The six U.S. Air Force aircraft that make up what is known as the Century Series—the North American F-100 through the Convair F-106—were the hottest jets of the cold war. Products of the mid- to late 1950s, they were members of the second generation of jet fighters—post-North American F-86 Sabre class and pre-McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom class. The epitome of “pointy jets,” they capitalized on early X-plane research, particularly into the aerodynamics of supersonic flight, and on the development of more powerful and efficient turbojet engines, and thus attained speeds approaching Mach 2 (the Lockheed F-104) and later exceeding it (the F-106). All were originally designed as interceptors, nuclear strike aircraft, or long-range bomber escorts, with the exception of the F-100, which was designed for day fighting and ground support.
North American F-100D Super Sabre
The first production aircraft capable of Mach 1 in level flight, the F-100 was largely based on North American’s F-86 Sabre, the MiG-killing star of the Korean War. The Super Sabre, nicknamed the Hun by its pilots, was designed as a MiG hunter, but by the time it began service, during the Vietnam War, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom had taken on the air superiority role and the F-100 was relegated to serving as an attack aircraft supporting ground troops. Here, in this painting by John Kocon, a flight of two F-100Ds has arrived over a U.S. ground unit engaged with the enemy. The U.S. unit has marked its position with purple smoke, and a forward air controller has fired a phosphorus rocket to mark the enemy’s position with white smoke. One aircraft has begun to break right in preparation for rolling in to deliver ordnance according to the FAC’s directions.
More Century Series portraits will appear in upcoming issues.