20 Cold War-Era Warplanes of the U.S. Air Force

F-105 Thunderchief

F-105 Thunderchief

Republic’s Mach 2-capable F-105 was the heaviest single-engine fighter ever built. “Thuds” were jokingly referred to as a triple threat: it could strafe targets, bomb them, or simply fall on them — the F-105 had a fairly rough safety record. Despite being a heavy beast, the F-105 held its own against Communist MiGs, scoring 27.5 aerial victories against MiG-17s while losing only 17 Thuds in air-to-air combat. Also nicknamed the “Lead Sled,” it could carry 14,000 pounds of ordnance (three times the load of a B-17 and twice as much as the F-100) and carried a 20-mm Vulcan cannon. While Thuds could defend themselves, F-4 Phantoms would accompany them on strike missions to keep F-105 drivers from having to jettison their payloads for dogfighting. In 1966, the Air Force began deploying high-tech F-105F — and later, the more advanced F-105G Wild Weasel III — to Southeast Asia to replace the F-100s that had served as trailblazers for the dangerous suppression of enemy air defense role.

Author: Chris Carter

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