Designed as a fighter-bomber that could deliver a nuclear weapon at speeds more than double the speed of sound, Republic’s F-105 Thunderchief earned its spurs flying at much slower speeds and using more conventional weapons in the skies of Vietnam. The double-seat F-105G version on display was an aircraft dedicated to the “Wild Weasel” mission, the destruction of North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs.
The single-seat F-105D model served as the primary U.S. bomber during the early years of the Vietnam War, conducting three-fourths of all aerial sorties over North Vietnam during the first four years of the air war. Although it proved deadly effective against a wide variety of enemy targets, using speed and agility to drop bombs, as well as dogfighting with North Vietnamese MiGs, the F-105 became the only U.S. aircraft to be removed from combat because of high loss rates. As the “first-in, last-out” aircraft on deep incursions, it was constantly in the line of fire. Its pivotal and dangerous mission was later largely taken up by improved versions of the F-4
A Cold War creation of the Republic Aviation Corporation ― the company’s last original aircraft design before its merger with Fairchild ― the F-105 was the successor to Republic’s F-84 series. Republic’s aircraft were known for their high-powered stamina and ruggedness in combat situations, beginning with the company’s famous P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II. It made history just by entering service in the 1950s as the largest and heaviest single-engine combat aircraft ever built, weighing approximately 25 tons. The F-105G version was an evolution of the two-seat F-105F training version, with additional avionics dedicated to fighting SAMs. Following the Vietnam conflict, F-105s continued serving with National Guard units until the mid-1980s.