F-100 Super Sabre
In 1951, North American completely revamped their F-86 Sabre jet, adding over 100 modifications, including sweeping the wings back to 45 degrees and adding an afterburner. The United States’ first supersonic jet fighter entered service in 1954, and was plagued from the start with issues that led to hundreds of accidents, including one that killed World War II ace — and North American’s chief test pilot — George Welch. In fact, 889 “Huns” were lost to accidents, killing 324 pilots. In 1961, the F-100 became the first fighter jet to deploy to Vietnam, and it would stay in Southeast Asia for ten years — longer than any other fighter. On April 4, 1965, the F-100 may have notched the first American aerial victory of the war when Capt. Donald W. Kilgus shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-17 while escorting F-105 Thunderchiefs on one of nearly 900 raids against the Thanh Hoa Bridge (the Air Force lists the outcome as “probable” while Communist records seem to indicate Kilgus scored a kill). F-100s typically operated as fighter-bombers, but two-seater Huns were modified for service as the Air Force’s first “Wild Weasels,” sniffing out and destroying enemy air defense radars.