Review by Takis Diakoumis.
This recent addition to the rapidly growing Legends of Warfare series from Schiffer Publishing covers the classic early American jet and combat veteran from Republic, the F-84. Tracing the story of the F-84, author Ken Neubeck walks us through early experimental jet engines and the emergence of swept-wing designs. The F-84 was especially unique in that the same designation was used for two different designs—the straight-wing Thunderjet and, later, as the swept-wing Thunderstreak.
The F-84 had a rough start with engine reliability issues compounded further by early structural failures that grounded the entire fleet after only six months of operation. The scope of these early problems almost forced the Air Force to cancel the program, but it was the F-84D with a more reliable engine, as well as reinforced wings and other structural improvements, that would finally begin to realise the potential of Republic’s design. The later F-84E saw 840 examples delivered that would form the backbone of USAF operations in Korea.
Initial Korean combat saw the F-84s escorting bombers like the B-29. No match for the generational leap that was the MiG-15, F-84 operations quickly shifted to ground attack where its six Browning machine guns and ability to carry an assortment of bombs and rockets was used with devastating effect in almost every major air operation in the war.
The swept-wing F-84F came too late to see action over Korea. Originally designated as the F-96, the Air Force, in a measure to convince Congress it was not a new program, insisted it be re-designated to something more familiar so it became the F-84F Thunderstreak. Sharing only about fifteen per cent commonality with the F-84E, the swept-wing Thunderstreak incorporated a new, more powerful engine and also led to the development of the RF-84F Thunderflash. The Thunderflash included another significant design change with the air inlets moved to the wing roots as the aircraft’s nose was filled with cameras to support its reconnaissance role.
Ken Neubeck traces the history of the F-84 in all its variants, from the combat skies over Korea to the European theatre during the early Cold War years. His beautiful pictorial tribute covers every facet of the jet’s development and service life both with the USAF and the large number of foreign operators—some that continued to use the Thunderflash variant right up to 1981.
Neubeck includes the type’s service with the Thunderbirds in addition to the many experimental and special programs that would have the F-84 as refueller and tanker, as well as fighter escort ‘parasite’ attachments to B-29s and B-36s as bomber motherships.
As an early jet fighter, the F-84 in all its variants excelled and proved itself more than worthy over the skies of Korea and later as an important jet fighter for NATO countries across Europe. Black and white and colour photos are beautifully complemented throughout the book with schematics, flight manual excerpts, performance charts and tabular information. Ken Neubeck and Schiffer have delivered a fitting tribute to this early classic jet and true legend of warfare.