Republic RF-84F Thunderflash

USAF RF-84F Thunderflash

The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak was one of the early jet fighters and was built in considerable numbers, originally as a competitor to North American’s F-86 Sabre. Because of tooling difficulties, as a stop-gap measure, the original F-85G had a straight wing, even so over 3000 examples were built. By the autumn of 1952, the first production F-84F was delivered to the USAF as a ground support fighter-bomber and featured a number of significant improvements over the F-84G, including 40 degree swept wings, as well as a swept tail and elevator. Powered by a Wright J65-W-3 turbojet, the F-84 was just supersonic in a dive, could carry 6000lbs of external ordnance and was armed with six 0.50 M3 machine guns - four mounted in the nose and two in the wing roots. Of the 2711 F-84F Thunderstreaks built, 1301 were transferred to NATO countries and the aircraft eventually served with France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, West Germany, Greece and Turkey, becoming the most numerous fighter-bomber aircraft serving with NATO countries throughout the 1950s. The F-84 was also the first single-seat aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. A number of specially modified Thunderstreaks were designed to be carried underneath modified GRB-36D Peacemakers to act as fighter reconnaissance aircraft, but this idea was soon abandoned.

RF-84F Thunderflash

The RF-84F Thunderflash was a photographic reconnaissance version of the F-84F Thunderstreak and first flew in Feb 1952. The most obvious difference between the two aircraft was the elongated nose area – the Thunderstreak had a nose air intake, whereas the Thunderflash had wing root air intakes, as the nose contained up to 6 cameras. The nose camera bay could contain a variety of cameras in forward facing, trimetrogen, individual oblique and vertical installations.

The RF-84F was one of the first jet aircraft designed specifically for photo-reconnaissance and introduced a number of significant innovations. The RF-84F usually operated with two underwing fuel tanks, which could also carry Photoflash ejectors, making the RF-84F the first aircraft capable of night photo-reconnaissance. It was also the first fighter-reconnaissance aircraft equipped with a vertical viewfinder, which was displayed on the cockpit panel, as well as the first to have a camera control system.

French RF-84F Thunderflash of ER4/33 at Akrotiri

Ten French RF-84F aircraft, from drawn from two escadrilles, the ER1/33 Belfort and ER3/33 Moselle, were known as ER4/33, and together with an additional five RF-84Fs from ER2/33 Savoie, operated from Cyprus in support of the 1956 Anglo-French air assault against the Egyptian forces during Operation Musketeer – the Suez Crisis. These sorties were the only occasions that the RF-84F conducted operational sorties.