|The F-104C (Lockheed Model 483-04-05) was the tactical strike version of the Starfighter. It was designed to meet the needs of the Tactical Air Command (TAC), which had earlier found the F-104A to be unacceptable because of its low endurance and its inability to carry significant offensive payloads.|
The choice of the F-104C by the TAC after it had found the F-104A to be unsuitable seems sort of odd, but the TAC felt that it needed a supersonic tactical strike fighter to fill the void between the forthcoming F-100C and the Mach 2-capable Republic F-105 Thunderchief. On March 2, 1956, a contract was approved for the initial procurement of 56 F-104Cs. The order was later increased to 77 when a second order for 21 more F-104Cs was approved on December 26, 1956. Planned orders for another 363 F-104Cs were later cancelled when the USAF terminated all of its Starfighter production plans.
The first F-104C, unofficially designated YF-104C, took off on its maiden flight on July 24, 1958. The F-104C was powered by a General Electric J79-GE-7 engine rated at 10,000 lb.s.t. dry and 15,800 lb.s.t. with afterburner. This thrust was almost a thousand pounds greater than the -3A/3B of the F-104A/B. This increase in power was made possible by increasing the diameter of the turbine by 3 inches.
The F-104C could also be equipped with a fixed but removable inflight refuelling probe attached to the port side of the fuselage.
The F-104C was designed mainly for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons, which it could carry on a centerline pylon attachment which had a 2000-pound capacity. It could carry the Mark 28 and Mark 43 nuclear weapons. Although some references claim that a 225 US gallon droptank could be carried on this centerline pylon, it was exclusively a weapons pylon and was not plumbed to take fuel ports.
The F-104C was equipped with the improved AN/ASG-14T-2 fire control system which replaced the F-104A's AN/ASG-14T-1. It made the F-104C capable of operating in clear night as well as in day conditions, although the F-104C was not truly capable of all-weather operations.
The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on underwing and fuselage points. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry a Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip. It has been reported that the F-104C was not actually equipped with an internal cannon until the improved M61A1 became available, but this appears to be wrong since the F-104C was equipped with the M61 from its first delivery to the 479th TFW.