Into squadron service
In 1962 it was decided that the Royal Danish Air Force was to accept delivery of 25 F-104Gs and 4 TF-104Gs. Delivery of the first 8 F-104Gs and 2 TF-104Gs started in November 1964. In fact, the aircraft were delivered by ship and then towed from the harbour to Aalborg Air Base where they were thoroughly checked before entering service in December 1964. The F-104s were officially handed over to the RDAF on 29 June 1965.
ESK726 became the first Danish F-104 squadron in December 1964 with ESK723 following suit in September 1965. Initially, training was carried out in ESK726 only, but this was changed later on.
During the first years of operational service the maintainers worked hard to produce the number of required flight hours. Lack of spare parts necessitated cannibalisation of two F-104Gs, R-699 and R-700.
Paint and markings
The Danish F-104Gs were all delivered in the light grey scheme with white (FS 17875) wing upper surfaces. The TF-104Gs, on the other hand, were natural metal with light grey lower wing surfaces and white wing upper surfaces. Although the specifications call out for ADC Grey FS 16473 recent research indicates that the most likely colour used was Canadian light grey FS 16515. Wing tanks were natural metal on both types. Radomes were pale grey-green. Anti-glare panels were dark green, and the opening around the gun muzzle on the F-104Gs was black. The intake lips and shock cones were flat black on all Danish F-104s during their entire career.
The Danish markings consisted of the red/white roundel in six positions and the Danish flag on the tail fin. On the upper wing surfaces the Danish roundels were placed on a grey square that was slightly larger than the roundel. Stencilling was the standard US stencilling with a few additional stencils in Danish. Aircraft codes were in the standard RDAF font on either side of the fuselage in front of the intakes. The codes were black with R-XXX used for the single-seaters and RT-XXX used for the two-seaters. The last five of the serial number, e.g. 12345 for R-345, was painted in black on the tail fin below the Danish flag. Undercarriage was painted aluminium initially. The pitot was white with wide red stripes.
In 1968 a new colour scheme was tested. R-345 had acted as the first aircraft to undergo IRAN (Inspection and Repair As Necessary) during which its upper surfaces were painted dark green (FS 34079). The light grey lower surfaces were retained, as were the large national markings, anti-glare panel etc. Only a few stencils were changed in the process, but the usually ones still appeared in both English and Danish.
The two-colour scheme was not introduced on other Danish F-104s, and all subsequent F-104s to go through IRAN came out in the overall dark green colour scheme. The radome was not painted dark green initially, but retained its pale grey-green colour and its part of the anti-glare panel. The national markings were reduced in size, and black/yellow stencils were toned down to being just yellow outlines with black text on all Danish F-104s except R-814 which was the only one to have standard US stencils. The overall green colour scheme actually extended to the undercarriage and the pitot, the latter now having a thin yellow spiral.
The flat dark green colour used on the Danish F-104s weathered heavily, sometimes to a degree where the aircraft appeared to be grey-green. In the late 1970s it was therefore decided to re-paint the F-104s in a gloss version of the original green colour (FS 14079). The repaint happened around the same time as a major modification, i.e. reinforcement, of the wings. Reinforced wings painted in the gloss dark green were sometimes seen on aircraft with flat dark green fuselages, making for an odd combination. Over time all remaining F-104s were repainted though. It is likely that R-814 received the standard Danish stencils during repainting in 1978. Note that the radome usually had an eggshell finish in a lighter green than the gloss dark green. Wing tanks were overall dark green on all green aircraft.
The F-104Gs and TF-104Gs were delivered in the standard configuration with Lockheed C-2 seats. All Danish single-seaters were fitted with the M61 canon. The engine used in all Danish F-104s was the -11A version of the J79.
Although the F-104s were delivered with the Lockheed C-2 seats prototype testing of the Martin Baker Mk. DQ7 seat was started already in December 1964 using one F-104G and one TF-104G. Permanent installation of the MB Mk. DQ-7 seat was started in February 1965, thus making Denmark the first country to do so. Not all Danish F-104Gs and TF-104Gs were retrofitted with the MB seat initially as there were not enough available seats. This meant that some F-104s initially flew with the C-2 seat. The F-104s fitted with C-2 seats were retrofitted as the MB seat became available. The Danish MB Mk. DQ-7 seats all had the trapezoid shaped headrest.
Another modification carried out on the Danish F-104s early on was the introduction of a spotlight used for identification of other aircraft at night. The spotlight was mounted behind the ejection seat underneath the canopy glass over the avionics bay, directed 80 degrees to the port side.
Other minor modifications were carried out in the cockpit, e.g. adding a third rear-view mirror on the canopy frame.
The original 29 F-104s delivered did not make for two full squadrons, yet the aircraft were distributed between the two squadrons ESK723 and ESK726. The RDAF was short of what would equal half a squadron to have two full squadrons. Plans to procure another half squadron of F-104s surfaced already in 1963, but it was not until the late 1960s that the plans were put into effect. Although new-built F-104Gs were considered at some point the choice fell on 22 ex-Canadian F-104s in 1971. Of the 22 F-104s, 7 were the two-seat CF-104Ds and the rest were single-seat CF-104s. The 15 CF-104s were overhauled and brought up to MAP standard by Lockheed, after which some Danish modifications were carried out in Denmark. R-814 was the prototype for this project and the first CF-104 to enter squadron service in June 1973. It differed somewhat from the rest of the Danish F-104s, being the only one with US stencils.
The CF-104 modifications included retrofitting the larger main wheels and bulged main gear doors. The original J79-7 engine was changed to the J79-11A, the M61 gun was fitted as was the infra-red sight in front of the windscreen. Last but not least all CF-104s were painted dark green before entering squadron service. These modifications were also carried out on the CF-104Ds, but not necessarily before they entered service. The surplus CF-104 specific parts were sold to Norway as spares for their CF-104s.
The need for two-seaters was so bad that the four of the CF-104Ds (RT-654, -655, -657 and -660) were pressed into service without getting the full update. Instead the four CF-104Ds underwent a reduced IRAN during which they were fitted with the Martin Baker Mk. DQ-7A ejection seat (also with the trapezoid shaped headrest) and painted flat dark green. A few minor changes were also made before they entered service in 1972, including the ability to carry AIM-9s on the wing pylons. The four aircraft retained their narrow main wheels and flat main wheel doors initially. They were not fitted with the RWR equipment before the rest of the update, e.g. fitting of the J79-GE-11 and the larger main wheels and bulged main gear doors, was carried out in 1975-77. Repainting of the four aircraft in the gloss dark green was also carried out around this time.
The three remaining CF-104Ds (RT-662, -664 and -667) underwent the full IRAN and update to MAP standard, thus they did not enter service until 1975-76. All three were painted in the gloss dark green scheme before entering service, but RT-664 was the only one of the three to leave the IRAN without the RWR antennas underneath the nose and the aft fuselage, but it only flew without the antennas one month before being selected as the prototype for the APR-37D/ARP-45D RWR equipment.
Denmark was unique in fitting the APR-37D/ARP-45D RWR equipment to the TF-104G. This was done to the three remaining TF-104Gs. RT-681 had been lost in a crash in June 1975 so it is unlikely that it had been fitted with the RWR equipment. This essentially brought the Danish two-seaters up to the same configuration as far as ECM equipment goes. Although a number of APR-37D/ARP-45D systems were made redundant following the retirement of the F-100 in 1981-82 it was not considered cost-effective to update the single-seat F-104s due to the few years they had left in service by that time.
Although the F-104 was meant to be an interceptor in Danish service it did have a few other roles. As an interceptor the F-104G/CF-104 was armed with the M61 Vulcan gun in the fuselage. AIM-9 Sidewinders, at first the AIM-9B but later also the AIM-9N, were usually carried on the catamaran pylon on the belly of the aircraft; however, additional missiles could be carried on the wing pylons. Whether the AIM-9 was mounted underneath the wings or the fuselage the AERO-3B launcher was used. Although AIM-9s also could be carried on the wing tips of F-104s no photographic evidence exists to back up that this ever was done on a Danish F-104. In fact, charts showing the various Danish stores configurations only show the fuel tanks on the wing tips. The typical configuration for the Danish interceptors was wing tip tanks and two AIM-9s underneath the fuselage. When AIM-9s were carried on the TF-104G/CF-104D they were mounted on the wing pylons. Only the single-seat F-104s were used for QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) though, a task that demanded four armed aircraft to be on alert at all times.
Apart from being used as trainers the two-seaters were also used in the ECM role. For this role the TF-104G/CF-104D was equipped with the aforementioned APR-37D/ARP-45D RWR equipment, and they had the capability to carry ALQ-71 and -72 jamming pods as well as the A38DK (essentially the ALE-38 equipment mounted in the ALE-2 pod).The ALQ-71/-72 would usually be carried on the port wing pylon with the starboard wing pylon being fitted with either the other ALQ-71/-72 pod, the A38DK or a wing tank. The A38DK would either be carried in this configuration, with a pod underneath each wing pylon or with the A38DK occupying the port wing pylon while the starboard wing pylon would be mounted with a wing tank.
The F-104 had a secondary role as a ground attack aircraft. For this the F-104 had the M61 Vulcan gun as the primary weapon, and the only other weapon prepared for this use was the LAU-3/A rocket pod with 19 2.75” rockets. Not all Danish TF/F-104Gs had the wiring for the LAU-3/A, but the 20 airframes that did not have it were modified in 1968-69. Eventually, apart from a test mounting of the pod, the LAU-3/A was never used on the Danish TF/F-104Gs.
The F-104 was also used for target-towing duties. The target towing equipment consisted of the AERO-35B target mounted on the Danish M/74 adapter. Later the French-made ALKAN/SOULE/SFENA target tow system was bought from the RNeAF.
Since the TF/F-104Gs supplied under the MAP programme were supposed to be returned to the US once their service in the RDAF was over, the first Danish F-104s to be retired were the CF-104s and CF-104Ds. This way the RDAF could continue to use the TF/F-104Gs operationally and then use the CF-104 and CF-104Ds as sources for spare parts. All CF-104s and CF-104Ds were retired by January 1985, however, due to cracks found in R-756 (one of the MAP aircraft) it was decided that RT-657 was to enter service again.
The F-104 was eventually retired on 30th April 1986, marked with a 5-ship flyby over Aalborg AB. The TF/F-104Gs supplied under the MAP programme were all returned to the US. Some were later passed on to the Republic of China Air Force, while the F-104G with cracks (R-756) were handed over to the Midland Air Museum in the UK.
© J. Jensen 2007