Starfighters bound for European skies!

It has been nearly two decades since the skies of Italy were beaten into submission by the howling roar of a Lockheed Starfighter’s General Electric J79-GE-19 turbojet… 

With the withdrawal of the type from the nation’s air force in 2004 after more than 40 years in service, many thought that was it for the type dubbed 'Spillone' – Italian for ‘Big Needle’ – in Italian skies.

The Italian Air Force operated  360 examples of the ‘Big Needle’ between 1963 and 2004
The Italian Air Force operated 360 examples of the ‘Big Needle’ between 1963 and 2004 KEY Collection

That all changed on March 6, 2023, when it was confirmed by the leading US-based warbird news outlet Vintage Aviation News (www.warbirdsnews.com) that Starfighters Aerospace is sending two of its four former Aeronautica Militare (AM, Italian Air Force) F-104s across the Atlantic to fly at the 100th anniversary of the Italian Air Force Airshow, which is to be held at Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome on June 16-18, 2023.

Could 
Could this be a sight we get to enjoy in Italy this summer?  Starfighters Aerospace
With its J-79 ‘lit’ 
With its J-79 ‘lit’, N991SF prepares to take off.  Starfighters Aerospace

While it is not known which airframes the Cape Canaveral, Florida-based set-up is sending, it has been reported they have already been dismantled and already shipbound for Europe.

NN991SF  is one of three former Italian two seat TF-104Gs currently on its roster
N991SF is one of three former Italian two seat TF-104Gs currently on its roster Starfighters Aerospace

 

Operating a fleet of three ex-Royal Norwegian/Canadian Air Force (RNoAF/RCAF) Starfighters alongside its quartet of former AMI airframes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Kennedy Space Center, the company offers a number of options to both government and commercial operations using its Mach 2-capable jets, including; captive carry of payloads and test articles; microgravity experiments; supersonic/hypersonic development, test, and evaluation; air launching microsatellites; spaceflight hardware testing/qualification; suborbital spaceflight simulation; human factors and flight physiology research; avionics testing/qualification; flight suit testing/qualification; adversary air training support and even pilot training on type. More on Starfighters Aerospace can be found here.

The still to this day futuristic lines of the Starfighter will once again grace Italian Skies…
The still to this day futuristic lines of the Starfighter will once again grace Italian skies… Jeff Krause

Starfighters Aerospace aircraft

Current registration               Type                                      In service serial(s)

N990SF                                 TF-104G                               AM MM54251

N991SF                                 TF-104G                               AM MM54258

N992SF                                 TF-104G                               AM MM54261

N993SF                                 F-104S ASA-M                     AM MM6734

N104RB                                CF-104D                               RNoAF 632, RCAF 104632

N104RD                                CF-104G                               RNoAF 850, RCAF 104850

N104RN                               CF-104G                                RNoAF 759, RCAF 104759

 

More on this electrifying chapter of European historic aviation when we have it. But given this could be the final time Italy witnesses the sheer power and ground-shaking roar of Lockheed’s ‘missile with a man in it’, you can guarantee we will be there!