The Republic F-105D Thunderchief

Thunderchief Logo

What we have here was, at one time, the biggest, fastest, most technologically-advanced,  single-engine fighter ever made.  The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was designed in the early 1950’s as a replacement for the Republic F-84 F.  The prototype YF-105 didn’t fly until 1955.  The “D” model didn’t take to the air until 1959.  In all, 833 were built in all variants.  610 of those were the “D” model, which I’ll be modeling to create tribute artwork.

F-105 F (taken at the Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015, © John Matthews)

The F-105 was 64′, 5″ long.  It had a wingspan of 34′, 11″.  It was nearly 20 feet tall.  It weighed 52,838 pounds!  There are a couple sayings about Republic planes that seem fitting here: “Mr. Republic didn’t build any small aircraft”, and “If a runway was five miles long, Republic would build a plane that would use four of it.”

It was big.  How fast did it go?  How’s 1,390 MPH max speed grab ya!?  Powered by a Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W, with 24,500 lbs thrust, this “missile with a man inside” would flat GO!  It cruised at 778 MPH, and had a range of over 2,200 miles.

F-105 F (taken at the Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015, © John Matthews)

Per the National Museum of the Air Force web site:

The U.S. Air Force sent F-105s to Southeast Asia shortly after the Tonkin Gulf incident in the summer of 1964. The USAF operated the F-105D extensively in the air campaign against North Vietnam called Rolling Thunder. Although designed as a nuclear strike aircraft, the F-105 could carry a total of over 12,000 pounds of conventional ordnance — a heavier bomb load than a World War II B-17. The F-105 was gradually replaced by the F-4 Phantom, and the USAF withdrew the last F-105D from service in July 1980.

Yep,  it was originally designed as a nuclear strike aircraft.  It actually had a bomb bay where, inside, was the “special device”.  The “device” didn’t just fall out of the bomb bay, it was pushed out using a mechanism unique to this plane.  Instead of carrying any nuclear ordinance, it carried bombs and missiles.  Lots of them.  12,000 LBS of ordinance not including the M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon and ammunition.

F-105 F (taken at the Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015, © John Matthews)

The model started as most do, with a basic cylinder.  That’s how most of my fuselages begin.  From there it’s a matter of sculpting and scaling until the shape is there.  In this case, lots of scaling since this was one of those planes that had a “Coke bottle” shape because of area ruling.    Then the area of the cockpit and canopy had to be sculpted by pulling and re-arranging vertices until the shape looked right.

Three-view drawings came from a couple books I have in my library.  Lots of edge-cutting, scaling, and I now have a basic fuselage.

F-105 Model 2
F-105 D, © John Matthews

The vertical stabilizer was a bit of a challenge.  You’ll notice a couple “bumps” toward the base of the stabilizer.  There will be holes in those which, on the actual plane, were intakes for cooling air to the engine (if I remember correctly).  Those required a lot of edge-cutting and manipulation so the mesh wouldn’t deform when mesh smoothing was applied.  Then there’s the inward curve near the base of the rear of the stabilizer.  And the fin on the bottom of the fuselage required more edge cutting and shaping.  Still have to cut out a spot out of that for the arrestor hook.

F-105 Model 3
F-105 D, © John Matthews

Arrestor hook?  Yep!  Though certainly not a Navy plane, the hook was there to catch an arresting cable or barrier if necessary.

And then there will be the four distinctive air brake “petals” to create.  Lots more to do.   There’s still lots of tweaking left to do on the object so its topography will be good enough to begin coordinate mapping for textures.  But, it’s getting there.

F-105 Model 1
F-105 D, © John Matthews

It’s at least recognizable at this point. Ha!

Well, that’s about all for now.

Until next time, “Happy Trails!”


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