04 December 2009

Prior to the arrival of the Lockheed U-2 in Europe in 1956, reconnaissance overflights were entrusted to a small unit of specially-modified North American F-100 Super Sabres codenamed "Slick Chick" but designated RF-100As. The Slick Chick birds were modified to carry five cameras in an enlarged underfuselage where the F-100s gun bay was located. The large central air intake duct of the F-100 made installing a viewfinder for the pilot a challenge- the solution ended up being mirror at the bottom of the air duct that picked up the ground image and reflected it to a glass window at the top of the air duct that in turn led to the pilot's camera viewfinder.

The RF-100A could carry up to four external fuel tanks as some of the photo runs were made on afterburner at altitudes of approximately 50,000 feet. With four fuel tanks, however, the RF-100A had marginal stability with a yawing motion and increased elevator sensitivity due to the significant shift in the center of gravity. On takeoff, the four-tank configuration was very sensitive in pitch and takeoffs were prone to what we now know today as pilot-induced oscillation. Amongst the Slick Chick pilots, PIO was called the "JC maneuver" as all a pilot could say after getting out of that state was "Jesus Christ!"

Between 1955 and 1956 it is believed that six Slick Chick missions were flown over targets in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany.

Source: FlyPast, December 2009, No. 341. "Through the Curtain" by Doug Gordon, p24-27.

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