F-104A Starfighters were to be used to train Air Force space pilots.
From the archive: September 29, 1962
Lockheed Starfighter Gets Space Mission
Three Lockheed F-104A Starfighters will be specially equipped with rocket engines and reaction controls to become the world’s first flight trainers for future AF space pilots.
Capable of realistic space-effect indoctrination 25 miles above the earth, the F-104s will be assigned to the AF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif.
The modified F-104s regularly will fly at altitudes between 120,000 and 130,000 feet, higher than man ever has flown an aircraft taking off from earth under its own power.
Editor’s note: On Dec. 10, 1963, Col. Chuck Yeager flew an NF-104A to a reported 90,000 feet, had his engine flame out, and bailed out for the second time in his storied career. The crash was memorialized in the book and movie “The Right Stuff.”