The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was a single-engine, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1958 until 1967 and continued in service with the Air National Guard until it was phased out in 1975. Because of its physical appearance and performance, the F-104 has often been called the ""missile with a man in it."" The design was a product of the Korean War, and was unique in several respects. The F-104 Starfighter had its first flight on March 4, 1954 and first introduced on February 10, 1958.
The F-104C variant was the tactical strike version of the Starfighter. 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 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 drop tank could be carried on this centerline pylon, it was exclusively a weapons pylon and was not plumbed to take fuel ports.
The Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold simultaneous official world records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb. It set a world altitude record of 103,395 feet on Dec. 14, 1959 and flown by Captain Joe B. Jordan. This was the first time that an aircraft taking off under its own power exceeded the 100,000-foot mark. During the flight, the aircraft also reached a speed of Mach 2.36 and established a time-to-height record to 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) of 15 minutes 4.92 seconds from brake release.