F106 Delta Dart The Forgotten Cold War Sentinel

f106b njang

In 1956 the US Air Force needed a shit hot interceptor to be able to tackle incoming waves of Soviet intercontinental bombers sneaking in over the Arctic Circle to turn the homeland to glass. You see 1956 was a simpler time. Most of the Soviet bombers were still prop driven, most fighter jets were armed with cannons and machine-guns.

Well, the Dart was given a nuke of its own.

The Genie.

An air-to-air right side view of an F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing an ATR-2A missile over a range. An auxiliary fuel tank is on each wing. The aircraft is assigned to the 194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, California Air National Guard. After 1970, most Darts were flown by the Air Guard in North American Air Defense roles

An air-to-air right side view of an F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing an ATR-2A missile over a range. An auxiliary fuel tank is on each wing. The aircraft is assigned to the 194th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, California Air National Guard. After 1970, most Darts were flown by the Air Guard in North American Air Defense roles

Since ‘close enough’ only counts in horseshoes and atomic weapons, the Dart was equipped with the radical new AIR/ATR-2 Genie nuclear rocket. Carrying a 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead, the rocket could zip out to ranges of six miles or so away and then detonate in mid-air.

With one of these, the Delta Dart could hustle to a formation of incoming Russkis bombers, rub the Genie’s lamp, then turn away and high tail it out of there before it went off– leaving the slower Soviet bombers to disappear in a cloud of radioactive dust as if by magic somewhere 20,000 feet over North Dakota (sorry North Dakota).

russian info sheet on delta dart

To outrun its own weapon’s explosion, the Dart was fast. So fast that in 1959 one set a world speed record of 1,525.96 mph (2,455.79 km/h) in a Delta Dart at 40,500 ft. One of the reasons it was so fast was that it had a streamlined weapons storage bay (like the F-22 today).  The French Dassault Mirage III, which looks viably similar, never came within 200mphs flight speed of the Dart. The Soviets didn’t beat it until the MIG-25 came out in the mid-1960s.

Over 340 Darts came off the line and served, primarily as the principal air defense interceptor of NORAD in the continental USA, Alaska, and Iceland, as well as brief periods in Germany, Thailand (during Vietnam) and South Korea. Besides the Genie, ‘the Six’ could carry the  AIM-26 Super Falcon and other air-to-air missiles.

The most famous Six was known as the Cornfield Bomber (although it was an interceptor and landed in a wheat field) after its pilot ejected over Montana and it continued on its ghost flight until it ran out of fuel, landing remarkably well on its own in a wheat field.

When the Cold War ended in 1988, the Delta Dart was pulled from the front line, a relic, and some 32 examples are still around. The figure would have been more but some 190 Darts, proven good at ghostriding after the Cornfield Bomber incident, were converted to unmanned drones in the 1990s and shot up over the Gulf of Mexico.


Genies, ghosts, darts, and sixes. Gone but not forgotten.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

One response to “F106 Delta Dart The Forgotten Cold War Sentinel”

  1. Gary K Odle says :

    The “Cornfield Bomber” didn’t fly until it ran out of gas. It flew in a gradual descent and landed wheels up in a wheat field, engine still running. It didn’t run out gas until well after it landed.

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