The Republic F-105 was the fastest and most successful Cold War strike fighter. Designed to deliver nuclear weapons at low altitude and then fight its way back to base it was the primary weapon in the USAF's world-wide tactical strike arsenal in the early 1960s. Thunderchief pilots in Europe, the Far East and the USA stood on short-notice alert, ready to take on formidable defences in their supersonic attacks on pre-planned Communist bloc targets. However, the F-105 achieved legendary status in a very different conflict. When direct American involvement in Vietnam began in 1964 F-105s were deployed to the area, initially as a deterrent but increasingly as conventional attack fighters against insurgency in Laos and Vietnam. As the pace of war increased and bombing of North Vietnam began in 1965 the Thunderchief was the most important weapon in attacks against the most heavily defended territory in modern history. Two wings of F-105s, manned by pilots whose experience often included combat in WWII and Korea, performed truly heroic deeds in an environment where the political and tactical odds were usually stacked against them.
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September 18, 2012
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