Iowa ANG commemorates Aviation History month part 3: Republic RF-84F Thunderflash

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

The Republic RF-84F Thunderflash on display at the Iowa Air National Guard in Sioux City, Iowa is tail number 52-7244. The Iowa Air National Guard’s 174th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flew the RF-84F from April 1958 until May 1961.

The third in a series of F-84 variants flown by the unit that included flying Thunderjets and Thundersteaks, the “Thunderflash” was developed specifically to perform photo-reconnaissance.

According to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the aircraft evolved from the straight-wing F-84, the F-84F prototype first flew in June 1950. The production of a reconnaissance version, the RF-84F, totaled 715 aircraft, including 386 for allied countries. To accommodate cameras in the nose, Republic moved the RF-84F's air intakes to the wing roots.

The plaque in front of the aircraft in Sioux City reads:

The first of the modern jets to be designed specifically for photo-reconnaissance, the Thunderflash was the first reconnaissance airplane equipped with a combination of standard aerial cameras and dicing camera for close-up photos of individual targets. The RF-84F was also the first fighter-type aircraft to be equipped with the Tri-Metrogon camera which could take horizon-to-horizon pictures. Unlike the Thunderstreak, the Thunderflash had its air-intake ducts located in the wing roots rather than the nose, which was elongated and enclosed to permit installation of a sweeping variety of camera and electronic equipment. It was the first reconnaissance fighter to have a camera control system and a viewfinder for the pilot, who also acted as the cameraman. The aircraft was first tested in February 1952, and 715 of the aircraft were produced. The 174th Fighter Squadron flew the RF-84F from April 1958, until May 1961. By 1961 the 174th had become the top reconnaissance unit in the nation.

Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns and 24 5-in. rockets; 6,000 lbs. of bombs externally
Engine: Wright J65-W-3 of 7,220 lbs. thrust 
Maximum speed: 685 mph
Range: 1,900 miles
Span: 33 ft. 7 in.
Length: 43 ft. 5 in.
Height: 15 ft.
Weight: 27,000 lbs. maximum

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