The F-106 Delta Dart is an iconic aircraft if only for the name and its delta wing shape. It first flew on December 26, 1956 and was retired in 1988.

The Delta Dart was designed solely as a high speed interceptor and it was fast topping out at over 1500 mph or Mach 2.3. The idea was to counter the threat of high speed enemy bombers attacking the United States. The F-106’s were kept on ready alert so they could take off within minutes of threat detection and stop enemy bombers.

The Delta Dart had a single Pratt & Whitney J75-17 afterburning engine that produced 24,500 pounds of thrust, a wingspan of just over 38 feet, a loaded weight of 34,500 pounds, range of about 1600 nautical miles, and ceiling of 59,000 feet. It carried one 20mm cannon and up to two Falcon missiles. Astoundingly, it could climb at a rate of 29,000 feet per minute.

An interesting note is that the Delta Dart could also be fitted to carry the AIR-2 Genie nuclear rocket. Yes, an air-to-air rocket with a nuclear warhead on it. At the time, air-to-air missiles were just being developed and the ones in existence were not accurate enough to stop large high speed bomber formations that may attack the US with nuclear weapons.

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Photo of Convair F-106A Delta Dart firing Genie missile by US Air Force

The AIR-2 was developed with the idea that even though unguided the warhead blast radius would be so large precision was not needed. More than 3000 of the AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets were produced.

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Photo of F-106 crash landed in a cornfield by The US Air Force

Called by many the “Ultimate Interceptor” the F-106 was a derivative of the F-102 and  enjoyed widespread use in the US Air Force until it was phased out but then gained a new life with multiple Air National Guard units. The Delta Dart was also used by the Air Force as a high speed drone for target practice with the last one being destroyed in 1998.

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Photo by NASA – The Original Mercury Seven astronauts with a U.S. Air Force F-106B jet aircraft. From left to right: M. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, Jr., John H. Glenn, Jr., Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom, Walter M. (Wally) Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Donald K. (Deke) Slayton.

Featured Image of F-106 Delta Dart by United States Air Force (United States Air Force) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons