Hobby Master HA2501 USAF Republic F-105D Thunderchief Fighter-Bomber - Lt. David B. Waldrop, 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat RTAB, August 1967 (1:72 Scale)
"Tell the Vietnamese they've got to draw in their horns or we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with Air power or Naval power - not with ground forces."
- General Curtis LeMay, May 1964
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force. The Mach 2 capable F-105 bore the brunt of strike bombing over North Vietnam during the early years of the Vietnam War. Originally designed and deployed as a single seat aircraft, a two-seat Wild Weasel version was later developed for use in the specialized Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role against surface-to-air missile sites. It was commonly known as the Thud by its crews.
As a follow-on to the Mach 1 capable F-100, the F-105 was also armed with missiles and a cannon; however, its design was tailored to high-speed low-altitude penetration carrying a single nuclear bomb internally. First flown in 1955, the Thunderchief entered service in 1958. As the largest single-engined fighter ever employed by the USAF, the single-seat F-105 would be adapted to deliver a greater iron bomb load than the four-engined, 10-man strategic bombers of World War II like the B-17, B-24 and B-29. The F-105 would be best remembered as the primary strike bomber over North Vietnam in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Over 20,000 Thunderchief sorties were flown, with 382 aircraft lost (nearly half of the 833 produced) including 62 operational casualties. Although it lacked the agility of the smaller MiG fighters, USAF F-105s demonstrated the effectiveness of guns, and were credited with downing 27.5 enemy aircraft.
During the war, the two-seat F-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel variants became the first dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) platforms, fighting against the Soviet-built S-75 Dvina / (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missiles. Two Wild Weasel pilots were awarded the Medal of Honor for attacking North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile sites, with one shooting down two MiG-17s the same day. The dangerous missions often required them to be the "first in, last out," suppressing enemy air defenses and keeping them suppressed while strike aircraft accomplished their missions and then left the area.
Although the F-105 weighed 50,000 pounds (22,680 kg), the aircraft could exceed the speed of sound at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitude. It could carry up to 14,000 pounds (6,700 kg) of bombs and missiles. The Thunderchief was later replaced as a strike aircraft over North Vietnam by both the F-4 Phantom II and the swing-wing F-111. However, the "Wild Weasel" variants remained in service until 1984, when they were replaced by a specialized F-4G "Wild Weasel V". The USAF F-4G was subsequently replaced by the USAF F-16CJ Fighting Falcon aircraft, currently employed in the SEAD role.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale rendition of a F-105D Thunderchief fighter-bomber flown by Lt. David B. Waldrop, who was attached to the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, then deployed to the Korat Royal Thai Air Base during August 1967.
Release Date: June 2009
Historical Account: "Thud" - In spite of a troubled early service life, the F-105 became the dominant attack aircraft during the Vietnam War. The F-105 could carry twice the bomb load further and faster than the F-100, which was used mostly in South Vietnam. In a foreshadowing of its Wild Weasel role, the first F-105D combat mission of the war involved an attack on August 14th, 1964 against an anti-aircraft artillery site on Plaine des Jarres. This mission was carried out by aircraft of the 36th TFS, 6441st Tactical Fighter Wing deployed from Yokota Air Base Japan to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base.
The first Thunderchief of the war was also lost in this mission (the pilot managed to eject safely). The first strike mission took place on January 13th, 1965, with the destruction of the Ben Ken bridge in Laos. Following the start of Operation Rolling Thunder on March 1st, 1965, a large number of F-105Ds were deployed in Royal Thai Air Force Bases at Khorat and Takhli. On August 2nd, 1967, F-105Ds from 335th and 338th Tactical Fighter Squadrons made the first of many successful raids on the Paul Doumer bridge. While the planes were first deployed with their original natural metal finish, they soon adopted the distinctive 2-green and tan Vietnam camouflage scheme which blended into the jungle landscape.