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)

Air & Space Museum Air & Space Museum

Lowry - Denver

Air & Space Museum

Upcoming Events

Saturday Oct 7
9:30AM TO 12:30PM
Exploration of Flight

Breakfast Fly-In

Breakfast Fly-In
Saturday, Oct 7 | 9:30AM to 12:30PM

Join Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight for monthly fly-ins featuring planes, pilots and breakfast!

On the first Saturday of every month, enjoy breakfast from a local food truck, watch aircraft fly in and explore interactive exhibits and simulators.

Purchase Tickets

Food Truck: Cruz In & Eat
Please note: Food purchases are not included in admission.

Pilots – Fly in for free breakfast! For tie-down space, contact or 303.360.5360 ext 160.

Saturday Oct 14
9:00AM TO 2:00PM
Exploration of Flight

Round Engine Roundup with an Eclipse Encounter

Round Engine Roundup with an Eclipse Encounter
Saturday, Oct 14 | 9:00AM to 2:00PM

Join us at Exploration of Flight for a roundup of round engine aircraft, featuring the Sea Fury. Plus, view the 2023 Annular Eclipse from Centennial Airport! Build your own telescope and create a moon phase calendar at our learning stations, followed by an educational talk about the eclipse from Wings Over the Rockies Curator Chuck Stout.

Arrive early for prime eclipse viewing, as the eclipse is expected to be visible in the area around 10:30 a.m. The first 100 people will receive free eclipse glasses to safely view the eclipse. Additional glasses will be for sale.

Pre-Purchase Tickets

Food Truck: Colorado Coney Company

Saturday Oct 14
10:00AM TO 11:00AM

Teachers Only | Professional Development: Nose Art

Teachers Only | Professional Development: Nose Art
Saturday, Oct 14 | 10:00AM to 11:00AM

Teacher Workshop: Nose Art

Teachers are invited to join us for this online workshop and learn a unique aerospace lesson to bring to your classroom!

As aviation developed, especially as the result of World War I, many pilots chose to decorate their aircraft with designs intended to intimidate their opponents, or to remind the pilots of easier times at home. During this unique program, participants will have a chance to review some of that remarkable history and develop their own insignia and learn how to generate the image on a square of aircraft aluminum.

Register below and you will receive a confirmation email with the online meeting link.

Register Here

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