspected 1951-11-07 and after over a hundred corrections, the new aircraft was accepted as the F-100 in late November 1951. In January 1952, the USAF ordered two prototypes followed by 23 F-100As in February and an additional 250 F-100As in August.

The YF-100A first flew in May 1953, seven months ahead of schedule. It reached Mach 1.05 in spite of being fitted with a de-rated XJ57-P-7 engine. The second prototype flew in october, followed by the first production F-100A on 1953-10-29. The USAF operational evaluation from November 1953 to December 1955 found the new fighter to have superior performance but declared it not ready for widescale deployment due to various deficiencies in the design. These findings were subsequently confirmed during Project Hot Rod operational suitability tests. Particularly troubling was the yaw instability in certain regimes of flight which produced inertia coupling. The aircraft could develop a sudden yaw and roll which would happen too fast for the pilot to correct and would quickly overstress the aircraft structure to disintegration. It was under these conditions that North American's chief test pilot, George Welch, was killed while dive testing an early-production F-100A. A related control problem stemmed from handling characteristics of the swept wing at high angles of attack. As the aircraft approached stall speeds, loss of lift on the tips of the wings caused a violent pitch-up.

Nevertheless, delays in the F-84F Thunderstreak program pushed the Tactical Air Command to order the raw F-100A into service. TAC also requested that future F-100s should be fighter-bombers with nuclear bomb capability.


The F-100 was the USAF's first operational aircraft capable of flying faster than the speed of sound (760 mph) in level flight. The F-100 is best remembered for the years it spent on the United States Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.

The F-100 began life as a company funded project to improve on the basic F-86 Sabre design. The program didn't attract military interest until the F-86 was pitted against the Russian MiG-15 in the skies over Korea. Early Korean War experience made it evident that the Communist Block had brought themselves close to their western enemies in fighter design. The U.S. Air Force, not content with this, awarded North American Aviation a contract to produce two YF-100A prototypes and an F-100A production version in Nov. 1951. Thus was born the first of the century series fighters.

It made its initial flight on May 25, 1953, and the first production aircraft was completed in October 1953. The Super Sabre became the first fighter to attain level flight supersonic speed, doing so during its maiden flight Oct. 29, 1953. The F-100 became operational in Sept. 1954. North American built 2,294 F-100s before production ended in 1959.

F-100 Super Sabre

Designed originally to destroy enemy aircraft in aerial combat, the F-100 later became a fighter-bomber.  It made its combat debut during the Vietnam conflict where it was assigned the task of attacking such targets as bridges, river barges, road junctions, and cantonment areas. The F-100 had originally been designed as an air superiority fighter, but the "A" model was the only pure air superiority version. The "B" model was an all weather fighter. As the Air Force began to realize the F-84 fighter-bomber fleets were showing signs of age, the logical choice was to modify the F-100. Thus was born the F-100C. The F-100C which made its first flight in 1955, featured such advances as an in-flight refueling system, provisions for extra fuel drop tanks and bombs under the wings and an improved electronic bombing system. The "D" model was the definitive version with 1,274 examples eventually produced. It had improvements in both aerodynamics and weapons delivery, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
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