Not happy with the F-104 light-weight fighter concept, the USAF demanded Lockheed that it must be able to carry and launch the AIR-2A Genie nuclear armed air-to-air missile. They thought the F-104 being a bare minimum design would not fulfil that challenging demand, and hence justify a production curtail. Kelly Johnson and Lockheed took the bull by the horns and came up with a superb retractable trapeze placed on the centre fuselage hard-point which allowed the F-104 to carry and launch such a large and heavy missile. A series of launches were undertaken, one of them at Mach 1.7 and 56,000 ft. A valiant effort in vain: the USAF in the end used instead the Starfighter’s limited range as the excuse to achieve their aim.
Astonishing gif of the very alive ground test of this startling combo.