Under the 1954 interceptor program the USAF, primarily Air Defense Command (ADC), put out a request for proposals for upgraded, single seat, super sonic interceptor aircraft. At this time the ADC, primarily in charge of defending the United States from an airborne invasion, was obsessed with the concept of high speed interceptors for combating waves of incoming Russian bombers (which never really existed in large quantities). The winner of the program was the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger which was mostly considered a large disappointment. Continuous upgrades to the F-102 eventually turned into an entirely new aircraft, being designated the F-106. The Delta Dart was the ADC’s “ultimate interceptor”, also its last.
Under Operation Highspeed, the USAF was asked to compare its F-106 with the U.S Navy F4H-1 Phantom (F-4 Phantom ii), in an effort to combine branch resources. Since the F-4 was as capable an interceptor as the F-106 and able to perform multiple other missions (bombing, dogfighting, etc.) the F-4 was chosen to be the primary USAF fighter, ultimately leading to the F-106 never seeing combat over the skies of Vietnam.
F-106’s continued service in the ADC as a defensive interceptor and eventually was converted into a drone for aerial target practice, pictured above.
The Thunderceptor was a early attempt by Republic aircraft to build a interceptor aircraft for the USAF. It used a conventional jet engine combined with rocket boosters, an idea that was adopted from late WW2 Luftwaffe aircraft designed to intercept Allied bombers. The XF-91 also featured a radical wing design, this was to prevent the aircraft from pitching up, which was a common problem with early high speed aircraft.
Taking a moment to reflect on one of the hardest moments in my life. The military is dominated by males, white males to be exact. My career field as a mechanic is extremely male dominated. And being a black female on the same aircraft I work on? You can say there are less than 10 of us.
My wingman Miriam and I dealt with some very rude and inappropriate comments throughout training. Everyone said we had an attitude, we weren’t willing to learn, there was always a problem with our hair, our nails, our makeup. No one wanted to see us succeed but each other. They even accused of us being racist because we only liked to hang out with each other. Hello? We were the only females in a school of 50+ males! And who could we go and tell this to when all our superiors were white males who were against us and couldn’t relate to our struggle?
It was hard. We had night we cried. Nights we wanted to find a way out of the AirForce but we worked so hard to get to that point. We refused to give up. This was us on the day of our graduation. We became certified A-10 crew chiefs.
Miriam is currently working her way out of the military now, she has switched over to the Reserves unit. She couldn’t handle the discrimination in her unit. I am still active duty and working everyday to build my way to the top. I will succeed. I will get a woman to take a place of a high ranking male. I will get us somewhere. Believe that.
A McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom ii heads into North Vietnam, 1972. The Phantom (as well as the Vought A-7 Corsair ii and the Douglas A-3 Skywarrior) are rare examples of the USAF adapting USN aircraft into their inventory.