In the early 1950s, the U.S. military established a requirement for a high thrust, low weight, mechanically simple jet engine that could perform efficiently at Mach 0.9 cruise and Mach 2.0 combat speeds.
In late 1952, General Electric's proposed J79 was selected and first ran in June 1954. A variable stator compressor made it possible to meet the difficult requirements, providing high pressure ratios with adequate stall margins for high performance aircraft over wide operating conditions. The J79 first powered an aircraft, a Douglas XF4D, in December 1955.
The J79 powered several production aircraft: Convair B-58 Hustler; Lockheed F-104 Starfighter; McDonnell F-4 Phantom II; and North American RA-5 Vigilante. The 1958 Collier Trophy was awarded to the Air Force, Lockheed, and GE team that developed the F-104 fighter, the world's first Mach 2 operational fighter.
The J79-GE-2 was a U.S. Navy engine that powered the McDonnell F-4A and North American A-5A (A3J) aircraft.