The Hun Hits the Big 60

The first of two YF-100A aircraft on its first flight. (Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of tahe United States Air Force)

By Steve Pace

The supersonic North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre was a follow-on to its subsonic F-86 Sabre. But more importantly, it gave the U.S. Air Force, specifically its Tactical Air Command, the first turbojet-powered fighter cable of supersonic speed in level attitude flight, and this was proved during its very first test flight when it was flown for 57 minutes by chief test pilot George S. “Wheaties” Welch—a triple fighter ace and World War II hero on May 25, 1953 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. During that test hop in straight and level flight, at 35,000 feet, Welch exclaimed, “Bingo!” over his hot mic to ground control, for he had hit 1.12 Mach number, thereby exceeding the speed of sound.

The USAF ordered two service test NA-180 airplanes designated YF-100A on January 19, 1951 on USAF contract number AF-6545 and issued USAF serial numbers 52-5754 and 52-5755 to the pair. The F-100 program was the result of USAF Air Materiel Command project MX-1894 and the contract for the two YF-100A airplanes was approved by the Defense Department on 6 May 1953.

North American Aviation, at both its Los Angeles, California and Columbus, Ohio, facilities went on to produce more than 2,290 of these air superiority/fighter bomber type aircraft in four major versions—the single seat F-100A, F-100C, and F-100D, and the tandem seat F-100F. Nicknamed “The Hun,” the F-100 Super Sabre was the first of the so-called USAF Century Series of turbojet-powered fighters.

Updated: January 22, 2013 — 3:15 PM
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