West Germany: Problems with the Flying Lab

The U.S. Air Force rates Lockheed's needle-nosed F-104 as its finest interceptor. But in West Germany, the Starfighter has won a different label: "the flying coffin."

The Luftwaffe's fleet of some 700 modified Lockheeds has been decimated by crashes. Last week the 60th and 61st went down. The losses—26 alone in 1965—have created a public furor in West Germany, and subjected the Luftwaffe to severe criticism.

The trouble dates back to 1958, when former Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss, hoping to win a bigger voice for West Germany in NATO, picked the free...

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