This is another work in progress. Illustrations and pictures will be added.
One of the first successful Navy jet fighters, the Banshee was successively developed for ground attack, photographic reconnaissance, all weather interception, and nuclear bombing, growing from a prototype with a gross weight of about 13,000 pounds to a final derivative with a gross weight almost twice that. This article is based on the following documents:
American Helicopter - July 1947
Naval Aviation News - April 1948
Aviation Week - October 31, 1949
Aero Digest - September, 1952
IPMS Quarterly -Volume 12, Number 3
Aeroplane Monthly - September 1975
Airpower - November 1979
Air Fan - Avril 1984
Naval Fighters No. Two (Out of Print)
F2H-1 Pilot's Handbook
F2H-2, -2P, -2N Maintenance Manuals
F2H-2, -3 Lines Drawings
Fortunately, Steve Ginter published a update of his now out-of-print Banshee monograph that covers the early F2Hs, see here.
The Very Experimental Banshee
Three XF2D-1 Banshees, Bureau Numbers 99858-99860, were built. The XF2D was subsequently redesignated the XF2H after Douglas began developing fighters again. The XF2D-1 was similar in configuration to its immediate predecessor, the McDonnell FD-1, which was eventually redesignated FH-1.
There were several detail differences between the prototype at first flight and the production F2H-1. The most noticeable is that the fuselage was one foot shorter and the canopy about two feet shorter. The vertical tail had a thicker forward fillet and there was considerable dihedral in the horizontal tail which was set a little lower on the vertical fin. The wing was thicker, its dihedral a little greater (five degrees versus three), and the chord a little less. Although the chord increase was small, the resulting difference in the size of the engine fairing on top of the wing root and the intersection of the wing surface and the tailpipe is noticeable. The wing root fillet inboard and aft of the tailpipe was also smaller. Finally the fin tip mounted pitot was located a little higher.
I don't have any cockpit detail, but according to Bob Edholm who made the first and many subsequent flights, it was similar to the early F2H-1 cockpit and did not have an ejection seat or gun sight. One unusual feature shared with the FJ-1 Fury was a kneeling capability. After landing, a small castering nosewheel could be inserted under the nose forward of the nosegear which was then retracted, This was intended to allow more aircraft to be parked in a given area (the lowered nose of one underneath the raised tail of another) and raise the jet exhaust blast which was expected to be a problem to deck personnel. These benefits apparently weren't worth the trouble and the capability disappeared early in production. Another unusual feature shared with the F3D Skyknight was a pivoting plate in the engine inlet which allowed the pilot to shut down and close off an engine for increased efficiency in long range cruise. Both intakes were normally closed off after the aircraft was parked and the engines shut down as well. The wing of the Banshee was exceptionally smooth due to the tooling and fabrication techniques used by McDonnell. This reduced drag and was considered to contribute to the excellent climb, cruise altitude, and range capability of the Banshee compared to other jet fighters of its generation although the aspect ratio probably had much more to do with it. Flight test of the XF2D revealed problems with airframe and control surface buffet which resulted in the production F2H-1s having an entirely different empennage and wing, in addition to a one-foot longer fuselage to add fuel and a longer canopy. The successive and successful changes to the external configuration which increase the limiting Mach Number were:
-Longer wing root fairing
-Enlarged dorsal fillet
-Fillet between horizontal and vertical tails
-Reduce horizontal tail dihedral
Many other modifications were unsuccessfully evaluated. The final modification of XF2H-1 BuNo 99859 was for test of the production wing and horizontal tail. As previously described, this wing was thinner with slightly more chord and less dihedral; the horizontal tail was thinner and had no dihedral. (Production aircraft also had a vertical fin with a thinner forward fillet.) Tip tanks with a somewhat longer conical aft end were also tested, and it is this final XF2H-1 configuration that is represented by the Hawk 1/48 scale F2H Banshee.
The early XF2H-1 configurations would require a lot of work on the Airfix 1/72 scale kit. The most obvious changes are the smaller canopy, shortening the fuselage, some degree of horizontal tail dihedral, and the thicker vertical fin. Less obvious are the wing planform and dihedral, wing root, and control surface differences. The wing root change would be particularly difficult to incorporate, although it would be approximated by increasing the size of the engine bulge on the upper surface of the wing root and reducing the wing chord at the trailing edge.
Contrary to almost all published reports, the F2H-1 was identical in length to the F2H-2 and one foot longer than the XF2H-1 to accommodate an increase in internal fuel. The extra foot and fuel were added just forward of the engine intakes. For modeling purposes, the F2H-1 is identical to the -2 except that it could not carry tip tanks or other external stores. Since the 46% additional fuel which resulted from the addition of tip tanks was almost essential and external stores capability very desirable, only 56 F2H-1s were produced. The only changes required to the Airfix -2 kit for a -1 are to reshape the wing tips including the outboard end of the aileron and revise the windshield to the straight sided configuration. The only notable difference in any scale between the later -1 instrument panel and the -2 panel was the slightly larger subpanel below the instrument panel required to accommodate the additional switches for external stores on the -2. The first ten F2H-1s also did not originally have ejection seats. The F2H-1 was featured prominently in the 1949 battle between supporters of the B-36 and those for Naval Aviation. The ability of the F2H to rapidly climb to and manuever at altitudes of more than 40,000 feet was used to question whether the B-36 could survive long enough against a jet fighter defense to bomb its targets. (McDonnell had an interest in both sides of this argument, since they were also developing the XF-88 USAF long range escort fighter.) An F2H-1 was fitted with a downward pointing camera in the rear fuselage to take a photo of Washington, D.C. from almost 49,000 feet to illustrate altitude capability. (Maximum altitude attained during this flight was reported to be 52,000 feet.) When night time intercepts proved significantly less straight forward than the day time trials, the B-36 bunch announced that they were only going in at night anyway and McDonnell got a contract from the Navy to develop an Airborne Intercept Radar equipped version of the F2H-2. Through no fault of the Banshee, the Navy lost that budget battle but was rescued by the Korean War in which the F2H played a supporting role. (The first Banshees went to east coast squadrons deploying to the Mediterranean, which meant that most of the Navy carrier-based jets involved in the Korean War were Grumman Panthers.)
The -2 was essentially the same as the -1 except for the addition of external stores and tip tanks capability.
The first -2s had a straight sided windshield like the -1 but this was revised to a curved windscreen early in production. There were three major variants of the basic -2: a photographic reconaissance -2P; an all weather fighter -2N; and a nuclear bomber -2B. According to the January 1951 issue of Naval Aviation News, the F2H-2N was the Navy's first fully operational jet night fighter. The -2N is a relatively simple conversion of the Airfix kit. Only fourteen were built, so it wasn't a significant aircraft from an operational standpoint. It represents a small stepping stone between the F4U-5N and the F2H-3 aboard the carriers. The major change from the kit is a new nose, extended to incorporate the radar which also required relocation of the guns.
Although the photo nose might look like it would be useful in the conversion, it is too wide at the aft end, too long, and too different in profile to be used directly, although it is accurate for the F2H-2P. You will note that the -2N originally had the early straight frame windshield as opposed to the curved one. The curved one was retrofitted to at least the first F2H-2N, BuNo 133300. If you do correct the windshield, you might consider moving the canopy forward to the position shown, which corrects one of the few Airfix errors. (For others, see the kit review section.) The -2N also had a large blade antenna on the bottom of the fuselage - the kit antenna should be about three and a half feet farther aft in any even and perhaps a little longer to be correct for the -2N. The kit cockpit can be improved as discussed in the kit review as well as adding the radar scope for the -2N configuration to the instrument panel. The radome portion of the nose is usually a cream color. Most aircraft are in the markings of VC-4, tailcode NA, but at least one aircraft operated with VF-82, tailcode E.
The Ultimate Banshee
The -3 Banshee was a stretch of the -2 with additional wing area and a relocated horizontal stabilizer. A larger radar than the one used in the -2N was incorporated and the guns were relocated. The F2H-3/4 were often operated without tip tanks (which were smaller than those on the F2H-2) and it appears that some were fitted with wingtips that did not have provisions for tip tanks. F2H-2N BuNo 123311 was used as a prototype for the fuselage stretch and was also equipped with afterburning engines. The -4 was externally identical to the -3; the principal changes were the radar and reportedly a somewhat uprated engine; if true, the latter was almost certainly retrofited to -3s at overhaul. Both the -3s and the -4s were modified after delivery with a triangular fillet on the horizontal stabilizer. This resolved a structural problem. Some aircraft were also modified to carry Sidewinders. Inflight refueling was a semipermanent but optional modification. It consisted of a refueling probe installed in place of the left hand upper 20 mm cannon and a fairing on the belly of the aircraft covering externally added fuel lines.
For the nuclear capable Banshees, see here. McDonnell also proposed Banshees with afterburning engines and swept wings.
Banshee Kit Reviews
1/48 Scale Hawk/Testors F2H-2: Larry Montgomery loaned me his kit to look at. Although it looks odd, it does resemble the XF2H-1 BuNo 99859 after it was modified to have the production F2H-1 wing and horizontal tail and tip tanks similar to the F2H-2 configuration. In addition to the fuselage and canopy being too short (the fuselage length difference isn't obvious but the canopy's is) the shape is somewhat off. The nose and engine inlets are not deep enough and the aft fuselage is a little humpbacked. The horizontal stabilizer and wing trailing edge aren't quite right. The kit is more than 50 years old, which means that it doesn't have any cockpit, each landing gear is in one piece - strut, wheel, and tire - and raised lines are used to locate decals. However, some people have produced very good looking models with this starting point.*
If you decide to go with the Hawk/Testors kit, here are McDonnell drawings of the F2H-2 to compare its shape to:
1/72 Scale Airfix F2H-2: This is no longer state of the art from a kit standpoint, but it is a basically accurate and detailed representation of the F2H-2 and provides an optional nose for the -2P variant. Surface detail is provided by a combination of fine recessed and raised lines. There are optional wing store stations with bomb or rocket alternatives. A very good basis for a cockpit is provided. Some of the features are notable. The engine inlets are sharp and the boundary layer splitters are relatively thin. Parts are provided to represent the front and rear of the engines. The tailhook and landing gear are very finely drawn and realistic. The inside of the nose gear doors is detailed. If you put on the wing stores pylons, you should add a couple under the inboard portion of the wing ahead and inboard of the main landing gear on each side. There are a few minor shortcomings. The canopy frame is raised excessively and the windshield should be a little narrower at the top and bottom to accurately represent the later windshield and should have straight sides to be the early version. (The canopy should bulge out to the side but it is very difficult to mold this shape.) The canopy is also located slightly too far aft but this isn't a correction worth making. The wheel wells are too shallow. There are no provisions for mounting the nosegear doors at the correct angle. There's no clear glass for the photo nose although red decals are provided to represent protective covers for the side windows. The engine inlet can be improved by adding filler to the inside of the outboard edge. The upper wing fold line should be farther outboard and the lower wing line should be slightly farther inboard. The root end of the horizontal stabilizer is misshaped. The cockpit tub can be improved by widening the side consoles and extending the floor forward. A throttle quadrant could be added. The instrument panel needs to be replaced and a gunsight added. The ejection seat can be improved but is a reasonable starting point. The -2P photographic reconnaissance nose really did bulge outward slightly forward of where it joins the fuselage.
A later version of this nose included a camera position which looked forward and down. The cockpit of the -2P featured a large round periscope sight at the top of the instrument panel which enabled the pilot to view the terrain immediately below the nose for a camera's eye view. The -2P was unarmed but did have provision for wing station mounted flash bomb pods for night photography. The original Airfix kit provided somewhat matt and foggy decals for a VMJ-1 F2H-2P (2MN) and a VF-172 F2H-2 (210R). In the USAirfix produced kit, the decals are by Scalemaster for an F2H-2B of VF-101 (103T) and an F2H-2P of VC-61 (30PP); the BuNo of the VC-61 aircraft should be 128874 rather than 128784. The MPC issue had below average quality decals for only an F2H-2, 116T. Microscale Decal Sheet Number 72-268 provided markings for VF-22 (116F), VF-11 (116T), and VF- (214P) aircraft and includes detail markings which are not on the kit decal sheets. Unfortunately the lack of Microscale scholarship and/or accuracy results in errors like white rather than red static source markings. In general, the Navy -2Ps were trimmed in orange - not red - markings while the Marine -2Ps had red markings. The Microscale tail trim decals will be hard to apply. The Scalemaster trim should probably be orange rather than red and the tail trim is not provided or shown.
Hobby Craft 1/72 Scale F2H-3: This kit is obviously based on Airfix's. The fuselage halves and the wing and horizontal tail are new, the details of the cockpit, the engine inlet/exhaust, and the landing gear are copies of those in the Airfix kit. The kit omits the tail skid/tiedown and the pitot installation which was located on the lower right side of the fuselage. Some of the wing control surface and flap lines are missing along with those for the main gear wheel well doors although they are all shown on the kit drawing. The tailhook cutout is slightly wrong. The kit canopy has a thick section at the top which is objectionable. The tip tanks appear to be mounted slightly too far aft. The 20 mm cannon openings should be backfilled and the upper cannon port might look better if it appeared to angle downward. The fuselage is slightly undersized, but in view of the work required to modify the Airfix kit to the bigger Banjo configuration that I described in IPMS Update Volume 17 Number 6, I suggest that you ignore this shortcoming as well. You should also ignore the main gear door and retraction strut locations shown on instruction sheet step 5. Hobby Craft copied the Airfix -2 nose gear which is unfortunate, since the -3/4 nose gear installation was notably different as you can see by comparing the kit part to the box art, which is more accurate. The -2 gear was a trailing arm type, with the forward end of the fork acting as the lower side of the scissors. The fork of the -3/4 gear was fixed relative to the strut and a damper/centering spring was added. The scissors was on the aft side of the strut.
The sit and nose gear door open position are the most noticeable differences. The normal stance of the -2 was slightly nose low while the -3/4 sat slightly nose high. The -2 nose gear doors were splayed wide open whereas the -3/4 nose gear doors were only vertical when open. The forward end of the nose wheel well and the nose gear door was also a different shape. The kit wingtips will have to be modified to add a bulge on the lower side if you depict one without tip tanks that had provisions for them. (The -2 also had this bulge, but was less often flown without tanks since it had less internal fuel than the -3/4.)
1/72 Scale F2H Vacuform kits: Long ago, AirModel produced an F2H-2 kit which approximates the Banshee size and shape and features crude engraved detail and a poor excuse for a canopy. (Some of the subsequent AirModel kits were better quality.) I built an AirModel F2H-2 a few years before the Airfix kit was released. About this same time, I had just finished upgrading the 1/72 Monogram kit of the F-14 Mockup to a production F-14 when Hasegawa released their first F-14 kit. As a result of these experiences, I have a great deal of trouble building any kit that isn't accurate and state of the art. Execuform produced a very plain kit of the -3/4 which is even worse than early AirModel quality. The wings and tail surfaces are very thick and the fuselage shape is best described as vague. There is a photo of a model made from this kit and it looks like a caricature of a -3. Falcon Triple Conversion II included a -3 fuselage and wings along with an inaccurate C-1A fuselage and various antennae for an EP-3E. I haven't built it and probably won't since the Hobby Craft kit is a significantly easier starting point. I've also noticed that the plastic on some of my old Triple Conversion kits is very brittle.
An Banshee enthusiast, Unit19, compiled this list of web sites that might be of use:
1/48 Collect Aire F2H-2/2P/2N Review by Fotios Rouch
1/48 Collect Aire F2H-2P Review by Fotios Rouch
*1/48 Hawk/Testors F2H Review by Don Fogal
*1/48 Hawk/Testors F2H Review by Henry Townsend
*1/48 Hawk/Testors F2H Review by Steve Mesner
*1/48 Hawk/Testors F2H Review by Darren Roberts
*1/48 Hawk/Testors F2H Review by Tony Prince
1/48 Collect Aire F2H-3/4 Review by Fotios Rouch
*And finally, Harold Offield's review of his F2H-2: