Why did the F-104 crash so much?

Why did the F-104 crash so much?

Modern Military
Lockheed F-104A

The F-104 was developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works division and made its first flight in 1954. It entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1958 and was also used by a number of other countries around the world, including Canada, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was a high-performance aircraft that was prone to accidents due to its high speed and maneuverability. 

It was also used in a number of high-stress roles such as air defense and interceptor missions, which increased the likelihood of accidents. 

F-104 test-firing an AIM-9 Sidewinder against a QF-80 target drone

Additionally, the F-104 had a relatively high wing loading, which made it more difficult to fly at low speeds and during takeoff and landing. Finally, some of the F-104’s accidents were attributed to design flaws and maintenance issues.

The exact top speed of the F-104 varied depending on the specific model and configuration. However, most versions of the aircraft were capable of flying at speeds in excess of 1,400 mph (2,253 km/h). 
A Griffin F-104A landing after dissimilar air combat training.

Some versions of the F-104 were equipped with afterburners. Which allowed them to reach even higher speeds of up to 1,600 mph (2,575 km/h) or more. The F-104’s high speed and maneuverability made it well-suited for air defense and interceptor missions.

The small wings were a key factor in its aerodynamic design. The small wings of the F-104 helped to reduce drag and improve the aircraft’s speed and maneuverability.

The F-104 was also designed to fly at high altitudes, where the thin air would reduce the wing loading and allow the aircraft to maintain its agility. 

Martin-Baker Mk.7 ejection seat from an F-104G

However, the small wings of the F-104 also made the aircraft more difficult to fly at low speeds, particularly during takeoff and landing, which may have contributed to the high accident rate of the aircraft.

The F-104 remained in service for several decades and was used in a number of conflicts around the world, including the Vietnam War and the Arab-Israeli Wars. The F-104 was retired from service in the 1980s, although a small number of the aircraft are still in use today as target drones and in other roles.

An F-104A being loaded onto a C-124. At Hamilton AFB for transport to Taiwan, 1958
479th TFW F-104Cs at Da Nang, 1965
A German TF-104G at Luke AFB, 1982
An Indian Gnat F.1 (IE-1083) sits on the disused airfield at Pasrur shortly. After being forced down by a Griffin F-104A on 3 September 1965. Today, the Gnat is on display at PAF Museum at Karachi.
NASA F-15 and F-104 testing Space Shuttle tiles

Why did the F-104 crash so much?