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Republic RF-84F Thunderflash

The first modern jet designed specifically for photo-reconnaissance, the RF-84 was first tested in 1952. The Museum’s example, which flew with the Alabama Air Guard during the Berlin Crisis of 1961-62, came from Aberdeen in 1994. 

RF-84F Thunderflash …..  Fast Facts  


  • The Republic RF-84F Thunderflash is the photo-reconnaissance version of the F-84F Thunderstreak fighter jet, operated by the US Air Force. The RF-84F is the result of the unusual design evolution in the F-84 program, described below.

  • The original F-84, called a “Thunderjet,” was a straight-wing, single engine, jet fighter with the air intake in the nose.  Thunderjets, which first became operational with an Air Force unit in 1947, saw extensive service as fighter-bombers in the Korean War. 

  • When the Air Force wanted a faster, more powerful fighter, the straight wing was replaced with a swept wing and the radically redesigned F-84F “Thunderstreak” was created.  Deliveries of the F-84F began in 1954, with most of the aircraft going to the Tactical Air Command as ground support fighter bombers. Republic built 2,112 F-84Fs while General Motors produced 599 more. Of these, 1,301 were delivered to NATO air forces.

  • To create the photo-reconnaissance variant, RF-84F, with cameras in the nose, Republic moved the air intakes from the nose to the wing roots. The resulting “Thunderflash” looks almost nothing like the original straight-wing F-84.

  • The Thunderflash was the first modern jet designed specifically for photo-reconnaissance.  First tested in 1952, it was the first reconnaissance airplane equipped with a combination of standard aerial cameras and dicing cameras for close-up photos of individual targets.  The Thunderflash pilot was also the cameraman. 

  • A total of 715 RF-84Fs were produced, including 386 for allied countries.

  • Before the advent of reliable mid-air refueling, the Air Force experimented with ways to have fighters accompany the long range strategic bombers.  In the FICON (FIghter CONveyer) project, a capture hook was added to the top of an RF-84F, re-designated, RF-84K Thunderflash, which was then suspended from a trapeze beneath a B-36 Peacekeeper bomber. The fighter could be launched and recovered using the trapeze.  

  • The museum’s RF-84F (serial number 53-7554) flew with the 106th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron of the Alabama Air National Guard and was deployed to France during the Berlin Crisis of 1961-62. 

  • The jet was acquired from Aberdeen Proving Ground and airlifted to the museum site by Chinook helicopter in 1994..

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