F-100 Super Sabre
The F-100 Super Sabre, AKA the “Hun” (for hundred) was an American fighter and fighter-bomber and the first production fighter plane to achieve supersonic speed in level flight. It served with the US Air Force and some foreign countries.
Like its predecessor, the F-86, the F-100 was a swept-wing design. A single Pratt & Whitney turbojet drove the plane with a maximum speed of 770 mph (Mach 1.01) at low level and 864 mph (Mach 1.2) at high altitude. It carried four 20-mm cannons in the nose (the last Air Force plane to do so) and had eight wing pylons for Sidewinders, fuel tanks, bombs, or Bullpup air-to-surface missiles. The first model, the F-100A, was a day fighter, but later models, the F-100C and D, were designed as fighter-bombers. The F-100D could carry nuclear bombs. Almost 2300 F-100s were produced in total, most of them D models.
The Super Sabre entered US service in 1954. In April 1961, the plane made national headlines when one accidentally shot down a B-52 Stratofortress during a practice mission. Two F-100s were doing simulated intercepts on the bomber over New Mexico when one of the Sidewinders was launched. The missile tracked, and severed the left wing of the B-52, sending it hurtling to the ground. The navigator, bombardier, and an ECM officer were killed. An investigation conclusively ruled out pilot error, and attributed the launch to a mechanical failure in the missile launch circuits. In effect, the Sidewinder had fired itself.
Like most other planes of the Century Series, including the F-104 Starfighter and F-105 Thunderchief, the Super Sabre saw action in the Vietnam War. F-100s participated in the first strikes of Rolling Thunder, defending the bombers against MiGs and suppressing AAA (anti-aircraft artillery). On April 4, 1965, Hun pilot Captain Donald Kilgus shot down a MiG-17 with his 20-mms, one of the first American aerial kills of the war. Later in the conflict, two-seat F-100Fs were modified for attacking SAM sites, becoming the first Wild Weasels. All F-100s had been withdrawn from the region by the time Rolling Thunder ended, replaced by the faster and more capable F-4 Phantom.
The F-100 enjoyed an almost thirteen-year stint with the USAF Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, starting in 1956. It was replaced briefly by the F-105 Thunderchief, but problems arose with the big fighter, and the Hun was quickly brought back. The Super Sabre was finally retired from the team for good in 1969, replaced by the F-4 Phantom.
The Super Sabre flew with the air forces of a number of foreign countries.
France’s L’Armee de L’Air was the first foreign customer for the F-100, and acquired a hundred of them, starting in May 1958. Before American planes ever struck targets in Vietnam, French Super Sabres were active in another guerrilla war, the Algerian War of Independence, striking rebel targets from bases in France.
Nationalist China’s first F-100s arrived in October 1958, and the fleet grew to over 120 planes, mostly F-100As. Nationalist Huns flew intelligence-gathering missions over mainland China, and many of them never returned. The details of those missions are still shrouded in secrecy.
Denmark took delivery of 48 F-100Ds and 10 F-100Fs, beginning in mid-1959. The Danish Huns replaced F-84 Thunderjets in the role of primary fighter-bomber. The Super Sabres had a poor record in Danish service, with a third of them being lost in accidents. They were replaced in the early 80s when Denmark acquired American F-16s.
Turkey received over two hundred F-100s starting in the late 50s. Most of them were ex-USAF planes. As the principal Turkish fighter-bomber at the time, Super Sabres saw heavy action in the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, carrying out close air support and tactical bombing missions.
Super Sabre in Popular Media
- Military Aircraft Visual Guide, ed. by David Donald, Aerospace Publishing Ltd., 2008
- Shootdown: the Death of the B-52 Ciudad Juarez
- Cold War Fighter Planes 1954-1960
- Rolling Thunder: Jet Combat From World War II to the Gulf War, by Ivan Rendall, Dell Publishing, 1997
- Thunderbirds Home Page
- F-100 Super Sabre With Foreign Air Forces
- F-100 Super Sabre at War, by Thomas Gardner, MBI Publishing, 2007