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TINKER HISTORY: Republic F-105 Thunderchief aircraft

F-105 midair refueling (Courtesy photo)

F-105 midair refueling (Courtesy photo)


The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was a heavy fighter/bomber which was a workhorse of the Vietnam War. The single-engine “Thud,” as it was known, sat on tricycle landing gear with a standard tail configuration and highly-swept wing with mid-fuselage intersection. Dual air-inlets, one on each side of the fuselage, fed the Pratt & Whitney J75 engine on production F-105s. The Mach 2.1 capable aircraft continued Republic’s naming convention of using ‘Thunder’ in the name of the aircraft that would become a true war horse for the United States Air Force, and later its guard and reserve components.

Tinker’s association with the F-105 consisted of minor inspection, repair and some overhaul work performed by the Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area during the war years. This was necessary across not only the F-105 line, but other fighters also, to increase overall production numbers and availability of the aircraft for combat operations over Southeast Asia. 

The F-105 was an imposing aircraft on the ground with a height of 19 feet, 8 inches. The F-105B, and later D-model, incorporated some of the most sophisticated instruments, radar and bombing computers of the time into a single cockpit which gave the pilot both air-to-air and air-to-ground capability. The “Thud” was large and heavy for a true fighter and had relatively poor turning capability, but in the hands of competent pilots the F-105 was still a formidable platform. F-105s and their pilots are credited with destroying 26 MiGs with the internally mounted M61 Vulcan cannon and 1.5 kills using missiles during the Vietnam War.

The F-105 was also used for a very short time by the Thunderbirds. So short of a time, they only flew six shows between April 26 and May 9, 1964 using the F-105B. According to the Thunderbirds official history: “Following an unfortunate accident in the F-105, the team transitioned back to the F-100 Super Sabre.”

The F-105 was air refueling capable and was initially designed with a probe refueling system. However, this quickly changed to a receptacle mounted on the nose between the radome and front windscreen for high-speed boom refueling with the KC-135. This refueling capability meant the “Thud” was eventually turned into a “bomb-truck” and sent aloft with heavy ordnance to then immediately refuel, strike the targets and then refuel again on the return leg of the mission. F-105s were often sent to destroy targets which were heavily defended by flak guns and Soviet designed surface-to-air missile systems, also known as SAMs. Rules of engagement placed upon the pilots handcuffed their ability to effectively engage targets and they were often sent back time and again. This resulted in one of the highest loss rates of any aircraft participating in the war. 

There were also multiple two-seat versions of the F-105. The TF-105B was a version designed to train and familiarize aircrew with the Thunderchief. Based off the F-105D, a second two-seat version, the F-105F, incorporated a stretched fuselage and larger tail-fin. The F-model was also intended as a trainer until it was quickly pressed in to combat service due to the high-loss rate of F-105Ds. A limited number of F-105Fs were modified for the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense mission and designated F-105Gs, a particularly well-known aircraft capable of jamming the air-defense systems associated with the flak and SAM systems using onboard electronic-countermeasures and anti-radiation missiles. Following the Vietnam War the venerable F-105s were quickly passed on to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command units.

The final ANG flight of the “Thud” took place with the Georgia ANG on May 25, 1983, with the Air Force Reserves flying their final flights from Hill AFB, Utah, in 1985. 

Manufacturer: Republic Aircraft Corp.

Aircraft type: F-105

Nickname: Thunderchief

Crew: 1 or 2

Power plant: One Pratt & Whitney J75 turbojet producing 26,500 pounds of thrust (with afterburner)

In-service dates: 1958-1985

Number produced: 833 

Tinker connection: Program management, maintenance, repair and overhaul