Interview with Convair F-102 Delta Dagger pilot

Deuces Wild!

Incredibly, despite its futuristic appearance, work on the F-102 began in the 1940s. Tasked with intercepting Soviet bombers at a dangerous time in the Cold War, the F-102 was the tip of the spear for the defence of the USA. Colonel Dugard flew the F-102 for the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of USAF in the late 1950s. Here he reviews the flawed but formidable F-102, a vital stepping stone to the excellent F-106.

Describe the F-102 in three words.

            Heavy Fighter Aircraft

What was the best thing about the F-102?

            Delta Wing gave it great manoeuvrability.

..and the worst?

            Heavy detracted from climb response.

What is the biggest myth about the aircraft?

            That it was a good air-to-air combat aircraft

How good was as a dogfighter compared to other aircraft?

            Could stay in contention if turning, but very vulnerable in climb

What was your most memorable experience flying the F-102?

Flying as a target aircraft for other F-102s.  On a night mission with a low overcast and after a couple of intercepts I got a red weapon systems light.  I broke off the mission and although not an emergency for flight, called the command post and was told to RTB (return to Base).  I proceeded to the fix for a penetration to station. And was told to hold due to traffic in the area.  After holding for a substantial period-of-time I was cleared to penetrate.  I was placed in the pattern as #3 for landing.  I noticed my fuel state was getting low and the yellow fuel-light came on.  The fuel counter had not started to click down so I was comfortable with my state.  Finally, I was cleared for a GCA approach.  On final my fuel counter started to click down and was notified to go-around due to an aircraft problem.  As I started my go around, I told them I had a low fuel state.  Approach Control acknowledged the call, but then let another aircraft slip in front of me for landing.  The RED fuel light game on indicating I could not make a go-around on the next approach.  I asked for an immediate clearance to be given a priority approach.  Not getting a response I called out “Mayday”, Getting their attention I was placed on final and completed the approach and landing, After clearing the runway and jettisoning my drag chute on the taxiway, the aircraft engine flamed out.  I was towed to a parking slot.

What was the role of the F-102 and in which unit did you fly? 

            Air Defence Command, launched to intercept intruders 87th FIS

How would you rate it in the following categories

A. Instantaneous turn rates.

Good Delta wing, leading to good wrap up 90-degree bank angle turns.

B. Sustained turn

Hold it until you grey- or black out.

C. Climb rate?

Can peg 4k/min with AB to speed drop down. 

D. General agility

Heavy fighter, not intended for much more than intercept. 

E. High angle of attack performance

Will run out of airspeed with sustained High Angle of attack. 

F. As an interceptor


G. Cockpit layout

 Very pilot friendly cross check for in-flight instruments

H. Sensors

Sensitive of and responsive to the presence of other aircraft.

I.  In terms of combat effectiveness and survivability?

Good visibility forward and above.  Survivable in its role. 

J. Cockpit layout and comfort?

            Comfortable, though seat packed chute has lumps.

What should I have asked you? 

            About how the low ceiling was not the best for an intercept aircraft.

Thoughts on the escape system?

            Ejection seats worked every time.

Which weapons did you deploy, and which was the most spectacular from the cockpit?

Missile equipped aircraft.  Most release were range released.  Never fired at a live target. 

Unofficially what’s the fastest and highest and the aircraft was taken?

            Never busted Mach 1, but close.  37,000 feet.

Do you love the aircraft?

            No, It was serviceable and a good flying machine, but never felt at home in it. 

What was unusual about F-102 tactics and culture?

Typical fighter-oriented society.  Alert oriented aircraft, called for rapid response and quick engagement. 

What were F-102 pilots most afraid of?

            Missile malfunctions

Did F-102 pilots feel about the absence of a gun?

We were flying an interceptor, and the weapons we had on alert were very adequate for our mission.

Tell me something I don’t know about the F-102

            The ceiling limitations that I mentioned before.

What was base life like? How did you unwind?

Perrin AFB was located close to the big “D” and functions at the club were common.

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