21 July 2006

Flightdeck Fridays

Well, we have Friday Musings , Fullbore Fridays, Beer and Babes Fridays, so I guess it's time to roll in with Flightdeck Fridays, presented herewith. What will one find? Well, it likely won't be the usual stuff. Sorry, but they border on the overexposed anyway. Instead this will explore some of the lesser known or more infamous types that have graced the flight decks over the years. Oh, and the occasional folly too...

Presented today is the F3H Demon:

The end of WWII and the Korean War soon demonstrated the emerging technical potential of the Soviet Union and its client-states. The emergence of the MiG-15 in Korea was a real eye-opening event. It forced the Navy to struggle with the integration of several jet designs for its air wings. Success in aerodynamic refinement was promoting several swept wing, high performance Carrier aircraft, but their success hinged on one vital element – successful, concurrent evolution of a couple of key jet engine designs, one of them
being the Westinghouse J-40.

Unfortunately, many promising designs for the Navy and USAF were based on the in-development Westinghouse J-40, which was proposed as producing 11,000 lbs basic thrust with an AB version to follow at 14,400 lbs – a BIG engine for that era. In addition to the Demon, Navy hopes included the F4D Skyray and the A3D Skywarrior. The J-40 never came close to the Westinghouse promise (some sources say it got up to 6800 lbs), and was failure prone to the point of being totally unsafe. The J-40 program was ultimately cancelled, and soon caused the demise of Westinghouse as a jet engine manufacturer. It also strung out several aircraft development programs due to their need to find a new power plant, and adapt those designs to that alternative.
Initial work on the F3H series had been laid out in 1949, and a prototype flight of the original F3H-1N took place in August,1951, powered by the J-40. However, during this design / construction period, McDonnell and the Navy became seriously concerned that the J-40 program was so far behind that both deliveries and performance hopes were totally unrealistic.
McDonnell took it on their own initiative to propose a redesigned “Demon” based on the Allison J-71 engine, which, though still in development , was progressing well toward full production with the promise of meeting performance goals. The Navy agreed to the plan as a fallback, and the J-71 proposal was subsequently designated the F3H-2(N).

The F3H never saw combat, and was operational for only eight years, but its weapons system allowed it to hold the line as a well-equipped All Weather CAP fighter, until the introduction of the F-8 and F-4 series.

If it were not for the weight “Death Spiral” caused by the failure of the Westinghouse J-40, the much-scorned Demon would likely have been a remarkable Carrier aircraft. It had the Navy’s first truly integrated all-weather weapons system, based on the new SPARROW AA missile – and it worked well for its time. From all accounts, the F3H flew well “up and away”, but was grossly underpowered, even with the substitution of the J-71 for the J-40. Many of its features were the basis for the development of McDonnell’s final Navy product – the F-4 series.
(h/t to Mike Concannon of the DC Tailhook Assoc.)

Next Friday: Two Props and a Jet...(or How To Stage a Nuke Off a Carrier, 50's -style)