Honoring the Legacy of the F-84F Thunderstreak

Overshadowed by the F-86

The F-84F was conceived as an upgraded variant of the earlier F-84 Thunderjet. It had a new fuselage, a more powerful engine, and a wider wingspan. These changes increased the F-84F’s performance, particularly in speed, range, and payload capabilities. Additionally, the upgrades changed the original appearance,  and the new variant with the swept wings looked more similar to the more famous and flashy F-86.

The fact that the F-86 is more famous does not necessarily imply that the F-84F was inferior. In fact, the F-84F had a longer service and was arguably more useful, but it wasn’t as good at downing MiG-15s.

Republic RF-84F-30-RE Thunderflash
15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Republic RF-84F-30-RE Thunderflash 52-7412, Kadena AB, Okinawa, 1956


The F-84F was designed in the early 1950s as a multirole fighter bomber capable of performing a range of missions, such as a ground attack, reconnaissance, and air-to-air combat. It was driven by a single General Electric J47 turbojet engine with a top speed of 700 mph and a range of 1,000 miles.

 The Thunderstreak was armed with four 20mm cannons and could carry up to 4,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, or other ordnance. Like the F-86, the aircraft was also outfitted with a radar fire control system, allowing it to engage hostile aircraft from afar. The F-84F also had swept-back wings for greater stability and maneuverability at high speeds and a large internal fuel capacity that allowed the aircraft to fly long distances without needing external fuel tanks.

Korea and Vietnam

The F-84F entered service with the USAF in 1954 and served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In Korea, the F-84F was largely deployed for ground attack missions and was credited with helping destroy enemy ground forces and infrastructure. The Thunderstreak was utilized for bombing missions, reconnaissance, and air-to-air combat during the Vietnam War. Several additional countries, including NATO members, used the aircraft during the Cold War.

During the Korean War, the F-84F was largely deployed for ground attack missions and was credited for helping destroy enemy ground forces and infrastructure. The plane was also utilized for reconnaissance and was frequently entrusted with finding and destroying opposing air defenses.

Republic F-84F-45-RE Thunderstreak
92d Tactical Fighter Squadron – Republic F-84F-45-RE Thunderstreak – 52-7114 1957

MiG Alley, a fiercely fortified location along the Korean-Chinese border where enemy fighters, particularly the Soviet-made MiG-15, were known to operate, was one of the most dangerous areas for the F-84F. The F-84F was frequently dispatched into MiG Alley to conduct bombing and reconnaissance missions, and it was frequently engaged by hostile aircraft.

During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak played an important role. The plane was sent to Southeast Asia in the mid-1960s as part of the US effort to aid South Vietnam in its fight against communist troops in North Vietnam. The Thunderstreak was primarily used as a ground attack aircraft and was armed with various armaments such as bombs, rockets, and machine guns. Nevertheless, the aircraft was highly effective in its function, delivering a significant amount of ordnance with accuracy and precision.

Republic F-84F-55-RE Thunderstreak
A Republic F-84F-55-RE Thunderstreak (s/n 52-6936) of the Ohio Air National Guard


Despite its advantages, the F-84F had some faults. One of the main issues was the aircraft’s tendency to enter a flat spin, which was caused by the aircraft’s sharply swept-back wings and very high wing loading. This made regaining control of the aircraft difficult for the pilot and ultimately resulted in several crashes. In response to these issues, Republic Aviation made various changes to the F-84F’s design, including adding ailerons to the wingtips and increasing the aircraft’s flight stability.

U.S. Air Force Republic F-84F-30-RE Thunderstreak
Arrival of a U.S. Air Force Republic F-84F-30-RE Thunderstreak (s/n 52-6415) of the 119th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 177th Tactical Fighter Group, New Jersey Air National Guard at Chaumont Air Base, France 1961

Another problem with the F-84F was its low altitude performance. This was due to the fact that its turbojet engine was not well adapted for high-altitude flight. As a result, the F-84F was mostly deployed for low-level tasks like ground attack and reconnaissance. The aircraft was also slow, making it vulnerable to adversary aircraft, particularly during air-to-air combat.

Republic F84F Thunderjet fighter-bomber
Republic F84F Thunderjet fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force was one of several high speed aircraft involved in flight research at the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory (now, Ames Research Center) at Moffett Field, California 1954

Despite its shortcomings, the F-84F performed a vital role in the Cold War and was highly regarded by the USAF and other air forces worldwide. Several NATO countries, notably Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands, operated the aircraft, and it was a pillar of the NATO air defense network during the 1950s and 1960s. Iran, South Korea, and Turkey also used the F-84F.