Air & Space Museum

Republic RF-84K Thunderflash

Republic RF-84K Thunderflash

Republic modified its successful F-84 fighter into a swept-wing reconnaissance jet that could carry a variety of reconnaissance cameras behind optical glass windows in its nose.

In 1955 and 1956, the Air Force experimented with using large, long-range Convair B-36 bombers to carry small, fast RF-84K reconnaissance jets on long intercontinental missions. The bomber would release its RF-84K near enemy territory, the jet would dash in and take its photos, then rendezvous and hook onto the B-36 for the long ride home. (Air-to-air refueling was in its infancy, and the RF-84s could not make the long trips on their own.) The Strategic Air Command had 10 B-36 bombers and 25 RF-84s converted for the experimental Fighter Conveyor (FICON) program. Test flights demonstrated the FICON concept was “tactically sound”, but it was not suitable for normal operations. Even skilled test pilots had trouble hooking onto the trapeze extended below the B-36 while fighting the turbulent slipstream under the massive bomber. The testing revealed that the procedure was (just barely) feasible under ideal conditions, but would be nearly impossible at night or in poor weather. The program ended in 1956 as other solutions became more practical.

The airplane on display at Wings Over the Rockies is one of only three surviving RF-84Ks in the world. Built by Republic in September 1955 as a stock RF-84F, it was sent immediately to Beechcraft in Wichita, Kansas, for conversion into an RF-84K. Beechcraft installed the retractable hook-on equipment and the downward-angled horizontal tail that distinguished the special FICON aircraft, then performed test flights and turned the airplane over to the Air Force. In January 1956 it went to Larson AFB in Washington state and flew with the 71st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing until the end of the FICON program.

The Republic RF-84K is on loan from the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Aircraft specifications:
Wingspan: 38 ft 10 in (11.9 m)
Length: 37 ft 9 in (11.5 m)
Maximum speed: 581 mph (935 km/h)
Maximum weight: 15,100 lb (6,849 kg)
Range: 1,110 mi (1,786 km)
Crew: One
Engine: Wright J65 turbojet
Thrust: 7,220 lbf (32.1 kN)

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Lowry - Denver

Air & Space Museum

Upcoming Events

Friday Aug 19
10AM TO 3PM
Air & Space Museum

Aviation Day | Pay As You Wish!

Aviation Day | Pay As You Wish!
Friday, Aug 19 | 10AM to 3PM

Join us in celebrating the development of aviation this National Aviation Day and PAY AS YOU WISH!

Enjoy special activities including:

  • Paper airplane building
  • Flight simulator sessions
  • Select open cockpits
  • Science demos
  • Scavenger hunts
  • And more!

Your donation helps to support Wings’ mission to educate, inspire and excite all people about aviation and space endeavors of the past, present and future.

National Aviation Day celebrations will also be held at Exploration of Flight at Centennial Airport! Click here to learn more.

Please note: Pricing for MaxFlight and Doron simulator experiences are standard Wings pricing. Pay as You Wish offer is valid on 8/19/22 at both Wings locations. Pre-sale tickets not available for this event. Admission will be available at the door.

Friday Aug 19
10AM TO 3PM
Exploration of Flight

Aviation Day | Pay As You Wish!

Aviation Day | Pay As You Wish!
Friday, Aug 19 | 10AM to 3PM

Join us in celebrating the development of aviation this National Aviation Day and PAY AS YOU WISH!

Enjoy special activities including:

  • Paper airplane building
  • Spinning helicopters
  • Talk with pilots and explore aircraft
  • Scavenger hunts
  • And more!

Your donation helps to support Wings’ mission to educate, inspire and excite all people about aviation and space endeavors of the past, present and future.

National Aviation Day celebrations will also be held at the Air & Space Museum in Denver! Click here to learn more.

Please note: Pay as You Wish offer is valid on 8/19/22 at both Wings locations. Pre-sale tickets not available for this event. Admission will be available at the door.

Saturday Aug 20
10AM TO 11AM
Exploration of Flight

Speaker Series | Aviation Archaeology

Speaker Series | Aviation Archaeology
Saturday, Aug 20 | 10AM to 11AM

Join Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight and the Colorado Aviation Historical Society to hear from experts in aviation archaeology and field work.

Presentations will take place at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

This event is included in Exploration of Flight admission.

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