Book Review
F-104 Starfighter
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter a History
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


The F-104 Starfighter was more like strapping on a rocket than flying an aircraft, I have heard. Its stubby wings and elegant fuselage screamed this is an aircraft that is built to go like a bat out of hell while being chased by the devil. Unfortunately these attributes resulted in an aircraft that had to fly fast to stay in the air under control and the record of crashes is not a good one. In this offering from Pen and Sword Martin W. Bowman turns his attention to the history of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.


This offering from Pen and Sword is a hard backed booked looking at the history of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. The author of this offering is Martin W. Bowman who has authored a huge number of titles covering aircraft and conflict from World War One to the current day and also looked at the actions of Airborne Forces. The book consists of 320 glossy pages that offer the reader a good mix of text and photographs covering the period in which the F-104 flew and who it flew with. The book is of a very good quality having a stitched binding for the book and a nice dust cover. My dust cover was damaged in the post but the physical book remained unharmed.

The contents of this offering from Pen and Sword are as follows:
1. Missile with the man in it
2. They flew the Zipper
3. In the ascendancy
4. The ‘Widowmaker’
5. Versions and project models
6. NATO operators
7. 1st Canadian Air Group
8. Winning their spurs
9. Operational history worldwide military operators
10. The ‘Wicked One’
11. Shooting for the stars

This book covers the history of the F-104 Starfighter in a well presented manner. You are provided with the base history of the aircraft looking at how it came to be and the people behind that story that includes a part where the designer is said to have drawn the aircraft on a napkin with no room for the wings. It is the small wings that give the Starfighter its unique appeal and its biggest weakness due to very high wing loading when manoeuvring. It is pointed out that this was not seen as a weakness due to the purpose of the F-104, which was to intercept manned bombers with poor manoeuvrability.

In addition to the story of the aircraft and the people behind it we also get an excellent introduction to the men that flew it both in service and as test pilots. The F-104 had a terrible attrition rate in my view having read this title; an example of this is that the German Luftwaffe lost 292 aircraft over 28 years and lost 188 crew members in those disasters. The information shared with the reader here varies from the actual words of the men both in and behind the machine to short histories of these people. I also enjoyed the short histories of some of the aircraft covering where aircraft started life to where it ended.

The photographs in this book are intermingled with the text and that breaks things up into nice bite sized chunks. The photographs are a mix of black & white and colour and they are all of a high quality. The photographs are well presented and accompanied with very good captions that provide a good deal of information on the image and the specific aircraft. The section looking at ‘Versions and Project models should gain the attention of many of us who are into scale models as it covers efforts into rocket launched F-104’s enabling aircraft to be launched from anywhere without the need for a runway. A real odd one for me is an ejector seat that fires you out of the floor of the plane making issues when landing or taking off a really bad day for the pilot.


The F-104 Starfighter is an iconic aircraft that is instantly recognisable by anyone with the most basic knowledge, and this book written by Martin W. Bowman is a great tribute to the aircraft and the people behind it. His writing style and distribution of images through the title make the book an easy and pleasant read without intimidating those who see a 300 plus page book and shy away. The quality of the captions with the photographs was especially well received by me as a modeller and it has to be remembered that it is the images and subject that often sell the book rather than the text.
Highs: The high quality mix of photographs and the excellent captions that are supplied with them.
Lows: The dust cover had been damaged in the post.
Verdict: A fantastic book covering the F-104 Starfighter from many angles.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781473863262
  Suggested Retail: £24.00
  PUBLISHED: Jul 30, 2019

Our Thanks to Pen & Sword Books!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright ©2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.