by Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, December 21, 2009

F2H Banshee Modeling Notes

5 February 2023: I've just completed a new post on the F2H-2B here:

My other Banshee posts for completeness:

A previous post covering both the nuclear bomb delivery of the F2H-2B and the F2H-3/4 that needs to be updated:

A review of the Detail and Scale ebook on the F2H-1/2:

Illustrations of the conventional weapons pylons:

Differences between F2H-1 and -2 windscreens:

Posts concerning the Kitty Hawk F2H-2 1/48 kit: 

The difference between F2H-2 and F2H-3/4 tip tanks:

More than you probably wanted to know about the XF2D Banshees: 

How to convert a -2 kit to a -3/4 Banshee:

F2H-2P photo-flash pod:

F2H-1/2 fuel system:

Correcting common Banshee miss-statements:

Early Banshee kneeling capability:  

F2H-3/4 inlet warning variations:

F2H-3/4 inflight refueling installation:

F2H-2 conventional external stores capability:


26 December 2020: I've added some detail on the F2H-3/4 instrument panel and the change to the horizontal tail.

23 July 2019: For more detail on the differences between the nose landing gear of the F2H-1/2 Banshees and the -3/4, see

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 forward fuselage was one foot shorter and the canopy about 18 inches  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.

Also see this summary of the prototype Banshees:

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 nose gear 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.

Production F2H-1
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. See A larger radar than the one used in the -2N was incorporated and the guns were relocated to the lower forward fuselage. This is the instrument panel of the -3/4; note the addition of the large radar scope (my guess is that for daytime interceptions, a large hood was added):

The F2H-3/4 were often operated without tip tanks (which were identical in size and shape to those on the F2H-2 but had a smaller fuel capacity; see and some of these 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 to eliminate an aft fuselage lateral-stiffness problem. A strut was added between the front spar of the horizontal stabilizer to the side of the aft fuselage forward of the horizontal stabilizer. It was covered by a sheet metal fairing that formed a large triangular fillet.

Some aircraft were also modified to carry Sidewinders. Inflight refueling was a semi-permanent 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:

No belly fairing or inflight refueling probe but the wingtip for hanging the tip tanks:

For the nuclear capable Banshees, see here. McDonnell also proposed Banshees with afterburning engines and swept wings.

Banshee Kit Reviews

1/48 Scale Kitty Hawk F2H-2/2P: Released in September 2016, it is a state of the art kit with a fully detailed gun bay or photo nose. It can be built with the wings folded or extended. For some notes on improving its accuracy, see

1/48 Scale Hawk/Testors F2H-2: Larry Montgomery loaned me his kit to look at once upon a time. 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/Academy 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 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.

A Banshee enthusiast, Unit19, compiled this list of web sites that might be of use:
F2H-3 Walkaround
F2H-2 Walkaround
F2H-2P Walkaround
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:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Changing from Blue to Gray/White

After some experimentation, including leaving aircraft in a mostly natural metal condition like the Air Force*, the Navy decreed in February 1955 that tactical aircraft were to be painted light gull gray on top (except for control surfaces) and white on the bottom. This took time to accomplish (for example, natural metal aircraft being overhauled were not required to be completed in the gray/white scheme until July 1955). For a year or so, aircraft in some squadrons were in three different schemes like these Red Ripper F2H-3/4s.

VF-61 deployed with F9F-8s in two different schemes as late as March 1956.
Note that the VF-61 Cougars are trimmed in what appears to be "orange", which is actually a shade of yellow. The second squadron in an air group had previously been trimmed in white when aircraft were gloss sea blue.

White trim was not nearly as dramatic with the gray/white scheme so the trim assignment for the 200-series squadron was changed to orange-yellow. Since that had been the trim color for the 400-series squadron, it was now assigned orange. The 300-series squadron trim continued to be light blue and the 500-series, green.

The rudder was not originally to be painted white but this requirement was formally introduced in December 1961. However, some rudders were white before that, particularly on aircraft that might be assigned to deliver a nuclear weapon, to minimize the thermal effect of a nuclear explosion on the thin-skinned control surface.

Anti-glare panels and walkways were originally dark gull gray but this changed over time to non-specular black, particularly the anti-glare panels.

Before March 1954, Navy jet fighter cockpits were basically black from the consoles up and interior green below; ejection seats were interior green, at least in the sea-blue painted Panthers and -2 Banshees. After that, the cockpits were to be dark gull gray with black consoles and instruments. I'm not sure whether the sides of the cockpit and the instrument panel itself were now gull grey at this point but the intention was to lighten up the cockpit interior. (There was also cockpit-color experimentation circa 1956 which resulted in at least some FJ-3 Furies having a bilious green interior.) The change was made to both new production and aircraft coming out of overhaul but certainly not immediately. For one thing, it took time for the direction to flow down to the manufacturers and overhaul depots, the revised drawings and manufacturing/overhaul paperwork to be prepared and approved, etc. Aircraft in production or overhaul at the time would certainly not be subjected to the change because of the rework involved. Therefore a fleet airplane that had just come out of overhaul in early 1954 might not get a gray/black interior for a couple of years, if ever.

However, if the exterior is gray/white, then it's likely that the interior is gray/black since the interior change predated the exterior change. It would appear that ejection seats became black with the change to grey/white but there were exceptions. For example, the F4D ejection seat was black in early grey/white airplanes but subsequently became dark gull grey like the cockpit interior. (There was apparently no specific color assigned to the ejection seat officially until May 1963, when they were to be painted dark gull grey; however, the Martin-Baker seats were always black...)

The official change to white wheel wells was not made until July 1956. Up until then after World War II, they were either sea blue, zinc chromate, or white. At some point early on in the gray/white era, the interior of speed brakes and flaps/slats and the edges of the landing gear doors and other "pinch points" were to be red. However, this doesn't seem to have been consistently applied for a while. (It, however, had been a standard practice at McDonnell on its blue Navy jets, at least.) The F4D Skyray landing doors, for example, appear to have been rarely edged in red, although the interior of the slats was red later on. See for more. Also note the light gull gray rudders, the dark gull gray anti-glare panel, and the black ejection seat in the following picture early in the F4D's operational career.
As shown in the F4D photo, rescue warnings were originally red with white letters. These eventually became yellow with black letters (the directive to do so was issued in September 1962 but the F4H Phantom had yellow rescue markings from its first flight in May 1958). For more, see

The configuration of the jet intake warnings also changed over time.

The leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces on all tactical aircraft (it had been just the jets) were now to be protected from erosion by the application of Corogard, a gray epoxypolymide paint (requires a hardener) that was “aluminized" with the addition of aluminum particles. It was a relatively thick coating and the perceived color and shininess varied with lighting and length of time since it had been applied. Some knowledgeable observers report it as being close to silver when new that weathered to a light gray. Another reported shade is close to aluminum lacquer paint. Another description is “semi-gloss medium metallic gray.”

*April 1952: An experimental natural metal finish was to be evaluated on approximately 100 F9F-5s (and at least one F9F-2), all F7U-3s, 100 F2H-3s (and apparently some F2H-4s) and all FJ-2s. Also see here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

F3D Skyknight

23 June 2017: I've added a discussion about the variations in the overhead hatch configuration here:

Paul Bless knows a lot more about the Douglas F3D Skyknight than I do and is generously sharing it. (Also see Steve Ginter's excellent F3D monograph here.)

First, there were three basic configurations: three XF3Ds (BuNos 121457-9), only 28 F3D-1s (BuNos 123741-123768), and the F3D-2s. There were also post-production mission modifications to the -2. A swept-wing -3 was initiated but cancelled by the Navy before it left the drawing boards. The F3D was redesignated F-10 in the 1962 designation system change mandated by DoD.

The XF3Ds had the very small engine nacelles, big speed brakes on the side of the aft fuselage, and a teeny tail bumper. They were powered by two Westinghouse J34 engines with a total thrust of 6,000 lbs.

For the production airplanes including the -1, the engine nacelles were significantly enlarged. According to one of the Service Test reports, "Weight and space provisions are made for the J34-WE-32, J34-WE-38, or J46-WE-2 engines, with and without afterburning." (It's not clear what dash number engines were installed in the production -1s or their rating. Depending on the source, they were -34s with a total thrust of 6,500 lbs or 6,800 lbs or -38s with a total thrust of 7,000 lbs, among others.) As Paul has pointed out, Douglas was also trying to interest the Air Force in the F3D as a substitute for its troubled F-89 at the time; this would have required installation of either the afterburning J-34-WE-15 or J-34-WE-17. Another change that affected the engine installation was an increase in the internal fuel capacity from 1290 gallons to 1350, which displaced the engines down and outboard slightly.

On the production -1, the size of the two existing speed brakes was significantly reduced and a large brake was added to the bottom of the fuselage, similar to the AD Skyraider installation. The latter proved to be unsatisfactory and was either not installed on or removed from the last 18 production -1s. The skid-type tail bumper on the XF3D was changed to a wheel-type tail bumper on the -1.

The roll control change between the XF3D-1 and the production -1s, which was an increase in the boost ratio from 15:1 to 20:1 proved to be inadequate. The -2s got wing spoilers for roll control in addition to the ailerons and for boost-off flight, an automatic mechanical advantage shifter providing a 2:1 ratio in lieu of the control stick extension feature which was also used on the F4D and the A4D.

Unfortunately, the F3D never got an engine with enough thrust so that its aerodynamic performance matched the capability of its night fighter avionics suite. There were very few deployments aboard aircraft carriers. Most of the F3Ds were operated by the Marine Corps from land bases.

The Korean War did provide a situation perfectly matched to its strengths, which was escort at night of Air Force B-29 bombers. In effect, the F3D crews were trolling for MiGs with the B-29s as bait. Even though the MiG pilots had no on-board radar, it wasn't as one-sided as you might expect because they were being vectored by ground controllers using radar and the F3D engine exhaust was very bright and readily visible at night. The F3D crew relied on their tail-warning radar to break away when a MiG came in behind them. The resulting kill ratio was seven MiGs and one probable against one F3D loss.

VC-33, the all-weather night attack squadron that provided detachments to air groups deploying on aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean and North Sea, evaluated the F3D as a replacement for the AD-5N, but determined that the Skyraider was more effective due to its much greater endurance and bomb/rocket carrying capacity.

The F3D was also valued for its size during the development of the air-to-air guided missile. The first one pressed into this service was the second XF3D.

This was followed by modifications of both -1s and -2s for testing by VX-4 and subsequently operational use by the Marine Corps. The -1M and -2M changes included removal of the 20mm cannons as well as a new, longer nose incorporating the Sparrow I missile control system. Although carrier qualified, none deployed with an air group aboard a carrier.

Paul also provided the following on the F3D-2B: "(It) was actually a series of modifications incorporated in approximately 114 (if I remember correctly) of the standard F3D-2’s to allow them to carry either the MK-7 or MK-12 special weapons... It was basically a two gun aircraft; removing two 20 MM weapons and armament components to allow for installation of the various ballistic and radar altimeter components required. The cockpit installations were all on the RO’s side of the aircraft. It also removed the tail warning radar and modified the right stores pylon to carry the weapons. The “pilot” aircraft for the modification was BuNo 127044, but I believe the intended plan was for the remainder of the aircraft to carry simply the F3D-2 designation (aka, nuclear capable F2H-3/4)."
Photo from Gary Verver

The Marines subsequently modified several F3D-2s, designated EF-10B, for electronic reconnaissance and countermeasures missions in the Vietnam War as a placeholder until the EA-6A was available.

Like the A3D, the size and relative simplicity of the F3D made it a very useful testbed. Three were taken up by the Army and used for test programs into the early 1980s.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Widebody Skyraider

From the beginning, the AD Skyraider was adapted for other missions requiring a heavy burden of avionics and additional crewmembers, such as antisubmarine warfare (ASW), airborne early warning (AEW), night attack, and electronic reconnaissance/countermeasures. The added crew were seated in the fuselage behind and below the pilot.

Douglas proposed a significant fuselage modification to the AD in December 1949 for an antisubmarine warfare airplane that combined the hunter and killer requirements into one platform. It used the same basic wing, landing gear, and other systems of the AD-4 but the upper half of the front half of the fuselage was widened for side-by-side seating and a compartment provided aft of the cockpit. The area of the vertical fin and rudder were increased by about 50% to eliminate the need for tail fins on the AEW version. The speed brakes on the sides of the fuselage were deleted but the large belly-mounted speed brake was retained. The main weapons pylon on each wing was also changed to shift the lug attach points forward, possibly to shift the cg forward when 2,000-lb bombs or full external tanks were loaded on this pylons. (I've also read that it was for clearance of a long store that I have yet to identify.) To minimize the weight increase, the AD-5 reverted to having no landing gear wheel doors (see The basic AD-5 was still about 600 pounds heavier than the AD-4. The prototype, a conversion of an AD-4, first flew in August 1951. For a side-view comparison, see

Although at least one AD-5S prototype was built and flown, the Navy chose to continue with production of the Grumman AF Guardian for the ASW mission and utilize the AD-5 for the missions which required additional crew and as a utility aircraft. The production variants were the AD-5N (A-1G) for night attack, AD-5W (EA-1E) for AEW, and AD-5 (A-1E) utility version which retained day-attack capability but could be readily converted for carrier onboard delivery (COD), target towing, emergency medical evacuation, etc. Fifty-four of the AD-5Ns were subsequently converted to an AD-5Q (EA-1F) dedicated to electronic warfare.



The Q had seating for two mission specialists in the cabin with a third to the right of the pilot.

AD-5Q aft compartment control/instrument panels

A Vietnam-era EA-1F

The AD-5N and AD-5W had only one crew member in the aft cabin, seated on the left side, in addition to one in the cockpit in the right seat. These are illustrations for the AD-5N.

The aft cabin of the AD-5W:
There were also a couple of boxes behind the crew seat.

For the detail of the AD-W belly aft of the radome, see

The utility AD-5 was delivered with various kits that provided for four passengers in the cabin, four stretchers, a tow target capability, etc. (the tow target and reel are in a pod on the belly of the colorfully marked AD-5).

The 1/72 Monogram kit is readily available but unfortunately, its fuselage is slightly undersized while its wing is not. These are basically out-of-the-box (except for markings) builds of the Tsukuda and Monogram kits:

There are ways to section the fuselage and somewhat correct for this. For an example, see here.

However, the good news (as of September 2016) is that there is a new 1/72 AD-5W kit from Skale Wings. See

A conversion of the somewhat rarer 1/48 Matchbox AD-5 to correct its problems has also been done, see here and here. A better and perhaps not more expensive 1/48 alternative given the availability of the Matchbox kit might be the C & H Aero Miniatures conversion kit. Darren Roberts used it to create this EA-1F.
1/72 and 1/48 resin A-1E cockpit detail kits are available from Cobra Company. One is included in the Aero Miniatures conversion.

RVHP produced relatively expensive and not widely available resin 1/72 conversion kits of all the variants, including the AD-5S, to be used with the Hasegawa AD/A-1 kit.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

F6F Drones

At the end of World War II, the Navy had more carrier-based propeller-driven fighters than it knew what to do with. The F6F Hellcats were apparently judged to be less useful for air group operations than the F4U Corsairs, so they were assigned to training squadrons and drone operations, among other things.

The F6F drones were initially developed at the Naval Air Development Unit at Johnsville, Pennsylvania. At least one of these was painted a yellow-orange overall and another may have been an odd shade of blue. The extended tail wheel was a feature of these aircraft, which were recoverable.

There appear to have been at least three major uses for the F6F drones. The first was a fleet of aircraft that sampled airborne radioactivity after atomic bomb explosions during Operations Crossroads in 1946. These were painted bright red with different color empennages, apparently to denote radio frequency. The national insignia lacked the red bar.

The second use was as targets. In 1947, VU-7(a) was based at NAS Santa Ana for the continuation of pilotless aircraft evaluation. The squadron was assigned Culver TD2C / Grumman F6F Hellcats as target aircraft for surface-to-air gunnery training with Beech SNB Expeditors as the drone controllers. OLF Palisades was used to launch and recover the drones. (On-board pilots ferried them to and from Santa Ana.) The squadron was relocated at MCAS El Toro in 1948. Target drone operations were subsequently established at China Lake and Point Mugu for missile-test purposes and at other locations, again using utility squadrons, as targets for training. Some aircraft were modified with “tip tanks” and large wing tip fairings containing flares to simulate a jet exhaust, and therefore be of appropriate interest to the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile being developed… In December 1952, an XAAM-2 Sparrow missile was used to intercept and destroy an F6F flying from Point Mugu, supposedly the first successful air-to-air guided missile kill.* In September 1953, the Sidewinder made its first successful interception, again destroying an F6F, this time being operated from China Lake. In general, these aircraft were painted either bright red or florescent red overall.

The third use was as a crude surface-to-surface guided missile. There were six missions launched from Boxer between 28 August and 2 September 1952 during the Korean War against bridges, tunnels and power plants. Guided Missile Unit 90 had been formed at Naval Air Development Unit at Johnsville, Pennsylvania. AD-2Qs were used as controllers. The F6Fs carried a TV camera in a pod under the right wing for targeting. An antenna for transmission of the TV image to the controller in the AD-2Q was mounted on the upper surface of the right wing above the pod. The attack drone F6Fs were overall glossy sea blue with standard national insignia and branch of service markings. They were differentiated with V1 through V6 markings on the cowling. Note that these aircraft did not have the extended tail wheel (they weren’t coming back) or tail fins on the bomb (it wasn’t going to be dropped). Of the six missions, there was one hit, one abort (then what?) and four misses.

*An F6F drone was reportedly used to launch the first Sparrow from an aircraft because there had been a couple of fatal accidents at China Lake as a result of rocket launches. This picture, furnished by Phillip Fridell, shows an F6F drone (note the extended tail wheel) carrying a Sparrow, although it was being piloted at the time.

For more pictures of this F6F drone, see the entry in Phil's excellent blog here.

Friday, November 20, 2009


This is another work in progress. There are various drawings of the F3H-G/H that preceded the AH and subsequently the F4H. This is one rough draft I've done from an early F3H-G McDonnell drawing (the 10 cm scales it to 1/72nd) with J79 exhausts that were included on the drawing side view as an option; I had to correct the front view rather extensively:

This a later McDonnell three-view. It's similar but the landing gear has been shortened and there are other detail changes like the shape of the vertical fin and rudder. It doesn't show different engine exhausts, but I assume that the draftsman just didn't bother:

The F3H-G/H mock up was also a bit different in detail and doesn't seem to have had a landing gear at the time. The inlets appear to be larger and there is yet another variation of the vertical fin. It did depict the different sizes of the Wright J65 and General Electric J79 afterburners, with the J79 on the right side of the mockup and the J65 on the left.