F-106 Delta Dart

F-106A 58-0787, seen not long after its retirement by the 49th FIS to the Air Force Museum at Dayton.

F-106 at Dayton , June 1987

The last of the "classic" 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 had 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 throughtout 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 the 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 weapons bay.

Kit Preview: Revell-Monogram F-106 kit in 1/48 scale
click on thumbnails for larger images
1/48 scale F-106 fuselage sections  F-106 underside of fuselage, showing open weapons bay    Revell F-106 kit, weapons bay door, missiles

F-106 walk around - cockpit photo
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.
F-106 Delta Dart walk around - drop tank photo

Just visible on the aircraft's spine is the ramp to the aerial refueling receptacle.
F-106 fuselage photo

The Dart's intakes were larger than those of its F-102 predecessor, and set much farther back on the fuselage.
Delta Dart intake photo

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.
Convair F-106 tail photo
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.
F-106 weapons bay photo

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
Hughes AIM-4 Falcon missile photo

F-106 Bibliography

Magazine Articles and Photos:

"First Flights Made By F-106A, FJ-4B" Aviation Week January 7, 1957 p.28

Photo: "Convair F-106" Aviation Week September 9, 1957 front cover

"First Production F-106s Are Flown" Aviation Week September 9, 1957 p.32-33 2 photos

"Air Force Tests Convair Supersonic Ejection Seat" Aviation Week & 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 photos


Lou Drendel   Fighting Colors - Century Series in Color.  F-106 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 Interceptor Squadrons.

Donald Nijboer   Cockpits of the Cold War  p.60-61:photo and cockpit layout of the NMUSAF's F-106

Advanced F-106s

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.

Aircraft of the USAF

B-58 Hustler       F-4C Phantom     F-15

Aircraft Walk Arounds and other References

F-14 walk around

Web Resources:

F-106 photos at the NMUSAF Archives - Well over 100 images

Building the Hasegawa 1/72 scale F-106A kit as an aircraft of the 5th FIS at Minot AFB

F-106 walk around

Article detailing the F-106's setting of the world's single-engine speed record