The value of air refueling was demonstrated in July 1952 by nonstop deployment of the 31st Fighter-Escort Wing from Turner AFB, Georgia, to Japan. Jet squadrons could now fly to any point in the world, refueling from flying tankers at prearranged rendezvous. Six F-84G wings served SAC by 1954, the last replaced in August 1955 by the F-84F, and eight wings served other commands.
The F-84G-5 was also the first USAF jet fighter to handle a 1,680-pound Mk 7 nuclear weapon under the left wing. Beginning in 1953, it was released by a low-altitude bombing system (LABS). Racing in under 1,000 feet over the ground to the target, making a half loop up, and releasing the bomb, the F-84 escaped with a turn. Release altitude varied from 1,400 to 5,100 feet, depending on approach to target and bomb fusing.
The 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing received the first F-84Gs in November 1951, and this TAC unit was transferred to England in May 1952. Pilots practiced LABS techniques, but F-84 wings never actually possessed nuclear weapons, which remained in Atomic Energy Commission custody.
F-84s in combat
As an air-to-air fighter, the F-84 downed nine enemy aircraft for a loss of 18; it was too slow to do well against swept-wing MiGs. Most of the 86,408 F-84 sorties were used to deliver 55,987 tons of bombs, losing 122 planes to antiaircraft fire, 13 to unknown causes on combat missions, and 182 in non-combat accidents.
Due to the delayed swept-wing F-84F production, deliveries of the F-84G continued until the Korean warís last day, July 27, 1953. Of 4,302 straight-wing Thunderjets built, including 3,025 F-84Gs, Allied nations overseas joined in the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP - later MAP) were allocated 100 F-84Es and 2,236 F-84Gs.
Straight-wing Thunderjets were flown in 1953 by fourteen USAF Wings (about 75 a/c each) and 21 smaller NATO units. Beginning in March 1951, the Netherlands received 21 F-84Es and 170 F-84Gs to form two Wings and a reconnaissance squadron. Denmark and Norway each organized two Wings of F-84E and F-84G aircraft, while France and Turkey had enough for four Wings.
Belgium, Italy, and Greece would each form three F-84 Wings. Portugal acquired 119 F-84Gs and some served in Africa. After the Korean war ended, more F-84Gs were available, so 150 could be sent to Taiwan in 1953 for two groups, while 169 for Yugoslavia, 75 for Iran, and 40 for Thailand were the first jet fighters owned by those countries.
The definitive production contract approved June 8, 1951, produced the first F-84F-1 Thunderstreak, flown a year behind schedule on November 22, 1952. Four store points could hold a pair of 450-gallon drop tanks, four 225-gallon tanks, bombs, or 24 5-inch rockets to add punch to the six M-3 guns with 1,800 rounds.
While the first 275 (F-84F-1 to F-20) had the Wright YJ65-W-1, these had to be replaced with the 7,200-pound thrust J65-W-3. Deliveries were delayed by so many problems that not until January 1954 did TACís 506th Fighter-Bomber Wing get its first F-84F, and SACís 27th Strategic Fighter Wing got F-84Fs with the new engines in June.
These swept-wing fighters were so different from the straight-wing versions that it is regrettable that the F-96 designation was not kept. The cockpit canopy now swung upwards, while an automatic pilot, leading edge slats, twin fuselage perforated speed brakes, and an air-refueling receptacle in the left wing were provided. A low-altitude bombing system (LABS) released a Mk. 7 nuclear bomb under the left wing. Less impressive was the nickname ďHogĒ given the F-84F for itís excessively long takeoff runs.
A movable one-piece horizontal tail (stabilator) was introduced on the F-84F-25, and the 7,800-pound thrust J65-W-7 was standard on the F-84F-50 in March 1955. By August 1957, 2,713 Thunderstreaks were built, including 237 F-84F-GKs from the Kansas City plant managed by General Motors.
The F-84Fs went to six Strategic Air Command escort-fighter wings and six Tactical Air Command fighter-bomber wings, but by July 1957, the SAC wings were also transferred to TAC. After being replaced in front-line service by F-l00s, the F-84F was given to Air National Guard squadrons, but four F-84F Tactical Fighter Wings were reactivated in 1961 and served until replaced by F-4Cs by July 1964.