Lockheed F-94 Starfire

The Lockheed F-94 was an all weather fighter produced to fill a gap in the USAF’s post-war arsenal. It entered service late in 1949 and remained in service for a decade, seeing some service in Korea.

In 1947 the Soviets unveiled the Tupolev Tu-4, a direct copy of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. At the same time it was clear that the Soviet Union would soon have nuclear weapons, rather quicker than had been expected. The Americans thus found themselves needing a new all weather fighter rather quicker than they had expected. Two were already under development - the Curtiss XP-87 and the Northrop XP-89 - but neither was expected to be ready quickly (in the end the XP-87 was cancelled in October 1948 and the P-89 didn’t enter service until 1952.

A number of alternatives were considered for a short time solution. The Douglas XF3D-1 was examined, but not accepted for Air Force service. North American began to develop the F-86D, but this wasn’t ready for service until April 1953, while the Convair F-102A didn’t arrive until 1956.

One alternative was to fit a modern fire control system in the airframe of a TF-80C, a task that was considered to be fairly simple. When the Air Force approached Lockheed in March 1948 they expected that the first production aircraft would be ready by the end of 1949.

Once more detailed design work got under way it quickly became clear that the job was more complex than had been believed. The new aircraft would be heavier than the TF-80C, and the existing J33 engines wouldn’t provide enough power. As a result the Lockheed designers decided to use an Allison J33-A-33 engine with an afterburner, capable of providing 4,400lb of thrust or 6,000lb with the afterburner. The extra weight of the afterburner also helped to balance the extra electronics in the nose. These consisted of the Hughes E-1 fire control system, APG-32 radar and related equipment. There was only space for four guns, and the amount of fuel that could be carried internally was also reduced.

Two TF-80Cs were used as the prototypes, becoming the ETF-80C, then the ET-33A, and finally (but unofficially) the YF-94. Problems with the afterburner appeared on the maiden flight, but were soon solved, and the first production aircraft was accepted on 29 December 1949, well ahead of any of the competitors.

A total of 856 F-94 Starfires were built. This included 109 of the F-94A, 355 F-94Bs and 387 of the greatly modified F-94Cs.

The F-94A began to enter service in May 1950, becoming the first all weather jet fighter in service with the Air Defense Command. In April 1941 the F-94B began to enter service, and the surplus F-94As went to the Far East Air Forces. A small number of these aircraft were used over Korea. At first they weren’t allowed to operate over North Korea, but this changed in January 1953 when they were allowed north to protect the increasingly vulnerable B-29s.

The F-94A and F-94B were replaced in USAF service by mid-1954 and the F-94C by February 1959. The Air National Guard was also equipped with the type, but the last examples were withdrawn in the summer of 1959.



The two modified TF-80c served as the prototype, and helped with the development of the afterburner. They carried four 0.5in machine guns in the lower part of the nose, mounted behind the radome, which occupied the upper part of the wing. The overall layout was the same as on the F-80, with air intakes on either side of the fuselage ahead of the wings, a bubble glazed canopy, exhaust pipe in the tail and unswept wings.


The F-94A was the first production version. It was ordered in January 1949 and 109 were built. They were similar to the YF-94s, but with all of the required operational equipment. They were armed with the same four machine guns, but could also carry two 1,000lb bombs. The first seventeen were built by modifying T-33 airframes, and the remaining ninety-two were built from scratch.


One F-94A was modified to serve as the prototype for the F-94B. It was given a Sperry Zero Reader to help with bad weather landings, improved hydraulics, a high pressure oxygen system and centre line wing tip fuel tanks. It made its maiden flight on 28 September 1950, still well before any of the F-94s competitors were ready.


The F-94B was the production version of the YF-94B. It was ordered in two batches. 149 F-94B-1s were produced under Contract AF-9844 (which also covered a number of F-94Cs), and 206 F-94B-5s under contract AF-14804, for a total of 355 aircraft. These were equipped for arctic service. They were all delivered between January 1951 and January 1952.

YF-97A/ YF-94C

Work on the design that produced the YF-97A/ YF-94A began in the autumn of 1948, as work on the first prototypes of the F-94A was well underway. Lockheed put forward a design for a more advanced development of the TP-80C, which was to use a new thinner wing, new speed brakes, carry more fuel, be armed entirely with rockets, carry a Hughes E-5 fire control system with APG-40 and to be powered by a licence built version of the Rolls Royce Tay afterburning turbojet engine, the Pratt & Whitney J48.

In 1949 Lockheed decided to build a demonstration aircraft at their own expensive, combining the F-94A airframe and the new wing. This prototype had to be powered by a non-afterburning version of the Rolls Royce Tay, and made its maiden flight on 19 January 1950. It impressed the Air Force, and in February the prototype was purchased and became the YF-97. A second prototype was also ordered, and they were used to improve the overall design of the aircraft. On 12 September 1950 it was re-designated as the YF-94C.

F-94C (F-97A when ordered)

The F-97A was ordered into production during 1950, and the first of 387 aircraft was delivered in July 1951. It was armed with twenty four 2.75in FFAR rockets, and was powered by the Pratt & Whitney J48-P-5. The new aircraft could reach 640mph at sea level, and could go supersonic in a dive.


The DF-94C was the designation given for aircraft that were converted to carry the Hughes GAR-1 Falcon rocket, a guided missile that was expected to arm later fighters.


The EF-94C was a single aircraft that was given cameras in place of the normal rockets and radar sets. It was built for the Air Research and Development Command to serve as a test bed for cameras and sensors.


The F-94D was a design for a single seat ground attack aircraft that was to use the fuselage, tail and engines of the F-94C with larger wings and more fuel. It would have been armed with eight 0.5in machine guns and be able to carry up to 4,000lb of munitions under the wings. One YF-94D was almost complete when the contract for 113 aircraft was cancelled on 15 October 1951.

Engines: J33-A-33 or -33A
Power: 4,400lb of thrust or 6,000lb with afterburner
Crew: 1
Wing span: 37ft 6in or 38ft 11in with tip tanks
Length: 40ft 1in
Height: 12ft 8in
Empty weight: 10,064lb
Loaded weight: 13,474lb
Maximum weight: 16,844lb
Maximum speed: 606mph at sea level
Cruising speed: 452mph
Rate of climb: 6,850ft/ min
Service ceiling: 48,000ft
Normal range: 665 miles
Maximum range: 905 miles

Engines: J48-P-5
Power: 6,350lb thrust normal, 8,750lb afterburning
Crew: 1
Wing span: 37ft 4in
Length: 44ft 6in
Height: 14ft 11in
Empty weight: 12,708lb
Loaded weight: 18,300lb
Maximum weight: 24,184lb
Maximum speed: 640mph at sea level
Cruising speed: 493mph
Rate of Climb: 7,980ft/ min
Service ceiling: 51,400ft
Normal range: 805 miles
Maximum range: 1,275 miles

Air War Index - Air War Links - Air War Books

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 August 2018), Lockheed F-94 Starfire , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_lockheed_F-94_starfire.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy