The McDonnell F3H Demon was a single engine subsonic carrier-based fighter jet deployed by the U.S. Navy during the 1950s. This aircraft followed the F2 Banshee in the timeline of fighter jet development and was superseded by the F-4 Phantom in the 1960s. The Navy needed a jet that could be a good challenge for the Russian MiG-15 encountered during the Korean War. They commissioned the development of the F3H quickly in 1949 but the first units were not operational until 1956. They were only produced until 1959, 519 aircraft in all, and the F3H was retired from use by 1964.
The F3H was a swept-wing design with folding wings and a tailhook and is most notable for being the first single engine jet used by the Navy. The Navy chose the Westinghouse J40 turbojet for the initial design and this led to many problems. This engine was a completely new design and did not deliver the projected 10,000lbs of thrust. The Navy found it to be very unreliable, even dangerous with the loss of six aircraft and four pilots. Because of this, some of the early J40-equipped Demons could only be used for ground training. One of the problems with the Demon’s design was that it could not be refitted with different engines without major and costly modifications. The only engine that could be used was the Allison J71, but it was underpowered for this aircraft’s size, leading to the nickname “the lead sled”. The Demon did have excellent visibility from the cockpit when pilots flew it.
A few variants were produced within the run of 519 aircraft. The initial J40-powered version was called the F3H-1 and 58 were built. 319 were built with the J71 engine and air-to-air missiles, designated the F3H-2N and F3H-2M. An additional 239 were built adding the ability to carry 6,000lbs of bombs or rockets and designated simply the F3H-2.
Only two of these aircraft are known to be on display in museums. The one pictured above at the Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola is an F3H-2M. It was delivered to the Navy on May 24, 1957 and was flown until December 1959.
|McDonnell F3H Demon Specifications|
|First Flight||August 7, 1951|
|Number Built||519 (1953-59)|
|Wing Span||35ft 4in|
|Maximum Takeoff Weight||33,900lbs|
|Powerplant||1x Allison J71 Turbojet (9,700lbs thrust)|
|Maximum Cruising Speed||622kts at sea level/563kts at 30,000ft|