McDonnell F3H Demon
|An F3H-2N Demon in flight in 1956|
|Manufacturer||McDonnell Aircraft Corporation|
|First flight||7 August 1951|
|Introduction||7 March 1956|
|Status||Phased out of service|
|Primary user||United States Navy|
The McDonnell F3H Demon was a subsonic swept-wing United States Navy carrier-based jet fighter aircraft. After severe problems with the Westinghouse J40 engine that was ultimately abandoned, the successor to the McDonnell F2H Banshee served starting in 1956 redesigned with the J71 engine. Though it lacked sufficient power for supersonic performance, it complemented daylight dogfighters such as the Vought F8U Crusader and Grumman F11F Tiger as an all-weather, missile-armed interceptor until 1964. It was withdrawn before it could serve in Vietnam when it, and ultimately also the Crusader, was replaced by the extremely successful McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. McDonnell's Phantom, which was equally capable against ground, fighter and bomber targets, bears a strong family resemblance, as it was conceived as an advanced development of the Demon. The supersonic United States Air Force McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was similar in layout, but was derived from the earlier XF-88 Voodoo, which also influenced the Demon's layout.
Development work began in 1949, using a swept wing from the start rather than adapting a straight-winged design as was done with the Grumman F9F Panther. A competing contract was also awarded for the delta wing Douglas F4D Skyray. The Skyray, with a top speed of 722 mph, would become the Navy's first fighter to fly supersonic in level flight, while the Demon would never reach that level of performance. Departing from its tradition of using two engines, the Demon would be McDonnell's only single-engine carrier-based fighter, adopting under some Navy pressure to use the Westinghouse J40 engine. That engine was being promoted by the Navy for its next generation of aircraft, and was to have thrust of over 11,000 lbf (49 kN)—three times that of the engines in the F2H Banshee. It was the first swept-wing design produced by McDonnell and among the first U.S. aircraft to have missile armament.
The Navy desperately needed a high performance fighter to meet the challenge of the swept-wing MiG-15 encountered over Korea. Production of the F3H-1N was hastily ordered even before the first flight of the XF3H-1 prototype on 7 August 1951 by test pilot Robert Edholm. The first test flights of the operational design did not occur until January 1953, when the Korean War was winding down. The engine was a major disappointment, producing only half of the expected power. Worse, it was temperamental and unreliable. Of 35 F3H-1N aircraft flown with the J40 engine, eight were involved in major accidents. The J40-engined aircraft were grounded and a new engine was sought. The proposed F3H-1P reconnaissance version was never built.
The best alternative was the Allison J71 engine which was also used in the Douglas B-66 Destroyer. Subsequent F3Hs with this engine were designated the F3H-2N. Use of this engine required an enlarged wing and redesigned fuselage. In service, the J71 proved problematic, providing insufficient power for an aircraft of the Demon's size. The engine also suffered from frequent flameouts and compressor stalls. The first Demon with a J71 flew in October 1954. Another significant problem was the reliability of the ejection seats: initial versions were found to be unreliable and were eventually replaced with Martin-Baker ejection seats that were becoming the standard Navy seat of choice due to their higher performance at low altitude and better reliability.
Despite the problems, the Navy ordered 239 F3H-2s, and the first were deployed in March 1956. 519 Demons were built up to the end of production in November 1959. It was not the Navy's first all-weather interceptor with radar (the AN/APG-51 air interception set was used first on the F2H-4 Banshee). The F3H-2 Demon had the AN/APG-51A, later upgraded to the 51-B version with a tunable magnetron then on to 51-C with better counter-measures in the receiver.
The F3H-2N's standard armament was four 20 mm (.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons. In later years, the upper two cannons were often omitted to save weight. Later models, redesignated F3H-2M, were equipped to fire the Raytheon AAM-N-2 Sparrow and later the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Deployed aircraft carried both types of missiles, the Sparrow on the inboard rails and the Sidewinder outboard. Cannons were not used in carrier air defense applications, but they were installed and armed when situations (such as the Cuban Missile Crisis) dictated, and where the aircraft might be deployed against surface targets.
A reconnaissance version, the F3H-2P, was proposed, but never built. It remained the Navy's front-line fighter until 1962, when it was succeeded by the F-4 Phantom II (which was a development of a proposed "Super Demon", a larger and much heavier version of the F3H). Developed during the Korean War to counter the MiG-15, it did not claim any aerial victories with missiles or dogfights, although it flew over Lebanon and Quemoy in 1958.
In 1962, the F3H was redesignated F-3. The F3H-2N became the F-3C, while the F3H-2M became MF-3B and the F3H-2 simply F-3B.
The last Demon-equipped squadron, VF-161 'Chargers', traded their F-3s for F-4 Phantom IIs in September 1964.
Due to excellent visibility from the cockpit, the Demon earned the nickname "The Chair". Demon pilots were known colloquially as "Demon Drivers" and those who worked on the aircraft were known as "Demon Doctors". The unfavorable power-to-weight ratio gave rise to the less flattering nickname "lead sled," sometimes shortened to "sled".
- Prototype single-seat clear-weather interceptor fighter. Powered by 6,500 lbf (29 kN) (9,200 lbf (41 kN) with afterburner) Westinghouse XJ40-WE-6 engine. Two built.
- Initial production version. Single-seat all-weather fighter version, powered by 7,200 lbf (32 kN) (10,900 lbf (48 kN) with afterburner) J40-WE-22 engine. 58 built.
- Proposed reconnaissance version of F3H-1. Never built.
- All-weather fighter powered by 9,500 lbf (42 kN) (14,250 lbf (63.4 kN) Allison J71-A-2 engine and equipped to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. 239 built. Redesignated F-3C in 1962.
- Derivative of F3H-2N armed with four AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles. 80 built. Redesignated MF-3B in 1962.
- Single-seat strike fighter version, retaining Sidewinder and Sparrow capability of −2N and −2M and adding payload of 6,000 lb (2,730 kg) bombs or rockets. 239 built. Resignated F-3B in 1962.
- Proposed photo-reconnaissance version of −2. Unbuilt.
- Proposed version with more powerful General Electric J73 engine. Unbuilt.
Aircraft on display 
Specifications (F3H-2) 
Data from The American Fighter
- Crew: 1
- Length: 59 ft 0 in (17.98 m)
- Wingspan: 35 ft 4 in (10.76 m)
- Height: 14 ft 7 in (4.44 m)
- Wing area: 519 ft² (48.21 m²)
- Empty weight: 21,133 lb (10,040 kg)
- Loaded weight: 33,900 lb (15,377 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Allison J71-A-2E turbojet
- Dry thrust: 9,700 lbf (43.25 kN)
- Thrust with afterburner: 14,750 lbf (65.77 kN)
- Maximum speed: 716 mph (622 knots, 1,152 km/h) at sea level, 647 mph (563 knots, 1,041 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,150 m)
- Range: 1,370 mi (1,191 nmi, 1,899 km)
- Endurance: 3 hr at 575 mi (500 nmi, 926 km) radius
- Service ceiling: 35,050 ft (10,683 m)
- Rate of climb: 12,795 ft/min (65.0 m/s)
- Guns: 4 20 mm (0.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons, 150 rpg
- Missiles: 4 AIM-7 Sparrow or AIM-9 Sidewinder
- Bombs: 6,000 lb (2,720 kg) of bombs
- AN/APG-51A, B, and C radar
See also 
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of fighter aircraft
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of military aircraft of the United States (naval)
- Angelucci and Bowers 1987, p. 304.
- Elward and Davies 2001, p. 13.
- O'Rourke, G.G, CAPT USN. "Of Hosenoses, Stoofs, and Lefthanded Spads." United States Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1968.
- Angelucci and Bowers 1987, p. 305.
- Angelucci and Bowers 1957, pp. 304–306.
- Angelucci and Bowers 1987, p. 306.
- "F3H Demon/137078." National Museum of Naval Aviation. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
- "F3H Demon/133566." Aero Web. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
- "F3H Demon/145221." Pima Air & Space Museum. Retrieved: 26 October 2012.
- Naval Aviation News March 1974, p. 23.
- Angelucci, Enzo and Peter M. Bowers. The American Fighter. Sparkford, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing Group, 1987. ISBN 0-85429-635-2.
- Dorr, Robert F. "McDonnell F3H Demon". Aeroplane, Volume 36, No. 3, March 2008, pp. 58–73. London: IBC.
- Elward, Brad A. and Peter Davies. US Navy F-4 Phantom II MiG Killers 1965–70, Part 1 (Osprey Combat Aircraft). London: Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 978-1-84176-163-3.
- Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Limited, 1981. ISBN 0-85059-463-4.
- "Naval Aircraft: Demon". Naval Aviation News, March 1974, pp. 22–23.
- Spick, Mike. "A Demon Possessed". Air Enthusiast, Forty-three, 1991, pp. 40–49. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143-5450.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: F3H Demon|
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- A film clip of the F3H-2N is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]