F-3 Demon in action review

F-3 Demon in action review

Little remembered today save as the predecessor of the F-4 Phantom II, the McDonnell F3H Demon was revolutionary when it first appeared in 1951, as it held out the promise of a carrier-based fighter that could meet or exceed the performance of land-based types.

The USN’s efforts to field a carrier borne jet fighter competitive with land-based types was a long one; whereas the USAF would have the sweptwing F-86 operational well before Korea, the Navy was still integrating straight-wing jets into carrier operations, and it would not be until the mid-1950s that swept wings would go to sea operationally. Among the first of these was McDonnell’s F3H Demon, contracted for in September 1949. On paper a much more formidable aircraft than the Banshees that the company was turning out at the time, the F3H first flew in August 1951, but it was soon realized that the Demon’s Westinghouse J40 engine was extremely underpowered.

The F3H was not the only aircraft program to be hurt by the failure of the J40, but wartime pressure dictated that the USN place an order for production F3H-1s. These were not suitable for operational use, and in any case wouldn’t remotely be on time for the Korean fighting.

Some highlights:

3 shots of the NMF Demon prototypes, including one of the #2 aircraft aboard USS Coral Sea.
12 shots of the F3H-1N, which had the APD-50 radar for all-weather use. The failure of the J40 engine led to some -1Ns being re-engined with the J71, while the others were written off without going into service.
Includes several shots of -1Ns being towed and barged away for disposal.
20+ shots of the F3H-2N version, and a 3-view; includes a shot of a Demon refueling another F3H.
6 shots of the F3H-2M with Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles

10 color profiles, including:

VF-14 aboard USS Franklin Roosevelt
VF-124 USS Lexington
VF-61 USS Saratoga
VF-122 USS Ticonderoga
VF-82 USS Forrestal
VF-24 Corsairs USS Lexington
VF-31 Topcatters
Advanced Demon design

In Service – 54 shots, including:
VF-121 Pacemakers
VF-161 1964 – last fleet F-3
VF-64 Freelancers
VF-61 aboard HMS Ark Royal
NAOTS aircraft with blue fuselage and inner wing sections / outer wings in white
VX-4 aboard USS Midway
VF-114 Aardvarks

Other F3H references:

In-flight view of an F3H-1 in natural metal finish Aviation Week October 12, 1953 p.30
“Last Ride for the F3H-1” Aviation Week January 23, 1956 p.39. Early model Demons being barged away for disposal.
“VX-3 gets a new F3H-2N – Demon delivered by LCdr Miller” Naval Aviation News May 1956 p.33 1 photo
Blue scheme F3H refuels gray scheme Demon using Beech-built buddy store Naval Aviation News April 1957 p.32
F3H-2M during catapult tests Aviation Week June 8, 1959 p.89
VF-161 retires last F-3s Naval Aviation News January 1965 p.13
F3H of VX-4 with 3,000lb demolition bomb Naval Aviation News February 1963 p.36
Photos showing the loading, carriage, and launch of KD2B-1 targets from an F-3. Aviation Week & Space Technology April 8, 1963 p.104-105
Ground crew installing J71 on VF-121 F-3 Naval Aviation News June 1963 p.30
F-3B of PMTC during Operation Nite Owl, with Sparrowair rocket underwing Naval Aviation News October 1963 p.18
Steven J. Corvi “Pirates’ Delight 2 – The Model!” Scale Aviation Modeller May 1999 building the 1/48 Collect-Aire F3H-2 kit as an aircraft of VF-131
Jose Pires “Devil of a Ride” Airfix Model World #15 Building the 1/48 Hobby Boss kit as aircraft BuNo 137069 of VF-24.
Mike Williams “Phoenix Rising” Scale Aviation Modeller International June 2008 Building the 1/48 F3H kit from AZ Models.
Frank Cuden “Demon in training” Finescale Modeler February 2015 building the Emhar 1/72 F3H kit as an NATF catapult test aircraft


Lloyd S. Jones U.S. Fighters: Army Air Force 1925 to 1980s p.308 scale F3H-2N/F-3C 3-view

Gerry Manning 1000 Preserved Aircraft in Colour p.22: photo of F3H-2N displayed on Intrepid

Leo Marriott Jets at Sea: Naval Aviation in Transition 1945-1955 includes a large photo of an F3H-2 being moved to a catapult on Forrestal

Enzo Angelucci, Peter Bowers The American Fighter Orion Books, 1987 p.305: 3-view of the F3H-2N; XF3H-1, F3H-1N, and F3H-2 side views


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