McDonnell F3H Demon

TypeCarrier-based fighter
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerMcDonnell Aircraft Corporation
First flight7 August 1951
Introduced7 March 1956
ProducedData is not available
Numbers built519
Unit costsData is not available
Max speed716 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)
Max range1,370 mi (1,191 nmi, 1,899 km)
DimensionsLength: 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)
WeightEmpty weight: 21,133 lb (10,040 kg)

Loaded weight: 33,900 lb (15,377 kg)
Powerplant1 x Allison J71-A-2E turbojet
ArmamentGuns: 4 x 20 mm (0.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons, 150 rpg

Missiles: 4x AIM-7 Sparrow or AIM-9 Sidewinder

Bombs: 6,000 lb (2,720 kg) of bombs
OperatorsUnited States (Retired)

The McDonnell F3H Demon was the only McDonnell’s single-engine carrier-based fighter ever built and one of the first United States aircraft that armed with missiles. There were a total of 519 had been built but none of them ever seen combat in Vietnam as it was replaced by a successful fighter the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II in the Vietnam War. However, the Demon was a good additional force to supplement the role of the Vought F8U Crusader and Grumman F11F Tiger as an all-weather, missile-armed interceptor until 1964.

The History of F3H Demon Development

The United States Navy was desperately in need of a high performance fighter to be pitted with the Soviet’s MiG-15 over the sky of Korea during the war in the country. The Navy wanted a substitution to its Douglas F4D Skyray that only had a maximum speed of 722 mph. The Navy then gave order to McDonnell to install the Westinghouse J40 engine on their new aircraft model. It was not an easy task for the company but they could manage it anyway making the Demon became the only carrier-based fighter with single-engine, it was totally out of the tradition of any carrier-based fighter at the time, especially to McDonnell design tradition.

Since the Navy needed the new aircraft to be deployed in battlefield, it gave an order to McDonnell to start building the F3H Demon even before taking its first flight of the first prototype (XF3H-1) which took place on 7 August 1951. Two years later, the first production model had its maiden flight, in January 1953. Unfortunately, the performance of the engine was a big disappointment as it only shown a half of its power that should be produced. Moreover, the engine was unreliable and hard to handle. Therefore, eight of 35 F3H-1N had major incidents. As an alternative, McDonnell proposed another engine which was used in the Douglas B-66 Destroyer, the Allison J71 engine.

To have better performance with the Allison engine, some changes were made such as redesigned fuselage and enlarged wing. Still, in real operational the performance of Allison J71 engine was not satisfying for not producing the sufficient power for an aircraft as big as F3H Demon. The engine was not the only problem as the ejection seat proved problematic as well until it replaced with Martin-Baker ejection seat.

The Navy seemed have no choice as it kept ordering the F3H Demon with a total of 519 units as of November 1959. Despite its earlier problems, the pilots of the F3H Demon were happy sitting in the cockpit of the fighter as it provided a great visibility.

As a fighter, the Demon was armed with four 20 mm (.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons, Raytheon AAM-N-2 Sparrow and later the Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

The Variants of F3H Demon

Some variants of F3H Demon were made but some were ended only in proposals:
•    XF3H-1 – Prototype single-seat clear-weather interceptor fighter. Powered by Westinghouse XJ40-WE-6 engine. Only two were built.
•    F3H-1N – Initial production version. Single-seat all-weather fighter version, powered by J40-WE-22 engine. There were 58 units built.
•    F3H-1P – Proposed reconnaissance version of F3H-1. Never built.
•    F3H-2N – All-weather fighter powered by Allison J71-A-2 engine and armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. 239 built.
•    F3H-2M – Derivative of F3H-2N armed with four AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles. 80 built.
•    F3H-2 – Single-seat strike fighter version, retaining Sidewinder and Sparrow with added warload of bombs or rockets. 239 built.

McDonnell F3H Demon videos

McDonnell F3H-2N “Demon”-1956

McDonnell F3H Demon

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