The F-104 fighter jet was in service with the R.O.C. Air Force for 38 years, making it our longest-serving fighter jet. It was also the last fighter model to operate over Mainland China where it shot down two Communist J-6 fighters in air-to-air combat. To give people a better understanding of the contributions and sacrifices made by Air Force pilots flying the F-104 in defense of Taiwan Strait, the Air Force Museum is now hosting the “Legend of the F-104 Starfighter” special exhibition. Members of the public are invited to come and revisit the glorious history of the F-104, as well as pay their respects to the heroes who gave up their youth and their lives.
The “Legend of the F-104 Starfighter” special exhibitions starts with the delivery of F-104A and F-104B fighters as U.S. military assistance on May 13, 1960, and ends with the decommissioning of the F-104G on May 22, 1998. The service history of the F-104 fighter was brought back to life through a combination of text and historical photos outlining the equipping of each fighter wing and how they were used.
Some of the photos provide a rare glimpse into history. For example, F-104 pilots wore “spurs” on their flying boots that were attached to cables of their ejection seats to ensure their safety during ejection; a photo showing Captain Chi-Yao Wang, the first ROCAF pilot to fly in a F-104, with his American instructor pilot; Ching-Chuan-Kang AFB taking delivery of its first F-104 still in USAF livery; a vintage phot of the American aircraft carrier “Midway” taken by Hsing-Ta Chang in a RF-104G during a joint US-Taiwan exercise. There is also a photo of Bei-Po Shih and Shih-Lin Hu, the two heroes of the “January 13 Air Combat.”
Whether color or black & white photos of personnel of the F-104 in the air, the story of how hero pilots and the F-104 secured air superiority over the Taiwan Strait through their blood and sweat is well worth mulling over.
During its time with the ROCAF, the F-104 carried out vital missions such as Taiwan Strait patrols, escort, interception, blockade, close support and electronic warfare. A “Starfighter Flight Safety Permanent Award” was even presented by Lockheed U.S. to the ROCAF. The memorial plaque for this highest award in flight safety is on display at the special exhibition as well.
Europe Consulting, the operator of the Air Force Museum, said that the “Legend of the F-104 Starfighter” special exhibition will run until the end of September. An actual F-104 is also on display at the Aviation Education Exhibition Hall. The Museum is adhering to the government’s epidemic prevention policy with regular disinfections, temperature screening and wearing of face masks. Members of the public can therefore visit the Museum in perfect safety.
Source: Youth Daily News, Ministry of National Defense (April 10, 2020)