The last of the
Century Series fighters to enter operation, Convair's Dart was also the
last to remain in frontline USAF service, although far fewer were built
than any of its contemporaries.
The F-102 and F-106 had actually started out as a 1949 plan for a
single aircraft, to be operational in 1954. As this would prove
unrealistic, it was decided that the basic J57-powered F-102A would be
bought in limited numbers as an interim aircraft, while development
continued of the advanced F-102B, fitted with more advanced electronics
and powered by the Wright J67. By 1955 the Pratt &Whitney J75
replaced the J67, and the following year the aircraft had been
redesignated as the F-106A.
First flight of the F-106 prototype took place at Edwards AFB on 29
December 1956, and by April of the following year speeds of Mach 1.9
had been achieved. However, there would be major difficulties in
getting the "six" into service - acceleration was much too slow,
necessitiating a redesign of the intakes, engine reliability was poor
leading to the substitution of the original J75-P-9 with the -17, and
the MA-1 fire control system would experience trouble
the Dart's early years.
The 498th FIS at Geiger AFB, Washington was the first frontline F-106
unit, becoming operational in the fall of 1959. However, even as the
Dart was entering service, there would be a continuing series of
improvements and retrofits, including fitting an improved ejection seat.
Early on in the program, the USAF had envisioned buying more than three
dozen squadrons' worth of F-106s, but fiscal realities would soon trim
this number down.
Although the F-106 was conceived of as being dedicated for
air defense of US territory, the USAF's experience in deploying F-102s
to Southeast Asia in the 1960s showed that the Dart might well have to
conduct operations overseas. A retrofit program introduced an aerial
refueling receptacle on the aircraft's spine, a much better solution
than the temporary fixed probe used to get F-102s across the Pacific.
As deployed F-106s would likely find themselves pitted against enemy
escort fighters, its was necessary to enhance the type's close-in
capabilities, including fitting a new canopy with better visibility,
and the ability (on some aircraft) to carry an M61 Vulcan cannon in the
Preview: Revell-Monogram F-106 kit in 1/48 scale click on thumbnails for larger images
The NMUSAF's current "Six" seen a quarter-century after the previous
photo, in the Cold War Gallery
The Dart's external wing tanks each carried 227 gallons of fuel.
Just visible on the aircraft's spine is the ramp to the aerial
The Dart's intakes were larger than those of its F-102 predecessor, and
set much farther back on the fuselage.
The 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Griffiss AFB from the fall of
1968 (replacing F-101B Voodoos) until the summer of 1987, and was the
last active duty unit to fly the F-106. 58-0787 is notable for a 1970
incident when the aircraft belly landed itself after the pilot ejected during
a flat spin.
The F-106's area-ruled fuselage was designed as such from the first,
leading to a more aesthetically contoured "rear end" than the F-102,
with it its large aft fairings.
The Dart's primary armament throughout its service life was the Hughes
AIM-4 Falcon, in both IR and SARH versions.
The first really operational AAM, the Falcon benefitted from the
company's early postwar work on the Tiamat III SARH missile. This
600lb+ weapon was far too heavy for service use, but the guidance
scheme was adapted to a much smaller weapon sized to fit internally on
what would eventually become the F-102. The airframe used a body just
over six inches in diameter, mated to four fixed delta fins with
control surfaces to the rear. This basic aerodynamic configuration
would be long-lived, later being used for the AIM-54 Phoenix, AGM-65
Maverick, and the cancelled AGM-124 Wasp.
F-106 weapons bay
"First Flights Made By F-106A, FJ-4B" Aviation
7, 1957 p.28
Photo: "Convair F-106" Aviation
Week September 9, 1957 front
"First Production F-106s Are Flown" Aviation
9, 1957 p.32-33 2 photos
"Air Force Tests Convair Supersonic Ejection Seat" Aviation
& Space Technology
February 13, 1961 p.106-107 9 photos
David A. Brown "F-106s Modified for Inflight Training" Aviation
Week & Space Technology
February 5, 1968 p.41-46 4 photos
Michael R. Petiprin, Thom Wagner. "The Aircraft of Selfridge 1922-1984,
Part 3" IPMS/USA Quarterly
Spring 1987 p.14-15. B&W side-view drawings of
F-106A/Bs of the 94th FIS and 191st FIG.
Craig Larcom "Goodbye to All That!" Wings October 1987 Retirement
of Montana ANG F-106s.
"Chasing The Dart" Air Forces
Monthly July 1988 p.46-49 6
Colors - Century Series in
coverage p.88-96 includes a large
3-view plan, plus marking and camouflage diagrams. There are also color
profiles of F-106s belonging to the 5th, 49th, 87th, and 318th Fighter
Donald Nijboer Cockpits of the Cold War p.60-61:photo and cockpit layout of the NMUSAF's F-106
Although the Dart would be the ultimate interceptor of the Century
series, planning for advanced derivatives started before the basic
aircraft had flown, and carried on into the late 1960s.
F-106C: JT4B powered
version with new intakes and the ASQ-18 radar/FCS in an enlarged
radome. Cancelled in 1958, but a pair of F-106As were flown under the
designation as testbeds.
counterpart to the F-106C.
F-106-30 (twin engine):
This substantially larger Dart outgrowth would have essentially been a
new aircraft, with podded J93 engines. Indeed, the design would have
resembled a hybrid of the F-106 and Convair's B-58 Hustler.