In 1951 Republic Aviation began a project to develop a supersonic tactical fighter-bomber to replace the F-84F. The result was the F-105 Thunderchief, later affectionately nicknamed the "Thud." The prototype YF-105A first flew in October 1955, but the first F-105D did not fly until June 1959. A total of 833 Thunderchiefs of all types were built, including 610 F-105Ds.
The U.S. Air Force sent F-105s to Southeast Asia shortly after the Tonkin Gulf incident in the summer of 1964. The USAF operated the F-105D extensively in the air campaign against North Vietnam called Rolling Thunder. Although designed as a nuclear strike aircraft, the F-105 could carry a total of over 12,000 pounds of conventional ordnance -- a heavier bomb load than a World War II B-17. The F-105 was gradually replaced by the F-4 Phantom, and the USAF withdrew the last F-105D from service in July 1980.
The aircraft on display is painted and marked as it appeared while serving in the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base in Thailand. The nickname Memphis Belle II refers to the B-17F that carried the same artwork during WWII. The two red stars under the cockpit represent the two MiG kills it claimed during the Southeast Asia War. It arrived at the museum in April 1990.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: One M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon and more than 12,000 lbs. of ordnance Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W of 24,500 lbs thrust Maximum speed: 1,390 mph Cruising speed: 778 mph Range: 2,206 miles Ceiling: 51,000 ft. Span: 34 ft. 11 in. Length: 64 ft. 5 in. Height: 19 ft. 8 in. Weight: 52,838 lbs. maximum