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F-102 Delta Dagger


F-102 Delta Dagger

F-102 Delta Dagger
F-102 from the 125th Fighter Interceptor Group, Florida Air National Guard, deploys braking parachute
Role Interceptor aircraft
Manufacturer Convair
First flight 24 October 1953
Introduction April 1956
Retired 1979[N 1]
Primary users United States Air Force
Number built 1,000
Unit cost
US$1.2 million[1]
Developed from Convair XF-92
Developed into F-106 Delta Dart

The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger[N 2] is an American interceptor aircraft that was built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s. Entering service in 1956, its main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet bomber fleets during the Cold War. Designed and manufactured by Convair, 1,000 F-102s were built.

A member of the Century Series, the F-102 was the first operational supersonic interceptor and delta-wing fighter of the USAF. It used an internal weapons bay to carry both guided missiles and rockets. As originally designed, it could not achieve Mach 1 supersonic flight until redesigned with area ruling. The F-102 replaced subsonic fighter types such as the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, and by the 1960s, it saw limited service in the Vietnam War in bomber escort and ground-attack roles. It was supplemented by McDonnell F-101 Voodoos and, later, by McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs.

Many of the F-102s were transferred from the active duty Air Force to the Air National Guard by the mid-to-late 1960s, and with the exception of those examples converted to unmanned QF-102 Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) drones, the type was totally retired from operational service in 1976. The follow-on replacement was the Mach-2 Convair F-106 Delta Dart, which was an extensive redesign of the F-102.

Design and development

Initial designs and problems

On 8 October 1948, the board of senior officers of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) made recommendations that the service organize a competition for a new interceptor scheduled to enter service in 1954; as such, the all-new design would initially be dubbed the "1954 Interceptor". Four months later, on 4 February 1949, the USAF approved the recommendation and prepared to hold the competition the following year. In November 1949, the Air Force decided that the new aircraft would be built around a fire-control system (FCS). The FCS would be designed before the airframe to ensure compatibility.[3] The airframe and FCS together are called the weapon system.

In January 1950, the USAF Air Materiel Command issued request for proposals (RFPs) to 50 companies for the FCS, of which 18 responded. By May, the list was revised downward to 10. Meanwhile, a board at the U.S. Department of Defense headed by Major General Gordon P. Saville reviewed the proposals, and distributed some to the George E. Valley-led Air Defense Engineering Committee. Following recommendations by the committee to the Saville Board, the proposals were further reduced to two competitors, Hughes Aircraft and North American Aviation. Although the Valley Committee thought it was best to award the contract to both companies, Hughes was chosen by Saville and his team on 2 October 1950.[4][5]

Proposals for the airframe were issued on 18 June 1950, and in January 1951 six manufacturers responded. On 2 July 1954, three companies, Convair, Republic and Lockheed won the right to build a mock-up. Up until then, Convair had done research into delta-winged aircraft, experimenting with different designs, two of which fall under the name P-92. Of the three, the best design would win the production contract under the name "Project MX-1554". In the end, Convair emerged as the victor with its design, designated "XF-102", after Lockheed dropped out and Republic only built a mock-up.[5] The development of three different designs was too expensive and in November, only Convair was allowed to continue with its Model 8-80. To speed development, it was proposed to equip the prototypes and pre-production aircraft with the less-powerful Westinghouse J40 turbojet. Continued delays to the J67 and MA-1 (formerly "MX-1179")[6] FCS led to the decision to place an interim aircraft with the J40 and a simpler fire control system (dubbed "E-9") into production as the F-102A. The failure of the J40 led to the Pratt & Whitney J57, rated with 10,000 pounds-force (44 kN) of thrust[7] being substituted for the prototypes and F-102As.[8][9] This aircraft was intended to be temporary, pending the development of the F-102B, which would employ the more advanced Wright J67, a licensed derivative of the Bristol-Siddeley Olympus which was still in development.[10] The F-102B would later evolve to become the F-106A, dubbed the "Ultimate Interceptor".[7]

The prototype YF-102 made its first flight on 24 October 1953, but was lost to an accident nine days later. The second aircraft flew on 11 January 1954, confirming a dismal performance. Transonic drag was much higher than expected, and the aircraft was limited to Mach 0.98 (i.e. subsonic), with a ceiling of 48,000 ft (14,630 m), far below the requirements.[11]

Major redesign

To solve the problem and save the F-102, Convair embarked on a major redesign, incorporating the recently discovered area rule, while at the same time simplifying production and maintenance. The redesign entailed lengthening the fuselage by 11 ft (3.35 m) and "pinched" at the midsection (dubbed the "Coke Bottle configuration"), with two large fairings on either side of the engine nozzle, with revised intakes and a new, narrower canopy. A more powerful model of J57 was fitted, and the aircraft structure was lightened.[12][13]

The first revised aircraft, designated YF-102A flew on 20 December 1954, 118 days after the redesign started, exceeding Mach 1 the next day.[13] The revised design demonstrated a speed of Mach 1.22 and a ceiling of 53,000 ft (16,154 m), which was sufficient for the Air Force to allow production of the F-102.[14]

The production F-102A had the Hughes MG-3 fire control system, later upgraded in service to the MG-10. It had a three-segment internal weapons bay under the fuselage for air-to-air missiles. Initial armament was three pairs of GAR-1/2/3/4 (Later re-designated as AIM-4) Falcon missiles, which included both infrared and semi-active radar homing variants. The doors of the two forward bays each had tubes for 12 FFARs (for a total of 24) with initially 2 in (5.1 cm) being fitted and later 2.75 in (70 mm) replacing them. The F-102 was later upgraded to allow the carriage of up to two GAR-11/AIM-26 Nuclear Falcon missiles in the center bay.[15] The larger size of this weapon required redesigned center bay doors with no rocket tubes. Plans were considered to fit the MB-1 Genie nuclear rocket to the design, but although a Genie was test fired from a YF-102A in May 1956, it was never adopted.[16]

The F-102 received several major modifications during its operational lifetime, with most airframes being retrofitted with infrared search/tracking systems, radar warning receivers, transponders, backup artificial horizons, and improvements to the fire-control system.[17] A proposed close-support version (never built) would have incorporated, in addition, an internal Gatling gun, an extra two hardpoints for bombs (in addition to the two underwing pylons for drop tanks that were fitted to all production F-102s), bigger internal fuel tanks, and an in-flight-refueling probe.[17]

To train F-102A pilots, the TF-102A trainer was developed, with 111 eventually manufactured. The aircraft was fitted with a side-by-side cockpit to facilitate ease of pilot training. This required a redesign of the cockpit and nose incorporating a set of vortex generators on the top of the cockpit to prevent flow separation under certain circumstances, and repositioning of the intake ducts. Despite the many changes, the aircraft was combat-capable, although this variant was predictably slower, only reaching subsonic speeds in level flight.[18]

The F-102's intended successor was the improved F-102B "Ultimate Interceptor". The design, which had the originally intended J67 engine replaced by a Pratt & Whitney J75 underwent so many aerodynamic changes including a variable-geometry inlet design that it essentially became an entirely new aircraft and hence was redesignated as the F-106. Convair would also use a delta wing in the Mach 2 class Convair B-58 Hustler bomber.

Operational history

Introduction to service

The first operational service of the F-102A was with the 327th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at George Air Force Base,[16] in April 1956, and eventually a total of 889 F-102As were built, production ending in September 1958.[19] TF-102s and F-102s were used in the 1960s by the Air Defense Command (ADC) at Perrin AFB, Texas to train new F-102 pilots. They also provided platform training on flight characteristics of delta-winged aircraft for pilots who were destined to fly the B-58 Hustler bomber for the Strategic Air Command (SAC).

The F-102's official name, "Delta Dagger", was never used in common parlance, with the aircraft being universally known as the "Deuce." The TF-102 was known as the "Tub" because of its wider fuselage with side-by-side twin seating.

During the time the F-102A was in service, several new wing designs were used to experiment with the application of increased conical camber to the wings. Ultimately, a design was selected that actually increased elevon area, reduced takeoff speed, improved the supersonic L/D ratio and increased the aircraft's ceiling to 56,000 ft (17,069 m). A modification was required to the landing gear doors due to the wing redesign.

The Air Defense Command had F-102 Delta Daggers in service in 1960 and the type continued to serve in large numbers with both Air Force and Air National Guard units well into the 1970s. George W. Bush, later President of the United States, flew the F-102 in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group based at Ellington AFB in Houston, Texas as part of his Texas Air National Guard service from 1968 to 1972.[20]

Vietnam service

The F-102 served in Vietnam, flying fighter patrols and serving as bomber escorts. A total of 14 aircraft were lost in Vietnam: one to air-to-air combat,[21] several to ground fire and the remainder to accidents.

Initially, F-102 detachments began to be sent to bases in Southeast Asia in 1962, when radar contacts that were detected by ground radars were thought to possibly be North Vietnamese Il-28 "Beagle" bombers, which was considered a very credible threat during that time period. F-102s were sent to Thailand and other nearby countries to intercept these aircraft if they threatened South Vietnam at any time.

Later on, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strikes, codenamed "Arc Light", were escorted by F-102s based in the theater. It was during one of these missions that an F-102 was shot down by a North Vietnamese Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 using an AA-2 Atoll heat-seeking missile. The MiGs approached undetected, and one of the F-102s was hit by an air to air missile, which did not explode immediately, but remained lodged in the aft end of the aircraft, causing stability problems. As the pilot reported the problem to his wingman, the wingman observed the damaged Delta Dagger explode in midair, killing the pilot.[22] The other F-102 pilot fired AIM-4 missiles at the departing MiG-21s, but no hits were recorded. This was the only air-to-air loss for the F-102 during the Vietnam War.

The F-102 was tried with limited success for several years in the air-to-ground role, although neither the aircraft nor training were designed for the role. The 509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron's Deuces arrived at Da Nang Air Base, 4 August 1964 from Clark Air Base, Philippines.[23] The interceptor was equipped with 24 2.75 in (70 mm) FFARs in the fuselage bay doors. These could be used to good effect against various types of North Vietnamese targets in daylight. At night it was less dangerous to use heat-seeking Falcon missiles in conjunction with the F-102's nose-mounted IRST (Infrared Search & Track) on nighttime harassment raids along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Summary of (14) USAF F-102 Delta Daggers Lost in the Vietnam War 1964–1969
Date F-102 Model Unit Cause of Loss/Remarks
11/27/64 F-102A 509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) Engine failure.[24]
7/01/65 F-102A 509th FIS (3) (3) F-102As destroyed on the ground by enemy sappers at Da Nang airfield.[25]
12/15/65 F-102A 509th FIS Downed by ground fire while providing close air support (CAS).[26]
8/19/66 F-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, crashed during night landing.[27]
12/14/66 F-102A 64th FIS Downed by small arms fire within 60 seconds after take off.[28]
01/15/67 TF-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, ferry mission.[29]
4/02/67 F-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, engine failure. Also served with 16th & 64th FIS.[30]
5/12/67 F-102A 509th FIS Destroyed during enemy ground attack; mortar fire at Biên Hòa airfield.[31]
02/03/68 F-102A 509th FIS Downed by MiG-21 Atoll air to air missile at 36,000 feet.[32]
7/16/68 F-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, engine failure.[33]
9/16/68 F-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, ground collision after landing with an RF-4 Phantom II.[34]
01/07/69 F-102A 509th FIS Operational Loss, engine failure.[35]

Operations with both the F-102A and TF-102A two-seater (which was used in a Forward Air Control role because its two seats and 2.75 in/70 mm rockets offered good versatility for the mission) in Vietnam until 1968 when all F-102 aircraft were sent back to the United States.

Later use

In 1973, six aircraft were converted to target drones as QF-102A and later PQM-102 series, simulating MiG-21s, under the Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) project known as Pave Deuce.[36] This began a program where hundreds of F-102s were converted for use as target drones for F-4 and F-106 aircraft, as well as later F-15 aircraft, and testing of the U.S. Army's Patriot missile system. Some F-102As were configured to accommodate a single AIM-26 Super Falcon in each side bay in lieu of the two conventional AIM-4 Falcons.

The F-102 and TF-102 were exported overseas to both Turkey and Greece. The Turkish F-102s saw combat missions during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. There have been claims of air combat between Greek F-5s and Turkish F-102s above the Aegean Sea during the Turkish invasion. A Greek internet website editor, Demetrius Stergiou, claims that the Greek F-5s had shot down two Turkish F-102s, while the Turkish side has claimed that their F-102s had shot down two Greek F-5s;[37] however, both Greece and Turkey have officially denied any losses. Three days after the Turkish invasion began, the Greek military junta in Athens collapsed on 23 July 1974. The F-102 was finally retired from both of those air forces in 1979.

The F-102 left U.S. service in 1976, while the last QF-102 / PQM-102 drone was expended in 1986. No F-102s remain in flyable condition today, although many can be seen at museums or as permanent static displays at Air Force and Air National Guard installations.


Prototypes. Non area-ruled fuselage. Powered by 14,500 lbf (64.5 kN) J57-P-11, two built.
Area-ruled prototypes. Powered by 16,000 lbf (71.2 kN) J57-P-23. Four converted from pre-production aircraft.
Production Model. Initial eight pre-production aircraft built with non-area ruled fuselage. Remainder built (879) with area ruled fuselage.
Two-seat training version, 111 built.
The original designation of the F-106A.
Proposed tactical attack version with J57-P-47 engine. Two converted As as YF-102C engineering test beds.[38]
Target drones converted from the F-102A. Six built.[39]
Unpiloted target drones. 65 converted.[39]
Revised target drone conversion, capable of being flown remotely or by pilot in cockpit. 146 converted.[39]



Hellenic Air Force[40] In 1969, Greece acquired 24 of these aircraft for use by the 114 Pterix (Wing) at Tanagra. 19 of them were single-seat F-102As, five were two-seat TF-102As. They served with the Greek air force until 1978, when the F-102s were replaced by Mirage F1CG fighters.


Turkish Air Force

Beginning in 1968, approximately 50 F-102As and TF-102As were transferred to Turkey from USAF stocks. Before transfer to Turkey, they were overhauled by CASA in Seville. They were initially assigned to the 191st Filo (Squadron) based at Murted, replacing the F-84F Thunderstreaks previously assigned to this unit. This unit was redesignated 142nd Filo in early 1973. In 1971, F-102s were also assigned to the 182nd Filo based at Diyarbakır, replacing the F-84Fs previously being flown by this unit. F-102s remained in service with these two squadrons until mid-1979, when they were replaced by the F-104G in the 142nd Filo and by the F-100C in the 182nd Filo.

United States Air Force[41]

Air Defense Command
2nd Fighter-Interceptor SquadronSuffolk County AFB(1956–1959)
5th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Suffolk County AFB (1956–1960)
11th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronDuluth AFB (1956–1960)
18th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronWurtsmith AFB (1957–1960)
27th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronGriffiss AFB (1957–1959)
31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Wurtsmith AFB (1956–1957); transferred to Alaska Air Command
37th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronEthan Allen AFB (1957–1960)
47th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronNiagara Falls AFB (1958–1960)
48th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronLangley AFB (1957–1960)
57th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronKeflavik AB (1962–1973)
59th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronGoose Bay AFB(1960–1966)
61st Fighter-Interceptor SquadronTruax Field (1957–1960)
64th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronMcChord AFB (1957–1960), Paine Field (1960–1966)
71st Fighter-Interceptor SquadronSelfridge AFB (1958–1960)
76th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronWestover AFB (1961–1963)
82d Fighter-Interceptor SquadronTravis AFB (1957–1966)
86th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronYoungstown AFB (1957–1960)
87th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronLockbourne AFB (1958–1960)
95th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronAndrews AFB (1958–1959)
317th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – McChord AFB (1957–1958)
318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – McChord AFB (1957–1960)
323d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Truax Field (1956–1957), Harmon AFB (1957–1960)
325th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Truax Field (1957–1966)
326th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronRichard-Gebauer AFB (1957–1967)
327th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronGeorge AFB (1956–1958), Thule AB (1958–1960)
329th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – George AFB (1958–1960)
331st Fighter-Interceptor SquadronWebb AFB (1960–1963)
332nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – McGuire AFB (1957–1959), England AFB (1959–1960), Thule AB (1960–1965)
438th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronKincheloe AFB (1957–1960)
456th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronCastle AFB (1958–1960)
460th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronPortland AFB (1958–1966)
482nd Fighter-Interceptor SquadronSeymour Johnson AFB (1956–1965)
498th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronGeiger Field (1957–1959)
Alaskan Air Command
317th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronElmendorf AFB (1958–1970)
31st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Elmendorf AFB (1957–1958)
United States Air Forces in Europe
32d Fighter-Interceptor SquadronSoesterberg AB (1960–1969)
431st Fighter-Interceptor SquadronZaragosa AB (1960–1964)
496th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronHahn AB (1960–1970)
497th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronTorrejon AB (1960–1963)
525th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronBitburg AB (1959–1969)
526th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronRamstein AB (1960–1970)
Pacific Air Forces
4th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronMisawa AB (1957–1965)
16th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronNaha AB (1959–1965)
40th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronYokota AB (1957–1965)
64th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronClark AB (1966–1969)
68th Fighter-Interceptor SquadronItazuke AB (1957–1965)
82d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Naha AB (1966–1971)
509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron – Clark AB (1959–1970)
Air National Guard
102d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, NY ANGSuffolk County ANGB (1972–1975)
111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, TX ANGEllington Field (1960–1975)
116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, WA ANGGeiger Field (1965–1969)
118th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, CT ANGBradley ANGB (1966–1971)
122nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, LA ANGNAS New Orleans (1960–1971)
123d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, OR ANGPortland ANGB (1966–1971)
132nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, ME ANGBangor ANGB (1969–1970)
134th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, VT ANGBurlington ANGB (1965–1975)
146th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, PA ANGPittsburgh AP (1961–1975)
151st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, TN ANGMcGhee-Tyson ANGB (1963–1964)
152d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, AZ ANGTucson ANGB (1966–1969)
157th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, SC ANG MacEntire ANGB (1963–1975)
159th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, FL ANGImeson Field (1960–1968), Jacksonville ANGB 1968–1974
175th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, SD ANGSioux Falls AFB (1960–1970)
176th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, WI ANGTruax Field (1966–1974)
178th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, ND ANGHector Field (1966–1969)
179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, MN ANGDuluth ANGB (1966–1971)
182nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, TX ANGKelly AFB (1960–1969)
186th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, MT ANGGreat Falls ANGB (1966–1972)
190th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, ID ANGGowen Field (1964–1975)
194th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, CA ANGFresno ANGB (1964–1974)
196th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, CA ANGOntario IAP (1965–1975)
199th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, HI ANGHickam AFB (1960–1977)

Aircraft on display






  • 56-1032 – Royal Netherlands Military Aviation Museum, Soesterberg Air Base.[46]



United States


Specifications (F-102A)

Data from The Great Book of Fighters[80]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 68 ft 4 in (20.83 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft 1 in (11.61 m)
  • Height: 21 ft 2 in (6.45 m)
  • Wing area: 661.5ft²/61.52m² (Original Wing) or 695 ft²/64.57m² (Conically-Cambered Wing) ()
  • Airfoil: NACA 0004-65 mod root and tip
  • Empty weight: 19,350 lb (8,777 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 24,500 lb (11,100 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 31,500 lb (14,300 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J57-P-25 afterburning turbojet
    • Dry thrust: 11,700 lbf (52.0 kN)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 17,200 lbf (76.5 kN)
  • Internal fuel capacity: 1,085 U.S. gal (4,107 l)
  • External fuel capacity: 2 × 215 U.S. gal (815 l) drop tanks


  • Rockets: 24 × 2.75 in (70 mm) FFAR (Folding Fin Aerial Rocket) unguided rockets in missile bay doors
  • Missiles:

MG-10 fire control system

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists





  • Drendel, Lou. Century Series in Color (Fighting Colors). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1980. ISBN 0-89747-097-4.
  • Green, William. The World's Fighting Planes. London: Macdonald, 1964.
  • Flight, 19 April 1957, pp. 512–518.
  • Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press Publishers & Wholesalers, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-933424-32-9.
  • Hobson, Chris. Vietnam Air Losses: United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia, 1961–73. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2001. ISBN 1-85780-115-6.
  • Jenkins, Dennis R. and Tony R. Landis. Experimental & Prototype U.S. Air Force Jet Fighters. North Branch, Minnesota, USA: Specialty Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58007-111-6.
  • Pace, Steve. X-Fighters: USAF Experimental and Prototype Fighters, XP-59 to YF-23. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1991. ISBN 0-87938-540-5.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. "Convair's Delta Defender: The F-102 Story". Air International, Vol. 30, No. 1, January 1986, pp. 28–37, 52. ISSN 0306-5634.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H., ed. "The Convair Delta Dagger". Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century. New York: Modern Publishing, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7924-5627-8.
  • Wegg, John. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-833-X.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Convair F-102 Delta Dagger." Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.

External links

  • Aerospaceweb's Profile of the F-102
  • Global Aircraft's F-102 Specs., Achievements, and Photos
  • Joe Baugher's F-102 Delta Dagger History

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