Convair F-106 Delta Dart

Convair F-106 Delta Dart
F-106 Delta Dart
Convair F-106A Delta Dart of the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
Role Interceptor
Manufacturer Convair
General Dynamics
First flight 26 December 1956
Introduction June 1959
Retired August 1988 (ANG)
Primary users United States Air Force
Air National Guard
Number built 342 (2 prototypes, 277 F-106A, 63 F-106B)
Unit cost US$4.7 million[1]
Developed from Convair F-102 Delta Dagger

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart was the primary all-weather interceptor aircraft for the United States Air Force from the 1960s through the 1980s. Designed as the so-called "Ultimate Interceptor", it has proven to be the last dedicated interceptor in USAF service to date. It was gradually retired during the 1980s, with the QF-106 drone conversions of the aircraft being used until 1998.[2]


Design and development

The F-106 emerged from the USAF's 1954 interceptor program of the early 1950s as an advanced derivative of the F-102 known as the "F-102B", for which the United States Air Force placed an order for in November 1955. The aircraft featured so many modifications and design changes it became a new design in its own right, redesignated F-106 on 17 June 1956.[3]

The F-102 had to be redesigned with an area ruled fuselage to achieve supersonic speed in level flight. To exceed Mach 2, the largely new F-106 featured a more powerful Pratt & Whitney J-75-P-17 afterburning turbojet with enlarged intake diameter to compensate for the increased airflow requirements and a variable geometry inlet duct, which allowed the aircraft improved performance particularly at supersonic speeds, as well as permitting a shorter inlet duct. The fuselage was cleaned up and simplified in many ways featuring a modified, slightly enlarged wing area and a redesigned vertical tail surface. The aircraft's exhaust nozzle featured a device known as an idle thrust reducer, which allowed taxiing without the jet blast blowing unsecured objects around, without adversely affecting performance at high thrust levels, including afterburners. The fuselage was also slightly longer than the F-102 Delta Dagger's.

A QF-106 Delta Dart shows its area ruled fuselage

The first prototype F-106, an aerodynamic test bed, flew on 26 December 1956 from Edwards Air Force Base, with the second, fitted with a fuller set of equipment, following 26 February 1957.[4] Initial flight tests at the end of 1956 and beginning of 1957 were disappointing, with performance less than anticipated, while the engine and avionics proved unreliable. These problems, and the delays associated with them nearly led to the abandoning of the program,[4][5] but the Air Force decided to order 350 F-106s instead of the planned 1,000. After some minor redesign, the new aircraft, designated F-106A were delivered to 15 fighter interceptor squadrons along with the F-106B two-seat combat-capable trainer variant, starting in October 1959.[6]

F-106A Delta Darts from 5 FIS at CFB Moose Jaw in 1982

On 15 December 1959, Major Joseph W. Rogers set a world speed record of 1,525.96 mph (2,455.79 km/h) in a Delta Dart at 40,500 ft (12,300 m).[7][8][9]

The F-106 was envisaged as specialized all-weather missile armed interceptor to shoot down bombers. It was complemented by other Century Series fighters for other roles such as daylight air superiority or fighter-bombing. To support its role, the F-106 was equipped with the Hughes MA-1 integrated fire-control system, which could be linked to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) network for ground control interception (GCI) missions, allowing the aircraft to be steered by controllers. The MA-1 proved extremely troublesome and was eventually upgraded more than 60 times in service.[10] Similar to the F-102, it was designed without a gun, or provision for carrying bombs, but it carried its missiles in an internal weapons bay for clean supersonic flight. It was armed with four Hughes AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles, along with a single GAR-11/AIM-26A Falcon nuclear-tipped semi-active radar (SAR)-homing missile (which detected reflected radar signals), or a 1.5 kiloton-warhead AIR-2 (MB-2) Genie air-to-air rocket intended to be fired into enemy bomber formations.[11] Like its predecessor, the F-102 Delta Dagger, it could carry a drop tank under each wing.[12] Later fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle carried missiles recessed in the fuselage or externally, but stealth fighters would re-adopt the idea of carrying missiles or bombs internally for reduced radar signature.

Operational history

A Soviet Tu-95 intercepted by a 102nd FIW F-106A in 1982

The F-106 served in the continental USA, Alaska, and Iceland, as well as brief periods in Germany and South Korea. The F-106 was the second highest sequentially numbered P/F- aircraft to enter service under the old number sequence (the F-111 was highest), before the system was reset under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system. In service, the F-106's official name, "Delta Dart," was rarely used, and the aircraft was universally known simply as the "Six."

Although contemplated for use in Vietnam the F-106 never saw combat nor was it exported to foreign users. Following the resolution of initial teething problems (in particular, an ejection seat that killed the first 12 pilots to eject from the aircraft)[N 1] its exceptional performance made it very popular with its pilots. After the cancellation of the Avro Arrow, the Canadian government briefly considered purchasing the F-106C/D.

In an effort to standardize aircraft types, the USAF was directed to conduct Operation Highspeed, a fly-off competition between the USAF F-106A and the U.S. Navy F4H-1 (F-4B) Phantom, which was not only as capable as the F-106 as a missile-armed interceptor, but could also carry as large a bomb load as the Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber.[14] The Phantom was the winner, but would first be tasked to escort and later replace the F-105 fighter-bomber in the late 1960s before replacing older interceptors in Air Defense Command in the 1970s.

An F-106A of the 87th FIS above Charleston AFB, SC in 1982.

The F-106 was progressively updated in service, with improved avionics, a modified wing featuring a noticeable conical camber, an infrared search and track system, streamlined supersonic wing tanks which provided virtually no degradation to overall aircraft performance, better instrumentation, and features like an inflight refuelling receptacle and an arresting hook for landing emergencies.[15]

Air-to-air combat testing suggested the "Six" was a reasonable match for the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II in a dogfight, with superior high-altitude turn performance and overall maneuverability (aided by the aircraft's lower wing loading). But the Phantom had better radar, an additional crewman to operate the radar, and could carry a load of up to four radar-guided Sparrow and four infrared Sidewinder missiles, while Falcon missiles proved a disappointment for dogfighting over Vietnam.[16] The F-4 had a higher thrust/weight ratio, superior climb performance, and better high speed/low-altitude maneuverability, and could be used as a fighter bomber. Air combat experience over Vietnam showed the need for increased pilot visibility and the utility of a built-in gun, which had been added to the "E" variant of USAF Phantoms. Some F-106As were upgraded in Project Six Shooter[17] in 1972, fitted with a new bubble canopy without the metal bracing along the top (which greatly improved pilot visibility), an optical gunsight, and provision for a single M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon with 650 rounds of ammunition in the center weapons bay, replacing the AIM-26 Super Falcon or Genie.

The F-15A started replacing the F-106 in 1981, with the "Sixes" typically passed on to Air National Guard units. The F-106 remained in service in various USAF and ANG units until 1988.[2]

Starting in 1986, many of the surviving aircraft were converted into drones, designated QF-106A, and used for target practice. The last was destroyed in January 1998. The drones were still capable of being flown as manned aircraft, such as for ferrying to a test; during the test they were flown unmanned.[18] A handful of F-106s were retained by NASA for test purposes through 1998.


  • F-102B : The original designation of the F-106A. Fitted with the MA-1 Integrated Fire Control System with SAGE datalink, J-75 afterburning turbojet, enlarged intake, variable geometry inlet ramps and shortened intake ducts, refined fuselage shape, modified wings and redesigned tailfin; tailpipe fitted with a device to reduce the tendency of the jet exhaust to blow unsecured objects around while taxiing, yet allowing virtually maximum performance at high thrust settings including afterburner. Performance was deemed unsatisfactory and modifications were made.
An F-106A of the Montana ANG viewed from the rear
  • F-106A : Modified F-106 with improved performance. Maximum speed at least Mach 2.5, with some estimates as high as Mach 2.85 in level flight. The aircraft was capable of low supersonic speeds without afterburner (but with a significant range penalty) and had a maximum altitude at least 57,000 ft. Many were fitted with a conically-cambered wing for improved takeoff, supersonic and high-altitude flight. To improve the aircraft's range the aircraft was fitted with two streamlined external supersonic tanks that still kept the aircraft capable of sustained roll rates of 100 degrees per second. Since these tanks produced virtually no significant performance degradation they were rarely jettisoned and were routinely carried around. After 1972, many F-106s were refitted with a new canopy featuring improved visibility, improved optic sights and provision for a gunpack in the center weapons bay.
A two-seat F-106B trainer variant of the New Jersey ANG
  • F-106B : Two-seat, combat-capable training version. Pilot and instructor are seated in tandem. Due to the extra seat, the fuselage is actually better area ruled; combined with a likely reduction in weight.[N 2]
Weapons configurations same as F-106A.
  • NF-106B : This designation was given to two F-106Bs used as test aircraft with NASA and associated research facilities from 1966 to 1991.[19]
The QF-106 Delta Dart target drone.
  • F-106C : Unbuilt version. Aircraft was intended to have the AN/ASG-18 radar and fire control system fitted originally developed for the North American XF-108 Rapier. For its time, it was the largest radar to ever be fitted to a fighter, actually requiring hydraulic actuators to turn the antenna. To accommodate this larger radar system, the nose cone was longer and of greater diameter. The design featured an improved raised canopy design featuring better visibility, canards and lengthened rectangular inlet ducts. The aircraft was to be capable of carrying one GAR-9/AIM-47A in its center bay and one AIM-26A in each side bay. At one time, the US Air Force had considered acquiring 350 of these advanced interceptors, but the F-106C/D project was cancelled on 23 September 1958.[20] [N 3]
  • F-106D : Unbuilt two seat version of the F-106C.
  • F-106X : Unbuilt version (early 1968). Would have been outfitted with canards and powered by a JT4B-22 turbojet. It was envisioned as an alternative to the Lockheed YF-12, and was to have had a fire control system with "look-down, shoot-down" capability fed by a 40-inch radar dish.[8]
  • F-106E : Unbuilt version. On 3 September 1968, Convair issued a proposal for an "improved" interceptor that was to be designated F-106E/F. It was to be compatible with the upcoming airborne warning and control systems as well as with the "over-the-horizon" radar defense network. The F-106E/F would have had a longer nose and a new and improved radar with a look-down/shoot-down tracking and missile launch capability. It would also have had a two-way UHF voice and datalink radio. It would have been capable of launching both nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, including the AIM-26 Nuclear Falcon and the AIM-47.[21]
  • F-106F : Unbuilt two seat version of the F-106E.


 United States
United States Air Force[22]
Air Defense Command
2nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Wurtsmith AFB (1971-1972)
5th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Minot AFB (1960-1985)
11th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Duluth AFB (1960-1968)
27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Loring AFB (1959-1971)
48th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Langley AFB (1960-1982)
49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Griffiss AFB (1968-1987)
71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Richards-Gebaur AFB (1960-1971)
83rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Loring AFB (1971-1972)
84th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Hamilton AFB (1968-1981)
87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Duluth AFB (1968-1985)
94th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Selfridge AFB (1960-1971)
95th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Andrews AFB (1959-1973)
318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron - McChord AFB (1960-1983)
319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Bunker Hill AFB (1960-1963)(1971-1972)
329th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - George AFB (1960-1967)
437th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Oxnard AFB (1968-1968)
438th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Kincheloe AFB (1960-1968)
456th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Castle AFB (1959-1968)
460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Oxnard AFB (1968-1974)
498th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Geiger Field (1959-1968)
539th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - McGuire AFB (1959-1967)
Air National Guard
101st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, MA ANG - Otis ANGB (1972-1988)
119th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, NJ ANG - Atlantic City ANGB (1972-1988)
159th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, FL ANG - Jacksonville ANGB (1974-1987)
171st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, MI ANG - Selfridge ANGB (1972-1978)
186th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, MT ANG - Great Falls ANGB (1972-1987)
194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, CA ANG - Fresno ANGB (1974-1984)


F-106 no. 58-0787 on the ground after the pilot ejected.
One of the last two F-106s in active service, seen here in 1990 as a safety chase aircraft in the B-1B aircraft production acceptance flight test program.

An F-106 of the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (the Cornfield Bomber), piloted by Gary Faust, entered a flat spin over Montana on February 2, 1970. Faust followed procedures and ejected from the aircraft. The resulting change of balance caused the aircraft to stabilize, and it landed wheels up in a snow-covered field, suffering almost no damage. The aircraft was then sent back to base by rail, repaired and returned to service[23] and is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Aircraft on display

A partial list of statically displayed F-106 Delta Darts, by model, museum or base, location, and serial number:[24]

  • Selfridge Military Air Museum, Selfridge ANGB, Michigan, AF Ser. No. 56-0451

Specifications (F-106A)

Orthographically projected diagram of the Convair F-106A Delta Dart
F-106A Delta Dart from California ANG fires the AIR-2 Genie missile.

Data from Quest for Performance[41]

General characteristics



See also

The Mercury Seven stand in front of an F-106
Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ [13] Note: Broughton commanded the 5th FIS when these fatalities occurred.
  2. ^ It is uncertain if the F-106B was fitted with the modified "Project Sharpshooter" optic sights and gunpack provision.
  3. ^ After the cancellation of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, the Canadian government briefly considered purchasing the F-106C/D. After the F-106C/D project was canceled, it acquired McDonnell CF-101 Voodoos, instead.
  1. ^ Knaack 1978
  2. ^ a b Winchester 2006, p. 55.
  3. ^ Pace 1991, p. 138.
  4. ^ a b Peacock 1986, p.200.
  5. ^ Wegg 1990, p.209.
  6. ^ Green 1964, p. 138.
  7. ^ Drendel 1980, p. 92.
  8. ^ a b Donald 2003, p. 232
  9. ^ "U.S. Jet Sets 1,520.9-M.P.H. Speed Record", Oakland Tribune, 16 December 1959, p. 1.
  10. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Convair F-106A Delta Dart." USAAC/USAAF/USAF Fighter and Pursuit Aircraft: Convair F-106 Delta Dart, American Military Aircraft, 19 December 1999. Retrieved: 8 April 2011.
  11. ^ Winchester 2006, p. 54.
  12. ^ Taylor 1995, p. 93.
  13. ^ Broughton 2007, p. 17.
  14. ^ "F-106 Delta Dart." National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
  15. ^ Donald 2003, pp. 242, 246
  16. ^ Donald 2003, pp. 259–260
  17. ^ Donald 2003, p. 250
  18. ^ Donald 2003, pp. 270–271
  19. ^ a b Baugher, Joe. "Convair F-106B Delta Dart." USAAC/USAAF/USAF Fighter and Pursuit Aircraft: Convair F-106 Delta Dart, American Military Aircraft, 18 December 1999. Retrieved: 8 April 2011.
  20. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Convair F-106C/D Delta Dart." USAAC/USAAF/USAF Fighter and Pursuit Aircraft: Convair F-106 Delta Dart, American Military Aircraft, 18 December 1999. Retrieved: 8 April 2011.
  21. ^ "F-106C/D/E/F." Air To Air Combat. Retrieved: 8 April 2011.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "58-0787 Pilot-less Landing". Retrieved 31 December 2010. 
  24. ^ "AeroWeb list of F-106 Delta Darts on display in the US." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  25. ^ "A Brief History of Convair F-106A SN 59-0010."[dead link] Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  26. ^ "59-023." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  27. ^ "59-0105." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  28. ^ "Hill Air Force Base - F-106A Delta Dart." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  29. ^ 56-459 Retrieved: 1 July 2011.
  30. ^ "56-460." Retrieved: 1 July 2011.
  31. ^ "59-069." Retrieved: 1 July 2011.
  32. ^ "59-123." Retrieved: 1 July 2011.
  33. ^ "58-0787." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  34. ^ "Convair F-106A Delta Dart." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  35. ^ "59-0134." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  36. ^ "59-0003." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  37. ^ "59-145." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  38. ^ "57-2533." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  39. ^ "N816NA." Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  40. ^ FAA N-number "Verification for N816NA." FAA. Retrieved: 10 October 2010.
  41. ^ Loftin, L.K, Jr. "Quest for performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft." NASA SP-468. Retrieved: 22 April 2006.
  • Broughton, Jack. Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot's Life from Thunderbolts to Thunderchiefs. Osceola, Wisconsin: Zenith Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7603-3217-7
  • Carson, Don and Lou Drendel. F-106 Delta Dart in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1974. ISBN 0-89747-014-1.
  • Donald, David. "Convair F-106 Delta Dart: The Ultimate Interceptor". Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. London: AIRtime Publishing Inc., 2003. ISBN 1-880588-68-4. 
  • Drendel, Lou. Century Series in Color (Fighting Colors). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1980. ISBN 0-89747-097-4.
  • Green, William. The World's Fighting Planes. London: Macdonald, 1964.
  • Jenkins, Dennis R. and Tony R. Landis. Experimental & Prototype U.S. Air Force Jet Fighters. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58007-111-6.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Encyclopedia of US Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems: Volume 1 Post-World War II Fighters 1945–1973.. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1978. ISBN 0-912799-59-5. 
  • Pace, Steve. X-Fighters: USAF Experimental and Prototype Fighters, XP-59 to YF-23. Osceola, Wisconsin: Motorbooks International, 1991. ISBN 0-87938-540-5.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. "Delta Dart... Last of the Century Fighters". Air International, Vol. 31, No 4, October 1986, pp. 198–206, 217. Stamford, UK: Fine Scroll.
  • United States Air Force Museum Guidebook. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio: U.S. Air Force Foundation, 1975.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H., ed. "Convair Delta Dart". Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century. New York: Modern Publishing, 1995. ISBN 978-0792456278.
  • Wegg, John. General Dynamic Aircraft and their Predecessors. London:Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Convair F-106 Delta Dart." Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.

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