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Copyright 1997 by Leonard G. Barton.

F3H Demon

Displayed at an open house at NAS North Island around 1960 is a McDonnell Aircraft F3H Demon.

(Click on the picture below for an 832 by 624 high quality jpeg - 417 kb)



Demon in Action

(Click on the picture below for an 832 by 624 high quality jpeg - 234 kb)


Above, we see a Demon as it has just stopped at the end of its arresting run aboard the supercarrier Saratoga (CVA-61). In a few seconds the arresting cable will be slackened, cleared from the hook by a deck crewman, and the aircraft will taxi forward, later to be respotted for another launch or moved via deck edge elevator to the hanger bay. A Sparrow missile can be seen on the starboard inboard launching rail. Picture taken ca. December 1960 in the Mediterranian.

Squadron Mission and Symbols

[Felix] Fighter squadron VF-31 ("Fighting 31"), specializing in night fighting, has since World War II been known by its nickname, "Tomcatters", and by its motto, "We get ours at night". The squadron emblem is the famous cartoon character Felix the Cat, running with a large spherical bomb with lighted fuse, in black on a yellow field within a circular outline. The yellow field and outline were omitted from the aircraft and four stars at the end of a pair of sweeps were added. This emblem can be seen on the fuselage of the aircraft above the wing. The sqadron was based at this time at Cecil Field, near Jacksonville, Florida.

The Aircraft

In its first incarnation (F3H-1N) the homely Demon was an underpowered flop, lacking essential performance and reliabilty, largely due to its Westinghouse engine forced upon McDonnell by the Navy. After initial program cancellation and substantial redesign of the aircraft, the engine was replaced with an Allison with substantially more power (which requred larger intakes), and the wing chord increased. The aircraft shown on these pages is a later revision, the F3H-2.

No points for Style

In an era when automobiles were mimicing aircraft (the 1957 Plymouth styling was lifted directly from the F-86 Saber Jet), no auto stylist would ever take a second look at the Demon, most charitably described as looking like a pregnant guppy.

Short Legs and External Fuel

Another problem with Demon was a lack of range. While the aircraft could carry two external fuel tanks, the mountings were so close together that attaching both would substantially increase the drag, so usually only one was mounted. To some extent this problem was ameliorated by the capability for inflight refueling and when expertly flown its normal loiter time could be considerably stretched.

Other Externals

Like most carrier based aircraft of this period it was equipped for inflight refueling, and could be set up as a fuel supply aircraft with the addition of a refueling tank, reel, and drogue package.

Fire Control and Weapons

The F3H-2 was equipped with a combined search and single target tracking radar, used for search and target ilumination for its two or four Raytheon Sparrow III missiles. The sparrow homes on radar energy reflected from the target. With its ability to read and correlate both the iluminating signal from behind and the target reflected energy ahead its clever signal processing allowed reliable tracking in the presence of countermeasures such as radio frequency noise jamming and metal foil chaff. Its principle advantages over the much cheaper Sidewinder is that it is immune to decoy flares, has a longer range, and carries a larger warhead. The Demons of VF-31 usually carried two sparrows and two Sidewinders and could be armed with 20mm cannon, and was seen armed with the latter while shore based in Florida during the Cuban Missle Crisis. Seeing those long chains of large cartridges in an open amunition bay was much more chilling than the missiles that were so common - this looked serious!

A Design Flaw Discovered

In early 1961 a technician detected a severe patch of metal fatigue in the outboard inside of the intake duct in the form of a disrupted surface tear about 8-10 inches long, appearently due to a resonant "oil canning" vibration. The affected aircraft immediately became a "hanger queen". Within a few months, this and its sibling aircraft were retrofitted with additional bulkheads in the area behind the intake lip.

Other Markings

The "AC" on the fin and rudder signify the squadron's membership in the Saratoga's (CVA-61) air group.

Another View

This picture shows off the wing planform. This aircraft is carrying four Sparrow missiles. Picture from theBoeing Aircraft page). Click on the picture for a 600 by 400 medium quality picture (33k)


About the pictures

The color image was scanned from a 5 by 5 print made from 120 color negative. Chromatic artifacts are from the original camera and will be removed when I develop appropriate software. If you are interested in techniques for improving color photos taken with low cost cameras, e-mail me (Attn: LGB).

The monochrome was scanned from a 3-1/2 by 4-1/2 print made from 35mm black and white negative taken with an SLR.

Scanner was a UMAX Astra 600s with 300 x 300 DPI settings. The scans were edge sharpened, sized and remaped to 72 DPI. Dust spots from the printing of the monochrome print were touched up.

The aircraft pictures taken at NAS North Island on this page are copyright 1997 by Leonard G. Barton. Commercial use prohibited without written permission, but feel free to use for your screen saver or backgrounder, or post on your noncommercial page with copyright notice and credit. Feel free to link to this page provided that your page does contain advertising banners, does not open a subwindow and does change the browser button functionality.

Can You Help?

If you have comments or questions, or additional information or photos concerning aircraft or squadrons of this or other eras (especially info on Saratoga operations or Fitron 31), please e-mail me (Attn: LGB)

For additional information on the F3H Demon see "http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/baugher_us/f006.html

For more information about VF-31 see "http://www.topedge.com/panels/aircraft/specials/tomcat/vf31hist.htm"

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