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American naval fighter aircraft 1945-55

Written by Sakhal

When American and British aircraft carriers were placed in combat positions in Korean coastal waters, it was increased the activity of the naval fighter-bombers. On the American side, ground attack missions were carried by piston-engined aircraft, such as the Vought F4U Corsair and the Douglas AD Skyraider, to which joined in increasing numbers the turbojet fighter-bombers Grumman F9F Panther. The origins of the Panther dated back to 1946, when the US Navy signed a contract with the Grumman Aircraft Corporation for the construction of a prototype of night fighter, designed as XF9F-1, propelled by four turbojet engines Westinghouse J30-WE-20. But, in the next October, the Bureau of Aeronautics decided to abandon the development of the XF9F-1 in favor of a single-engined diurnal fighter, denominated XF9F-2, propelled by a Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine. Two prototypes were ordered, XF9F2 and XF9F3; the first one flew the 24th November 1947, propelled by the Nene engine, while the second one flew in August 1948, propelled by an Allison J33A-8 engine. The initial series lot of F9F-2 aircraft was equipped with the engine Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6, which was a licensed version of the Nene. It is notable the fact that the engine Klimov VK-1 installed in the MiG-15 was actually another copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene. Permanently attached wingtip-mounted fuel tanks were a characteristic of all Panthers since early in the program.

The Panther entered service with the VF-51 Fighter Squadron in May 1949, replacing the North American FJ-1 Fury, a transitional turbojet fighter produced in very small numbers, but which would serve as the basement for the development of the successful F-86 Sabre. The Panther entered action for the first time when the aircraft of the VF-51, operating from the USS Valley Forge, flew to cover the attacks against the enemy airfields and supply lines near Pyongyang, in July 1950. During this mission, two pilots from the VF-51 shot down two veteran Yakovlev Yak-9 with their Panthers; these were the first downings achieved by the US Navy in Korea. Later, in November, another Panther from the VF-111 Fighter Squadron would be the first US Navy's turbojet fighter to shoot down a MiG-15. The Panthers became a mainstay of the Navy and Marine forces in Korea and remained in use, in successive versions which included the swept-winged F9F-6, until the early 1960s.

American naval fighter aircraft 1945-55

Grumman F9F-2 Panther (number 31) stationed at the Naval Air Station Barbers Point, in Honolulu, circa 1959.

American naval fighter aircraft 1945-55

Two Panther, from the VF-721 Fighter Squadron operating in the USS Boxer, fly to join the attacks on Wonsan, North Korea, the 15th July 1951.

Specifications for F9F-2 Panther

Type: Carrier-based fighter-bomber

Propulsion plant: One Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6 with 2700 kilograms of thrust

Maximum speed at 6000 meters of altitude: 922 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 2 minutes 30 seconds

Maximum range: 2100 kilometers

Service ceiling: 13600 meters

Weight (empty): 4220 kilograms

Weight (full load): 7460 kilograms

Wingspan: 11.58 meters

Length: 11.35 meters

Height: 3.45 meters

Wing area: 23 square meters

Armament: Four Hispano-Suiza M2 20-millimeter cannons; up to 907 kilograms of rockets/bombs

Later, a second turbojet fighter, the McDonnell F2H Banshee, would join the Panther in their runs. The Banshee was a development from the FH-1 Phantom, project originated in 1943, which became the first turbojet aircraft designed to operate from carriers. Initially designed as XFD-1, the Phantom flew for the first time the 25th January 1945, propelled by two Westinghouse J30 axial-flow turbojet engines. After the trials in carriers, 100 aircraft were ordered, albeit this number was finally reduced to 60. The 5th May 1948, the 17-A Fighter Squadron, equipped with 16 aircraft FH-1, became the first turbojet squadron qualified for carriers of the US Navy, operating from the USS Saipan. This aircraft remained in first line of service until July 1950, being the VMF-122 Marine Fighter Squadron its last operator. The successor of the FH-1, the McDonnell F2H Banshee, was born from a contract for a turbojet fighter-bomber that should overcome the limitations of the FH-1. The prototype, named XF2D-1, flew for the first time the 11th January 1947, propelled by two Westinghouse J34 turbojet engines. This aircraft was practically an enlarged reproduction of the Phantom, bigger in size, bigger in propulsion power and bigger in operational range, one of the weak points of the first turbojet aircraft, which devoured fuel, starting so the "fashion" of wingtip-mounted fuel tanks in the American post-war aircraft.

The first series aircraft F2H-1 were delivered to the VF-171 Marine Fighter Squadron in March 1949. The Banshee entered combat for the first time the 23rd August 1951, when the aircraft F2H-2 from the VF-172 operating in the USS Exeter attacked targets in north-western Korea, where this aircraft demonstrated to be an optimal fighter-bomber. From the version F2H-2 were added 760-liter wingtip-mounted fuel tanks, which were detachable unlike the ones mounted in the Panther. The version F2H-2B had strengthened portside weapons pylon for holding the Mk 8 nuclear bomb which weighed 1465 kilograms. The F2H-2N was a night fighter version fitted with an APS-19 radar housed in a lengthened nose. The F2H-2P was a reconnaissance version fitted with six photographic cameras housed in a lengthened nose. The version F2H-3 - later F-2C - was a major improvement for an all-weather fighter fitted with the APQ-41 radar in a lengthened nose and increased fuel capacity in a lengthened fuselage with redesigned tail. The F2H-4 - later F-2D - was similar to the former but had installed an APG-37 radar. The Banshee started to be retired from the US Navy and US Marine Corps in 1959 and from the Royal Canadian Navy in 1962.

American naval fighter aircraft 1945-55

An FH2 Banshee flying together with a veteran F4U Corsair.

Specifications for F2H-3 Banshee

Type: Carrier-based fighter-bomber

Propulsion plant: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-34 with 1475 kilograms of thrust each

Maximum speed at sea level: 933 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 6000 meters of altitude: 2 minutes 30 seconds

Maximum range: 2760 kilometers

Service ceiling: 14200 meters

Weight (empty): 5980 kilograms

Weight (full load): 11435 kilograms

Wingspan: 12.73 meters

Length: 14.68 meters

Height: 3.62 meters

Wing area: 27.30 square meters

Armament: Four Colt Mk 16 20-millimeter cannons; up to 1416 kilograms of rockets/bombs

Categories: Aviation - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-11-22

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