Specialty Press' World's Fastest Single-Engine Jet Aircraft
PRICE: $44.95
PUBLISHER: Specialty Pressoptions
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 228 pages, hardbound, over 350 images, ISBN 978-1-58007-237-3

For those of you who have not already guessed, this is the story of the F-106 Delta Dart. During the 1950's, the paramount task of the USAF's air defense command was to intercept and destroy Soviet bombers. To that task, a rather bewildering number of aircraft were developed to perform that particular task.

Probably the biggest drawback to these aircraft was their electronics. Air intercept radar during those days was a growing specialty, and while these early sets did work to some degree or another, they were frequently prone to failure, something that was not unexpected. What was really needed was a state of the art system attached to the fastest airframe around.

Convair had been working on the F-102 Delta Dagger, a plane that was optimized for the interceptor role, It was basically rocket and missile armed, as were just about all the current types. However, something better was needed. This began the development of the F-102C.

There were several improvements in this plane over the standard F-102A. One was the ability to carry a nuclear missile (the Genie) as well as four super Falcons. Actually, the USAF waffled a great amount over the weapons load and this caused not only delays, but frustration for the designers and engineers. Secondly, it needed a more powerful engine than the J-57 that powered the F-102. The result of this was the J-75. It was this engine that gave the new jet its Mach 2+ performance. There were also airframe changes like the deletion of the wing fences, the change in the shape of the intakes and a canopy with fewer frames. Finally, the new plane was to be fitted with the Huges MA-1 system. This was the first digital aircraft system that integrated all of the various aircraft and ground inputs into one. Its development also seriously delayed the full operational use of the F-106 as many airframes were delivered with ballast where the MA-1 system was to be installed.

So different was the F-102C that soon after the first of a rather large number of prototyp/pre-production planes were built, its designation was changed to F-106. Once all the teething troubles had been worked out, and despite being built in smaller numbers than hoped, the 106 soon proved its worth, being the main equipment in several ADC units. The aircraft was turned over to some ANG units, though these squadrons were operated in addition to some regular USAF units. During its life span, there were improvements made to both the airframe and equipment. A gun was installed in the 1970s and the main instrument panel redesigned even before that along with other improvements. Like many USAF fighters and interceptors, the 106 ended its days being converted into drone targets.

This book is typical of Specalty Press' offerings in that it is superbly written, equally well researched and contains a ton of interesting information and stories. Not only the development of the aircraft is covered, but so are all of the squadrons that used it as well as the changes in markings carried by the aircraft.

It is a superb read and I book that I have no trouble giving my highest recommendation.

May 2017

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