F-105 Thunderchief

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The F-105 Thunderchief, sometimes referred to as the "Thud", was a single-seat, heavy fighter-bomber, built by Republic Aviation and designed for tactical bombing. It was the mainstay of the U.S. bombing force in the early part of the Vietnam War. The F-105 could carry up to 12,000 lb of bombs or a nuclear payload, and carried an internal M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon that fired at a rate of 6000 rounds/minute. The internal gun set it apart from most other American fighters of the era, such as the F-4 Phantom, which carried only missiles. It was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney turbojet engine that allowed it a top speed of over Mach 2 in level flight.[1]

In May 1963, the Thunderchief was selected to be the plane of the Thunderbirds Air Force demonstration team.[2]

In response to the losses in Operation Rolling Thunder to North Vietnamese SAM batteries, some Thuds were modified as SAM-site killers, with a second seat in the back and missiles that homed in on enemy radar. The pilots of these planes were called Wild Weasels.

While not designed for air combat, the F-105 could hold its own, and its internal cannon allowed it to make kills at close range. In an air battle on April 19, 1967, Thunderchiefs shot down four MiG-17s for the loss of one Thud.[3] F-105 pilots downed thirty Migs during the war,[4] while 25 F-105s were lost in aerial combat, mostly to MiG-21s.[5]


  1. Fast Movers, by John Darrell Sherwood, St. Martin’s Press, 1999
  2. Republic F-105 Thunderchief
  3. Mig-17 and Mig-19 Units of the Vietnam War, by Istvan Toperczer, Osprey Publishing, 2001
  4. Thunderchief MiG Killers
  5. Mig-21 Units of the Vietnam War, by Istvan Toperczer, Osprey Publishing, 2001


Further reading

  • Thud Ridge: F-105 Thunderchief Missions over Vietnam, by Col. Jack Broughton, MBI Publishing, 2006
  • When Thunder Rolled: An F-105 Fighter Pilot over North Vietnam, by Ed Rasimus, Harper Collins, 2003