WarbirdsNews has received word from the International F-104 Society concerning a former Royal Netherlands Air Force Lockheed F-104G Starfighter which has recently gone on display following a substantial refurbishment at the University of Erzurum in eastern Turkey, roughly a hundred miles from both the borders with Armenia and Georgia.
While the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was not a good fit with the U.S. Air Force, which took fewer than 300 examples on strength, the type enjoyed great success in the export market with more than 2,200 serving aircraft serving in foreign air arms. Part of this success was due to Lockheed and the US Government reaching license manufacturing agreements with a number of different countries, which set up their own, indigenous production lines. The Fokker Aircraft Company in the Netherlands was one of these manufacturers who built Starfighters under license. Their factory, nestled beside Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, built 350 Starfighters; about a third of which were for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and the rest for West Germany. They built two main variants, in a roughly two to one split between the F-104G interceptor and RF-104G tactical reconnaissance model.
One of the F-104Gs which rolled off Fokker’s production line at Schipol in 1964 was construction number 683-8286, which the Royal Netherlands Air Force formally accepted as D-8286 on October 5th, 1964. She first joined the so-called “Dutch Masters” Operational Conversion Unit at Leeuwarden Air Base, but also served in the Tactical Strike role with both 311 and 312 Squadron at Volkel Air Base, as well as in the All-Weather Interceptor role with 322 and 323 Squadrons, also at Leeuwarden. By the late seventies, the Netherlands was winding down their Starfighter fleet, and struck a deal with Turkey to transfer a number of their F-104G and RF-104G airframes to that nation. So on December 15th, 1980, D-8286 became 64-8286 with the Turkish Air Force. Initially, the Starfighter joined 142 Filo (squadron) at Mürted Air Base, near the Turkish capital, Ankara, with the side code 4-286. By the mid 1980s, the aircraft moved to Balıkesir Air Base in the far west of Turkey, where she gained a new side code, 9-286. She was operational until at least the autumn of 1987, but entered storage soon after with the influx of lower-time ex-West German Luftwaffe Starfighters during that period. Roughly in the year 2000, the Starfighter was gifted to the Erzurum Technical University in Erzurum, and at some point, they placed the aircraft on display, mounted on a pole on campus. More recently, the university brought the vintage fighter down from its perch for a complete static restoration, including a new paint job.
Oddly, as the International F-104 Society laments, the restoration team made an odd decision with the markings by placing a spurious “D” in front of the side code, creating a hybrid Dutch-Turkish Air Force jet. However, the group then acknowledges that, “Nevetheless it is great to see that people have put a lot of effort to save this aircraft from being scrapped, and giving it a place where it can be honored.” We at WarbirdsNews agree heartily with that sentiment, and are glad that the Starfighter is still seen proudly on display for all to enjoy her heritage.
WarbirdsNews wishes to thank the International F-104 Society for the details, and permission to use Cana Urguz’s images of the Starfighter back on its pole.