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The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is an American single-engine, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft that served with the United States Air Force (USAF) from 1958 until 1969. One of the Century Series of aircraft, it continued in service with Air National Guard units until it was phased out in 1975. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) flew a small mixed fleet of F-104 types in supersonic flight tests and spaceflight programs until they were retired in 1994. USAF F-104Cs saw service during the Vietnam War, and F-104A aircraft were deployed by Pakistan briefly during the Indo-Pakistani wars. Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan) F-104s also engaged the People's Liberation Army Air Force (mainland China) over the disputed island of Kinmen. The ultimate production version of the basic fighter-model F-104 was the F-104S all-weather interceptor designed by Aeritalia for the Italian Air Force, and equipped with radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. An advanced F-104 with a high-mounted wing, known as the CL-1200 Lancer, did not proceed past the mock-up stage. A set of modifications produced the F-104G model, which won a NATO competition for a new fighter-bomber. Several two-seat trainer versions were also produced, the most numerous being the TF-104G. A total of 2,578 Starfighters were eventually produced, mostly by NATO members. The F-104 served with the air forces of over a dozen nations. The operational service of the Starfighter ended with its retirement by the Italian Air Force in May 2004, some 46 years after its introduction in 1958 by the USAF. The safety record of the F-104 Starfighter became high-profile news especially in Germany in the mid-1960s, and lingers in the minds of the public even to this day. Some operators lost a large proportion of their aircraft through accidents, although the accident rate varied widely depending on the user and operating conditions; the Luftwaffe lost about 30% of aircraft in accidents over its operating career, and Canada lost over 50% of its F-104s. The Spanish Air Force, however, lost none. The Starfighter was a particular favorite of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force), although the AMI's accident rate was far from the lowest of Starfighter users. Since being withdrawn from service the Starfighter has been preserved in museums and is a popular Gate guardian. In late 2010 the Dutch Defence Department announced it would take back J79 engines (as well the Northrop NF-5's J85 engines) that were donated to museums and for educational purposes due to nuclear and asbestos hazards. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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