The Super Sabre was the first production aircraft capable of sustained
From February 1949, North American had started to think of ways
to improve the performance of the
F86 Sabre in order to produce a sonic aircraft. By September 1949,
they had progressed on to thinking of ways to improve the F86D.
Early designs were rejected, but eventually on 1. November 1951, the US Air Force
ordered two protypes of a design called the Sabre 45 (the number 45 coming from the angle
of sweepback). On 7. December of the same year, the
Air Force officially designated the aircraft as the F-100.
The first flight took place on 25 May 1953 from Edwards Air Force Base, and it
exceeded the sound barrier on this very first flight. The pilot
was George Welch (who was, incidentally, one of the few pilots
to get airborne during the Pearl Harbor attack, and claimed four aircraft downed)
It was decided to use the F100 in an attempt on the world speed
record - at
the time the record was held by a Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray. However
an attempt over the traditional 3 km . distance was unsuccessful
because, although it achieved a higher speed than
the Skyray, the rules required that the previous record should be exceeded by at least 1%.
On 29. October 1953 another attempt was made over a 15 km.
course -the rules stated
that the fastest over either distance was the holder of the record, but the 15 km. course
did not require the 1% margin to be exceeeded. A new world record
was thereby attained, of 1215.25 km/hr by
Lt. Colonel Pete Everest, flying at a height of about 30 meters above the ground, which
was both the last low-altitude and the last subsonic record to be recorded (Everest
was also the pilot for the previous attempt over the 3 km course, where he had achieved an
of 1,219.48 km/hr).
The new American Government under Eisenhower began to place noticeably more emphasis
on nuclear weapons, with the result that Tactical Air Command was
required to have an aircraft capable of
delivering nuclear weapons, an area that had previously been the sole preserve of the Strategic
Air Command. Since the F-100 was the only serious contender for such a role, from the
beginning of 1954 plans were initiated to modify the aircraft as a fighter-bomber, the
F-100C. (The F84F Thunderstreak could originally have filled this role, but problems
arose in that program during 1953)
The F-100A became operational with USAF on 29. September 1954. Problems soon became
apparent (in truth the program had proceeded at great pace, over-riding the reservations of
many who expressed misgivings about the aircraft).
On 12. October 1954, George Welch was killed when his aircraft broke up during tests. He was
actually executing a supersonic pull-up which produces loads of more than 7g - he did eject
but died later from his wounds. On 8. November an RAF pilot, Air Commodore Geoffrey
Stephenson, was killed in Florida, and the following day another
aircraft went out of control, but the
pilot ejected safely. On 10. November 1954, all Super Sabres were grounded.
The solution was found to be a larger vertical tail. It was ironic that earlier
prototypes had larger tails, but the size was reduced for production aircraft. The grounding
order was lifted in February 1955.
Another "first" was achieved on 26. February 1955 when test pilot George F. Smith ejected at supersonic speed,
claimed to be the first time anyone had done so above the speed of sound.
He was apparently quite badly injured but recovered enough to fly again.
On 20 August 1955, an F-100C, piloted by Colonel Horace Hanes, gained a new world speed record
1323.06 km/hr (Mach 1.25), the world's first supersonic record. This record attempt was made
at a height of over 12000 meters, a
departure from the extremely low-level attempts that had been carried out until then.