TINKER HISTORY: Republic F-84 Thunderjet fighter

  • Published
  • By Greg L. Davis
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was a single-seat day fighter designed around an all-metal wing positioned low to mid fuselage. The single-engine jet sat on tricycle landing and lacked a radar which limited it tactically to daylight operations. The first flight of the XP-84 took place in Feb. 1946. The initial design featured a straight-wing which was used over multiple model variants until a swept-wing was introduced with the F-84F variant.

Official Tinker maintenance history logs indicate that from Jan. 1951-Dec. 1955 F-84s were inducted for work here which likely involved addressing structural problems associated with the early-model F-84B/Cs. The B/Cs featured wingtip fuel tanks which the wing design was not capable of safely supporting and structural modifications were incorporated in to the aircraft in-use and future production aircraft to follow, as well. Tinker modified 48 F-84s before the workload was moved elsewhere.

The F-84 has a long and complicated operational history with many stumbling blocks along the way. Early versions were considerably underpowered if the aircraft was flown at operational weights and required extended length take-off rolls. This gave the Thunderjet the unofficial nickname of ‘lead sled.’ As engine technology improved, so did the performance of the F-84 to the point where it began approaching speed-records of the time.

While the F-84 participated in the Korean War, it did not fly in its designed roll because it could not match the Soviet designed MiG-15s performance. Instead, the Thunderjet performed well in the fighter-bomber role and saw extensive use.

The F-84 was purchased in large numbers by the U.S. Air Force with a total of 7,524 aircraft ordered. Despite this large number only 4,009 were used by the service with the remaining 3,515 delivered mainly to European/North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. The F-84 served with the air forces of Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Despite the initial shortcomings, the aircraft remains significant not only in U.S. Air Force history, but in aviation history overall as the first fighter capable of in-flight refueling and the first fighter capable of delivering nuclear weapons (Mk7). Because of these attributes the aircraft was a stoic soldier for many years during the Cold War.

The last major modification came in the form of the RF/F-84F which featured swept-wings, deletion of the wingtip tanks and increased thrust engine. The swept wing provided more maneuverability and speed. The specialized reconnaissance role ensured the RF-84F “Thunderstreak” aircraft remained in service with the Air National Guard until 1972. Allied partner nations continued operating the RF-84 until support resources were exhausted or the aircraft became obsolete due to newer aircraft entering service.

Manufacturer: Republic

Aircraft type: F-84

Nickname: Thunderjet/Thunderstreak

Crew: 1

Power plant: One Allison J35 turbojet producing between 4,000-5,600 lbs of thrust (F-84B/C/D/E/G) and one Wright J65 turbojet (F/RF/84F) producing between 6,000-7,800 lbs of thrust.

In-service dates: 1946-1971

Number produced: 7,524

Tinker connection: Maintenance, repair and overhaul