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Hard to think it was once a proud jet fighter!Duxford's Thud-to-be

With the roll-out of Duxford's F-15A, Gavin Mills looks at the other ex-USAF jet that made the same voyage and is destined for refurbishment in the near future.

59-1822 was built as a F-105D-6-RE Thunderchief and saw active service throughout the Vietnam war with the 44th TFS, the "Vampires", where she flew from RTAFB Takhli between 10/10/69 and 10/12/70 (the unit's last deployment to Vietnam). At that time the squadron flew a mix of aircraft, predominantly in the armed escort role, their major function being the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) with two-seat Wild Weasel F-105Fs (prior to conversion to the F-105G) acting as the hunter and the single seat F-105D acting in the killer role.

The aircraft carried very distinctive markings during this deployment - along with the famous 'RE' tailcode used by the 44th TFS, 355th TFW she was named "The Polish Glider" and carried a gold Polish Eagle crest on her port side with the inscription "Yankee Air Polack" underneath. The aircraft name itself was painted onto a black panel added along the outside of the port intake, just ahead of the wing leading edge, in beautiful white Gothic script. The aircraft was assigned to Major Dan Kutyna who christened her "The Polish Glider" for two reasons - firstly he was of Polish descent and secondly he was making a rather cynical reference to the Thud's aptitude for powerless flight, or lack of it!

She survived the conflict in South East Asia and returned to the United States where she was assigned to the 149th TFS, 192nd TFW Virginia Air National Guard based at Richmond International Airport, VA. The squadron
converted from another Republic product, the F-84F Thunderstreak to the F-105D/F Thunderchief on 19 February 1971 and flew the jets for eleven years until they were replaced with the A-7D in 1982.

Superhog!While flying with the 'Virginians' she gained new artwork on her port side, this time in the more common (for the F-105) position just underneath the intake. The artwork was of a bright red Wild Boar charging forwards on a diamond background carrying the legend "SuperHog", a reference to another of the Thunderchief's nicknames. 59-1822 was retired to MASDC, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ on 26 February 1981 and assigned the inventory number FK0030. After her tanks were drained of fuel, oil and lubricants removed and ejection seat de-armed she received a protective coating of spraylat that allowed her to enjoy a well earned holiday in the hot Arizona desert for the next 19 years. After being joined in storage during the late eighties and early nineties by ranks and ranks of her Century-Series contemporaries (including F-100 Super Sabres, F-102 Delta Daggers and F-106 Delta Darts) she then watched in despair as they were restored to flight status, only to be destroyed in live missile firings. Is it better to go out in a final blaze of glory, shot down in flames after one last flight or to slowly fade under the unrelenting Arizona sun?

In 1992 the IWM was offered this F-105 that had graced Lakenheath's dump for many years; unfortunately the offer did not include transport, which the IWM could not arrange in time, so she went to that great scrapyard in the sky.Thankfully she was saved from the fate suffered by her peers and the torture awaiting thousands of Phantoms and Corsairs in the smelters surrounding AMARC. Most of these F-4s and A-7s had arrived at AMARC long after 59-1822 and were cut into sections and melted down while she sat patiently waiting for her fate to be decided. During the first few months of 1999 she was transported the short distance to the Dross Metals International scrapyard just outside the base perimeter. Her wings, vertical and horizontal tail along with drop tanks and pylons were removed and carefully crated for a journey to her final resting place, the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Here she will be restored to her former glory for many thousands of people to enjoy. The only problem is I can't decide which scheme I would prefer to see her painted in!

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