McDonnell F-101 Voodoo: Aircraft profile
The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was a supersonic military fighter flown by the USAF and the RCAF.
Developed from the XF-88 penetration fighter, the F-101 originally was designed as a long-range bomber escort for the Strategic Air Command. However, when high-speed, high-altitude jet bombers like the B-52 entered active service, escort fighters were not needed. Therefore, before production began, the F-101's design was changed to fill both tactical and air defense roles.
The F-101 made its first flight on Sept. 29, 1954. The first production F-101A became operational in May 1957, followed by the F-101C in September 1957 and the F-101B in January 1959. By the time F-101 production ended in March 1961, McDonnell had built 785 Voodoos, including 480 F-101Bs, the two-seat, all-weather interceptor used by the Air Defense Command. In the reconnaissance versions, the Voodoo was the world's first supersonic photo-reconnaissance aircraft. These RF-101s were used widely for low-altitude photo coverage of missile sites during the 1962 Cuban Crisis and during the late 1960s in Southeast Asia.
Armament: Two AIR-2A rockets plus two AIM-4 guided missiles
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55s of 16,900 lbs. thrust each with afterburner
Maximum speed: 1,095 mph
Cruising speed: 545 mph
Range: 1,754 miles
Ceiling: 52,100 ft.
Span: 39 ft. 8 in.
Length: 71 ft. 1 in.
Height: 18 ft. 0 in.
Weight: 52,400 lbs. maximum
Source: US Air Force
The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was a supersonic military fighter flown by the USAF and the RCAF. Initially designed as a long-range bomber escort (known as a penetration fighter) for the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the Voodoo served in a variety of other roles, including that of an all-weather interceptor aircraft with the Air Defense Command / Aerospace Defense Command (ADC) and fighter bomber and photo reconnaissance roles with the Tactical Air Command (TAC).
Along with the Air Force U-2 and Navy RF-8 Crusaders, the RF-101 reconnaissance variant of the Voodoo was instrumental during the Cuban Missile Crisis and saw extensive service during the Vietnam War.
Design and development
Initial design on what would eventually become the Voodoo began just after World War II in response to a USAAF Penetration Fighter Competition in 1946 for a long-range high performance fighter to escort bombers, much as the P-51 Mustang had done in its time. After being awarded a contract (AC-14582), McDonnell built two prototypes, designated the XF-88. The first prototype (#46-6525), powered by two Westinghouse XJ-34-WE-13 (3000 hp/2240 kW) flew from Muroc on 20 October 1948. Preliminary testing revealed that the top speed was a disappointing 640 mph (1,030 km/h) at sea level. After fitting McDonnell-designed afterburners, thrust was increased by 30% with corresponding performance increases in top speed, initial rate of climb and reduced takeoff distance.
Although the XF-88 won the "fly-off" competition against the competing Lockheed XF-90 and North American YF-93, the USAF (created in 1947) reevaluated the need for bomber escort and terminated the Penetration Fighter program in 1950. Analysis of Korean war missions, however, revealed that contemporary USAF strategic bombers were vulnerable to fighter interception. In 1951, the USAF issued a new requirement for a bomber escort with all major US manufacturers submitting designs. The McDonnell design was a larger and higher powered version of the XF-88, and won the bid in May 1951. The F-88 was redesignated the F-101 Voodoo in November 1951.
The new design was considerably larger, carrying three times the initial fuel load and designed around larger, more powerful J57 turbojets. The greater dimensions of the J57 engines required modifications to the engine bays, and modification to the intakes to allow a larger amount of airflow to the engine. The new intake also was designed to be more efficient at higher Mach numbers. In order to increase aerodynamic efficiency, reduce structural weight and alleviate "pitch-up" phenomena recently identified in flight testing of the D-558-2, an aircraft with a control surface configuration similar to the XF-88, the horizontal tail was relocated to the top of the vertical stabilizer, giving the F-101 its signature "T-tail". In late 1952, the mission of the F-101 was changed from "penetration fighter" to "strategic fighter", which entailed equal emphasis on both the bomber escort mission and on nuclear weapons delivery. The new Voodoo mockup with the reconfigured inlets, tail surfaces, landing gear, and dummy nuclear weapon was inspected by Air Force officials in March 1953. The design was approved, and an order for 39 F-101As was placed in May 1953 without any prototypes built.
Serial number 53-2418 was the first production A-model delivered to Edwards AFB in August 1954. Its maiden flight was on 29 September 1954, with a McDonnell test pilot Robert C. Little. Test flight results: Mach 0.9 at 35,000 feet, with a maximum test speed to Mach 1.4. This aircraft is on display at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo, CO.
The end of the war in Korea and the development of the jet-powered B-52 negated the need for fighter escort and Strategic Air Command withdrew from the program. The aircraft would be employed primarily as a two-seat air defence interceptor (F-101B), nuclear fighter bomber (F-101A/F-101C) and a reconnaissance platform (RF-101A/RF-101C) which saw service over Cuba and Vietnam.
The Voodoo's replacement as a fighter bomber would be the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. While the Voodoo was a moderate success, it may have been more important as an evolutionary step towards the Phantom, one of the most successful Western fighter designs of the 1960s. The Phantom would retain the twin engines, twin crew for interception duties, and a tail mounted well above and behind the jet exhaust. Both aircraft were influenced by the same company's F-3 Demon, a carrier-based naval fighter-interceptor that served during the 1950s and early 1960s.
All models of the Voodoo were known by the nickname "One-oh-Wonder" and this epithet was embroidered on aircraft type badges worn by USAF and RCAF/CF crews.
F-101A / RF-101G
Despite SAC's loss of interest, the aircraft attracted the attention of Tactical Air Command, and the F-101 was reconfigured as a fighter bomber, intended to carry a single nuclear weapon for use against battlefield targets such as airfields. With the support of TAC, testing was resumed, with Category II flight tests beginning in early 1955. A number of problems were identified during development, with many of these fixed. The aircraft had a dangerous tendency toward severe pitch-up at high angle of attack that was never entirely solved. Around 2,300 improvements were made to the aircraft in 1955–56 before full production was resumed in November 1956.
The first F-101A was delivered in May 1957 to the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing, replacing their F-84F Thunderstreak. The F-101A was powered by two P&W J57-P-13 turbojet allowing good acceleration, climb-performance, ease in penetrating the sound barrier in level flight, and a maximum performance of Mach 1.52. The F-101's large internal fuel capacity allowed a range of approximately 3,000 mi nonstop. The aircraft was fitted with an MA-7 fire-control radar for both air-to-air and air-to-ground use, augmented by an MA-2 Low Altitude Bombing System(LABS) system for delivering nuclear weapons, and was designed to carry a Mk 28 nuclear bomb. The original intended payload for the F-101A was the McDonnell Model 96 store, a large fuel/weapons pod similar in concept to that of the B-58 Hustler, but was cancelled in March 1956 before the F-101 entered service. Other operational nuclear payloads included the Mk 7, Mk 43, and Mk 57 weapons. (While theoretically capable of carrying conventional bombs or rockets, the Voodoo never used such weapons operationally). It was fitted with four 20mm M39 cannon, with one cannon often removed in service to make room for a TACAN beacon-receiver.
The F-101 set a number of speed records, including: a JF-101A setting a world speed record of 1,942 km/h (1,207 mph) on 12 December 1957, handily beating the previous record set by the Fairey Delta 2. On 27 November 1957 during "Operation Sun Run," an RF-101C set the Los Angeles-New York-Los Angeles record in 6 hours, 46 minutes, the New York to Los Angeles record in 3 hours, 36 minutes, and the Los Angeles to New York record in 3 hours, 7 minutes. An F-101A flew from Carswell, Texas to Bermuda without refueling.
A total of 77 F-101As were built. They were gradually withdrawn from service starting in 1966. Twenty-nine survivors were converted to RF-101G specifications with a modified nose, housing reconnaissance cameras in place of cannons and radar. These served with the Air National Guard through 1972.
In October 1953, the USAF requested that two F-101As be built as prototype YRF-101A tactical reconnaissance aircraft. These were followed by 35 RF-101A production aircraft. The RF-101A shared the airframe of the F-101A, including its 6.33 g (62 m/s²) limit, but replaced the radar and cannons with up to six cameras in the reshaped nose. It was unusual in having provision for both flying boom and probe-and-drogue in-flight refueling capability. It entered service in May 1957, replacing the RB-57 Canberra.
USAF RF-101As from the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Shaw AFB, SC flew reconnaissance sorties over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.
In October 1959, eight RF-101As were transferred to Taiwan, which used them for overflights of the Chinese mainland. Two were reportedly shot down.
F-101B / CF-101B / EF-101B
In the late 1940s, the Air Force had started a research project into future interceptor aircraft that eventually settled on an advanced specification known as the 1954 interceptor. Contracts for this specification eventually resulted in the selection of the F-102, but by 1952 it was becoming clear that none of the parts of the specification other than the airframe would be ready by 1954; the engines, weapons and fire control systems were all going to take too long to get into service. An effort was then started to quickly produce an interim supersonic design to replace the various subsonic interceptors then in service, and the F-101 airframe was selected as a starting point.
Although McDonnell proposed the designation F-109 for the new aircraft (which was to be a substantial departure from the basic Voodoo), the USAF assigned the designation F-101B. The Voodoo featured a modified cockpit to carry a crew of two, with a larger and more rounded forward fuselage to hold a Hughes MG-13 fire control radar. It had transponders linking it to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, allowing ground controllers to steer the plane towards its targets by making adjustments through the plane's autopilot. The F-101B had more powerful P & W J57-P-55 engines, making it the only Voodoo not using the -13 engines. The new engines featured a substantially longer afterburner than J57-P-13s. To avoid a major redesign, the extended afterburners were simply allowed to extend out of the fuselage by almost 8 ft (2.4 m). The more powerful engines and aerodynamic refinements allowed an increased speed of Mach 1.75
The F-101B had no cannons; instead, it carried four Falcon air-to-air missiles, arranged two apiece on a rotating pallet in the fuselage weapons bay. The initial load was two GAR-1 (AIM-4A) semi-active radar homing and two GAR-2 (AIM-4D) infrared-guided weapons with one of each carried on each side of the rotating pallet. After the first two missiles were fired, the door turned over to expose the second pair. Standard practice was to fire the weapons in SARH/IR pairs to increase the likelihood of a hit. Late-production models had provision for two 1.7-kiloton MB-1/AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets in place of two of the Falcons, and Project "Kitty Car" upgraded most earlier F-101Bs to this standard beginning in 1961.
From 1961 through 1966, F-101Bs were upgraded under Project 'Bright Horizon,' fitting them with an infrared sighting and tracking (IRST) system in the nose in place of the standard in-flight refueling probe.
The F-101B was made in greater numbers than the F-101A, with a total of 479 being delivered by the end of production in 1961. Most of these were delivered to the Air Defense Command (ADC) beginning in January 1959. The only foreign customer for the F-101B was Canada. For more details on the history of the Voodoo in Canada, see CF-101 Voodoo.
The F-101B was withdrawn from ADC service from 1969 to 1972. Surviving USAF aircraft were transferred to the Air National Guard, where they served until 1982.
TF-101B / F-101F / CF-101F
Some of the F-101Bs were completed as dual-control operational trainer aircraft initially dubbed TF-101B, but later redesignated F-101F. Seventy-nine new-build F-101Fs were manufactured, and 152 more existing aircraft were later modified with dual controls. Ten of these were supplied to Canada under the designation CF-101F. These were later replaced with 10 updated aircraft in 1971.
In the early 1970s, a batch of 22 ex-RCAF CF-101Bs were returned to the USAF and converted to RF-101B reconnaissance aircraft with their radar and weapons bay replaced with a package of three KS-87B cameras and two AXQ-2 TV cameras. An in-flight refueling boom receptacle was fitted. These aircraft served with the 192nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron of the ANG through 1975. They were expensive to operate and maintain and had a short service life.
F-101C / RF-101H
The F-101A fighter-bomber had been accepted into Tactical Air Command (TAC) service despite a number of problems. Among others, its airframe had proven to be capable of withstanding only 6.33-g (62 m/s²) maneuvers, rather than the intended 7.33 g (72 m/s²). An improved model, the F-101C, was introduced in 1957. It had a 500 lb (227 kg) heavier structure to allow 7.33-g maneuvers as well as a revised fuel system to increase the maximum flight time in afterburner. There were no external differences between F-101A and F-101C other than the serial numbers. Forty-seven were produced.
Originally serving with the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, the aircraft were transferred in 1958 to the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing which operated three squadrons from the twin RAF air stations Bentwaters & Woodbridge. The 78th Tactical Fighter Squadron was stationed at Woodbridge, while the 91st and 92nd were stationed at Bentwaters. The 81st TFW served as a strategic nuclear deterrent force, the Voodoo's long range putting almost all of the Warsaw Pact countries, and targets up to 500 miles deep into the Soviet Union within reach.
Both the A and C model aircraft were assigned to the 81st TFW, and were used interchangeably within the three squadrons. Operational F-101A/C were upgraded in service with Low Angle Drogued Delivery (LADD) and Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) equipment for its primary mission of delivering nuclear weapons at extremely low altitudes. Pilots were trained for high speed, low level missions into Soviet or East Bloc territory, with primary targets being airfields. Although these were not discussed as one-way missions, it was assumed by all involved that chances of the pilots returning after delivering their weapons was nil.
The F-101C never saw combat and was replaced in 1966 with the F-4C Phantom II. Thirty-two aircraft were later converted for unarmed reconnaissance use under the RF-101H designation. They served with Air National Guard units until 1972.
Using the reinforced airframe of the F-101C, the RF-101C first flew on 12 July 1957, entering service in 1958. Like the RF-101A, the RF-101C had six cameras in place of radar and cannons in the reshaped nose. Unlike the RF-101A, the RF-101C retained the ability to carry a single nuclear weapon on the centerline pylon. One hundred and sixty-six RF-101Cs were built, including 96 originally scheduled to be F-101C fighter-bombers.
The 1964 Project "Toy Tiger" fitted some RF-101C with a new camera package and a centerline pod for photo-flash cartridges. Some were further upgraded under the Mod 1181 program with automatic control for the cameras.
The RF-101C saw service during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was sent to Vietnam in 1961, becoming the first USAF jet aircraft to serve there. RF-101C saw heavy service during the Vietnam War, with the first F-101 being lost in November 1964 to ground fire. From 1965 through November 1970, its role was gradually taken over by the RF-4C Phantom II. In some 35,000 sorties, 39 aircraft were lost, 33 in combat, including five to SAMs, one to an airfield attack, and one in air combat to a MiG-21 in September 1967. The RF-101C's speed made it largely immune to MiG interception. 27 of the combat losses occurred on reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam. In April 1967, ALQ-71 ECM pods were fitted to provide some protection against SAMs. Although the Voodoo was again able to operate at medium altitudes, the added drag decreased the speed enough to make RF-101 vulnerable to MiGs and thus requiring fighter escort.
On 27 November 1957 during Operation Sun Run an RF-101C set the Los Angeles-New York-Los Angeles record in 6 hours, 46 minutes, the New York to Los Angeles record in 3 hours, 36 minutes, and the Los Angeles to New York record in 3 hours, 7 minutes.
After withdrawal from Vietnam, the RF-101C continued to serve with USAF units through 1979.
In service, the RF-101C was nicknamed the "Long Bird;" it was the only version of the Voodoo to see combat.
* F-101A: initial production fighter bomber, 77 produced.
* NF-101A: one F-101A used by General Electric for testing of the General Electric J79 engine.
* YRF-101A: two F-101As built as prototype reconnaissance models.
* RF-101A: first reconnaissance version, 35 built.
* F-101B: two-seat interceptor, 479 built.
* CF-101B: 112 F-101Bs transferred to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
* RF-101B: 22 ex-RCAF CF-101B modified for reconnaissance use.
* TF-101B: dual-control trainer version of F-101B, redesignated F-101F, 79 built.
* EF-101B: single F-101B converted for use as a radar target and leased to Canada.
* NF-101B: F-101B prototype based on the F-101A airframe; the second prototype was built with a different nose.
* F-101C: improved fighter-bomber, 47 built.
* RF-101C: reconnaissance version of F-101C airframe, 166 built.
* F-101D: proposed version with General Electric J79 engines, not built.
* F-101E: another J79 proposal, not built.
* F-101F: dual-control trainer version of F-101B; 79 redesignated TF-101Bs plus 152 converted F-101B.
* CF-101F: RCAF designation for 20 TF-101B/F-101F dual-control aircraft.
* TF-101F: 24 dual-control versions of F-101B, redesignated F-101F (these are included in the -F total).
* RF-101G: 29 F-101As converted for ANG reconnaissance.
* RF-101H: 32 F-101Cs converted for reconnaissance use.
Below is a list of F-101s on display, including museums with an F-101 (CF-101) in their collection:
* 22 Wing, CFB North Bay North Bay, Ontario (unknown)
* Abbotsford International Airport, Abbotsford, British Columbia (CF-101B S/N 57-0363 CAF 101035)
* Air Power Park, Hampton, Virginia (F101F)
* Aero Space Museum, Calgary, Alberta (CF-101B)
* Aerospace Museum of California, Sacramento, California (F-101B AF S/N 57-0427)
* Air Mobility Command Museum, Dover, Delaware (F-101B AF S/N 59-428)
* Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin AFB, FL (F-101B AF S/N 56-0250)
* Air Force Heritage Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba (CF-101B)
* Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Alberta (CF-101B)
* Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia (CF-101)
* Bagotville Commemorative Park, Saguenay, Quebec (CF-101)
* Former Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas (RF-101C AF Serial No. 56-0119) (current disposition not known)
* Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park (F-101F)
* Callaway, Florida F-101B , located on a baseball field, near E. Highway 22 and Callaway Park Way.
* Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario (CF-101F)
* Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, Ontario (CF-101B)
* Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton, Ontario (CF-101)
* Cannon AFB, Clovis, New Mexico (F-101A AF Serial No 53-2426)
* Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina (F-101B)
* Castle Air Museum (former Castle AFB), Atwater, California (F-101B AF Serial No. 57-0412)
* Comox Air Force Museum, Comox, British Columbia (CF-101)
* Devils Lake, North Dakota (F-101F AF Serial No. 58-0311) North Dakota Air National Guard, The Happy Hooligans
* Dyess AFB, Abilene, Texas (F-101B AF Serial No. 57-0287)
* CFB Chatham, Miramichi, New Brunswick (CF-101 S/N 101053)
* CFB Cornwallis, Cornwallis, Nova Scotia (CF-101 S/N 101006)
* Grissom Air Museum, Grissom ARB, Peru, Indiana (F-101B AF S/N 58-0321)
* Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill Air Force Base, Utah (F101B-80-MC "Voodoo" AF S/N 57-0252)
* Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas (F-101F AF S/N 56-0241)
* Little Rock AFB, Little Rock, Arkansas (RF-101C)
* National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio F-101B (s/n 58-325) served with the 18th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., and with the 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group, Oregon Air National Guard. It was flown to the museum in February 1981.
* National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio RF-101C (s/n 56-166) participated in Operation Sun Run in 1957. It also flew vital low-altitude reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis and helped confirm that offensive missile sites in Cuba were being dismantled. It also served in Southeast Asia with the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. It was flown from the 153rd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Mississippi Air National Guard at Key Field, Mississippi, to the museum on 27 October, 1978.
* MAPS Air Museum, North Canton, Ohio (F-101 in storage)
* March Field Air Museum, March ARB, Riverside, California (F-101B AF S/N 59-0418)
* McChord Air Museum, McChord AFB, Washington (CF-101F S/N 101022 [former USAF S/N 57-0322])
* Midland Air Museum, Coventry, United Kingdom (F-101B-80-MC, 60312)
* Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, Georgia (F-101F and RF-101C)
* North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander, Newfoundland (CF-101B)
* Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, (former Chanute AFB), Rantoul, Illinois, (F-101B S/N 56-0273)
* Panama City, Florida (F-101F, S/N 59-0478 and F-101B S/N 57-0438) Panama City has two Voodoos. Tail number 90478 is part of a Veterans' Memorial in front of City Hall near the south end of Harrison Avenue. Tail number 70438 is at Gulf Coast Community College on US-98, east of the Hathaway Bridge.
* Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado (CF-101B S/N 101044 [former USAF S/N 57-0381]) & (F-101B S/N 58-0274)
* Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo, CO (F-101A, s/n 53-2418)
* Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, (F-101B 57-0282, RF-101H 56-0011, RF-101C 56-0214)
F-101B at Wings Museum, 2007.
* Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta (CF-101B 101038)
* Shearwater Aviation Museum, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (CF-101B In storage)
* Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas (F-101C AF Serial No. 56-0009)
* Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland, Nebraska, (F-101B S/N 59-0462)
* Travis Air Museum, Travis AFB, CA (F-101B AF Serial No. 58-0285)
* Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba (CF-101B)
* Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Denver, Colorado,(F-101B S/N 58-0271)
* Yankee Air Museum, Belleville, Michigan, (F-101B AF Serial No. 56-0235)
Data from The Great Book of Fighters
* Crew: 2
* Length: 67 ft 5 in (20.55 m)
* Wingspan: 39 ft 8 in (12.09 m)
* Height: 18 ft 0 in (5.49 m)
* Wing area: 368 ft² (34.20 m²)
* Airfoil: NACA 65A007 mod root, 65A006 mod tip
* Empty weight: 28,495 lb (12,925 kg)
* Loaded weight: 45,665 lb (20,715 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 52,400 lb (23,770 kg)
* Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 afterburning turbojets
o Dry thrust: 11,990 lbf (53.3 kN) each
o Thrust with afterburner: 16,900 lbf (75.2 kN) each
* * Internal fuel capacity: 2,053 US gal (7,771 L)
* Fuel capacity with 2 external tanks: 2,953 US gal (11,178 L)
* Maximum speed: Mach 1.72 (1,134 mph, 1,825 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10,500 m)
* Range: 1,520 mi (1,320 nm, 2,450 km)
* Service ceiling 58,400 ft (17,800 m)
* Rate of climb: 49,200 ft/min (250 m/s)
* Wing loading: 124 lb/ft² (607 kg/m²)
* Thrust/weight: 0.74
o 4×AIM-4 Falcon
o 2×AIM-4 Falcon and 2×AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets
* Hughes MG-13 fire control system
More photos: McDonnell F-101 Voodoo photo gallery
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