The McDonnell F3H Demon & Grumman F11F Tiger

v1.0.1 / 01 apr 16 / greg goebel

* In the 1950s, the US Navy worked to obtain a new generation of jet fighters that would have much improved performance over those that saw action in the Korean War. The result was a range of designs -- among them being the McDonnell "F3H Demon" and the Grumman "F11F Tiger", both of which had short service careers. This document provides a history and description of the Demon and the Tiger.

McDonnell F3H-2M Demon

[2] F3H-2N / F3H-2M / F3H-2


* In 1948, the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) issued a request for proposals for a new carrier-based interceptor with performance at least equal to that of land-based fighters then on the drawing boards. A total of eleven companies submitted proposals; in December, the McDonnell "Model 58" design was selected as the winner, with a contract issued for two prototypes as the "XF3H-1" in September 1949, after inspection of a full-scale mockup. The runner-up in the competition, a delta-wing design from Douglas, was seen as promising enough to encourage the Navy to pursue its development as well -- that aircraft emerging as the "F4D Skyray", but that's another story.

The XF3H-1 design had been produced by a team under McDonnell's Richard Deagan. It was a single-seat fighter with swept flight surfaces, low-mounted wings, side-mounted engine intakes, and a single Westinghouse afterburning J40 turbojet. The McDonnell team wanted to use twin engines, but the Navy planned to standardize on the J40 and had insisted on its use -- a decision that would be regretted.

While work on the XF3H-1 prototypes proceeded, the Navy reconsidered the requirement and decided that the production machines would be all-weather / night fighters instead of day fighters, to be designated "F3H-1N". The prototypes were built to original specification as demonstrators, with the first "Demon" -- as it was named in keeping with the supernatural theme of McDonnell aircraft -- performing its first flight on 7 August 1951, the pilot being Robert M. Edholm. A non-afterburning XJ40-WE-6 engine with a maximum thrust of 24.9 kN (2,540 kgp / 5,600 lbf) was fitted since an afterburning J40 wasn't available at the time. The second prototype, also fitted with the non-afterburning engine, performed its initial flight in January 1952. The two prototypes were unarmed and didn't have radar.

Initial trials demonstrated that the J40 was highly unreliable; the aircraft's forward field of view was unsatisfactory; while roll rate and yaw stability were poor. The nose was redesigned to improve field of view, while flight surface modifications took care of the roll and yaw problems. As far as the unreliability of the J40, that might have been unsurprising for a new engine -- but after the second prototype was fitted with an afterburning J40-WE-8 engine, providing an afterburning thrust of 46.7 kN (4,760 kgp / 10,500 lbf), in early 1953, things didn't get much better. The first prototype was lost in a crash on 18 March 1954, and the second prototype was grounded not long after.

In short, things weren't looking at all well for the Demon. The Navy had optimistically ordered the F3H-1N into production even before the flight of the first Demon prototype, following up that order with one for a batch of "F3H-1P" reconnaissance machines, though no reconnaissance Demons would ever be built. Despite the problems with the prototypes, the Navy was frantic to get more advanced aircraft to counter Red MiGs over Korea, and so production of the F3H-1N went ahead, with the first performing its initial flight on 24 December 1953.

The F3H-1N differed from the prototypes having more fuel capacity; AN/APG-30 radar in a modified nose; four 20-millimeter cannon, mounted in the belly under the cockpit; and various small changes. Initial engine fit was a Westinghouse J40-WE-8 turbojet with 32.0 kN (3,265 kgp / 7,200 lbf) dry thrust and 46.7 kN (4,760 kgp / 10,500 lbf) afterburning thrust, but later production featured the J40-WE-22 with 33.4 kN (3,400 kgp / 7,500 lbf) dry thrust and 48.5 kN (4,945 kgp / 10,900 lbf) wet thrust. Even the J40-WE-22 engine was seen as inadequate, not close to achieving the J40's expected levels of thrust, but the plan was to upgrade to a more satisfactory J40 variant when it became available.

There was no future in the J40, however. The F3H-1Ns were plagued by engine failures, some of them catastrophic and resulting in fatalities. The news media played up the Navy's "dangerous" aircraft, and production was halted after only 58 examples were built. Many of those that were rolled out never flew, with most or all being scrapped. Westinghouse never got the J40 engine to work right, and soon departed from the jet engine business.


[2] F3H-2N / F3H-2M / F3H-2

* The failure of the J40 engine did not reflect too badly on McDonnell, all the more so because company engineers hadn't wanted to use the J40 in the first place. Back in November 1952, as the difficulties with the J40 were becoming obvious, McDonnell had pitched the idea of fitting an Allison J71 turbojet to the Demon in place of the Westinghouse J40. The Navy was hesitant, having specified the J40 as the way of the future -- but a little insurance wouldn't hurt, and the BuAer authorized investigation of a J71-powered Demon, to be designated "F3H-2N".

A mockup was inspected in August 1953; in November 1953, BuAer modified the F3H-1N contract to specify that two of the F3H-1Ns would be completed with the J71 engine. They would also be reconfigured as all-weather multirole fighters, the main change being a wing increased in area by 17%. The initial F3H-2N prototpye performed its first flight on 23 April 1955. By that time, the Navy had already modified the F3H-1N contract to specify production of F3H-2Ns, with the first of 140 production machines performing its initial flight on 23 April 1955.

The F3H-2N was externally very similar to the F3H-1N, aside from the larger wing -- being a single-engine fighter with side-mounted intakes, swept flight surfaces, low mounted wing, four 20-millimeter cannon for armament. Each wing had full-span leading-edge slats, a large one-piece flap inboard, an aileron outboard, and a wing fence about three-quarters of the way out on the span. The outer wings folded up hydraulically for carrier deck storage. The tailplanes were "all-moving"; there was a hydraulically-actuated airbrake on either side of the rear fuselage, just behind the wing.

The F3H-2N was powered by an Allison J71-A-2 turbojet with 44.5 kN (4,535 kgp / 10,000 lbf) dry thrust and 64.1 kN (6,530 kgp / 14,400 lbf) afterburning thrust; in service, F3H-2Ns would be upgraded to J71-A-2A or J71-A-2B engines, with the same thrust ratings but various technical improvements. The quad 20-millimeter cannon armament of the F3H-1N was retained, but a more capable AN/APG-51 radar was fitted. Two stores pylons were fitted under each wing, for a total of four, and two external tanks with a capacity of 993 liters (262 US gallons) each could be carried side-by-side under the fuselage -- though usually only one was carried, since two produced turbulence. Many F3H-2Ns were later wired to carry up to four AAM-N-7 (later AIM-9B) Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs) on the wing pylons. Demons in service would also be fitted with a retractable probe on the right side of the nose for probe-and-drogue inflight refueling.

McDonnell F3H-2 Demon

A "missile carrier" version, the "F3H-2M", was built in parallel with the F3H-2N. The F3H-2M could carry four AAM-N-2 Sparrow I AAMs, one on each underwing pylon, and was fitted with an AN/APG-51B radar to direct the AAMs. The Sparrow I was a "beam rider", riding down the radar beam to the target. Initial flight of the F3H-2M was on 23 August 1955, and 80 were built.

* The F3H-2N and F3H-2M led to the definitive "F3H-2" variant, which could carry the much-improved AAM-N-7 (later AIM-7C) Sparrow III. The Sparrow III was a "semi-active radar homing" AAM, meaning that instead of just following the radar beam, it homed in on radar reflections from the target, ensuring much greater accuracy. The F2H-2 was fitted with an AN/APG-51B radar set to control the Sparrow IIIs; Sidewinder AAMs could still be carried as well. The F3H-2 also featured a British Martin-Baker Mark 4 ejection seat, the ejection seat fitted to early Demons, presumably a McDonnell design, having been dangerously unreliable -- though exactly when the Martin-Baker seats were introduced in the course of the Demon's production history is unclear.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                10.77 meters        35 feet 4 inches
   wing area               48.22 sq_meters     519 sq_feet   
   length                  17.96 meters        58 feet 11 inches
   height                  4.44 meters         14 feet 7 inches

   empty weight            10,040 kilograms    22,133 pounds
   MTO weight              15,377 kilograms    33,900 pounds

   max speed at altitude   1,040 KPH           645 MPH / 560 KT
   service ceiling         13,000 meters       42,650 feet
   range                   2,205 kilometers    1,370 MI / 1,190 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The F3H-2 was enhanced for the strike fighter role, with six underwing pylons instead of four. It could carry up to 2,720 kilograms (6,000 pounds) of bombs or rockets, and could also carry a tactical nuclear weapon. Other than the additional stores pylons, the only external difference of the F3H-2 from the F3H-2N and F3H-2M was a slightly shorter tail cone. A total of 239 F3H-2s was built, the last delivered in April 1960. Some F3H-2Ns were updated for Sparrow III carriage and redesignated "F3H-2N/2". Oddly, no F3H-2Ms were updated for the Sparrow III.

Total Demon production ran to:

   variant   built  notes

   XF3H-1        2  Prototypes with J40 engine.
   F3H-1N       58  (Unsuccessful) production machines with J40 engine.
   F3H-2N      140  All-weather Demon with J71 engine, bigged wing.
   F3H-2M       80  F3H-2M with Sparrow I capability.
   F3H-2       239  Sparrow III capability, six stores pylons.

   TOTAL       519

An "F3H-2P" reconnaissance variant was proposed, but never built. An "F3H-3" with a General Electric J73-GE-3 engine, rated at 40.9 kN (4,170 kgp / 9,200 lbf) dry thrust and 57.4 kN (5,850 kgp / 12,900 lbf) afterburning thrust, was ordered, but in the end these machines were delivered as F3H-2s.

* The Demon finally entered Navy service in early 1956, performing its first fleet deployment in early 1957. Ultimately, a total of 22 Navy squadrons would fly the Demon, not counting training and evaluation units.

McDonnell F3H Demon

Pilots liked the Demon, enjoying its docile handling, but its endurance was marginal and it was underpowered; two of the cannon were often removed to cut weight, with the cannon ports faired over. Its fleet service was brief, since combat aircraft design was advancing rapidly at the time, and the Demon's problems with the J40 engine had delayed its introduction. By the early 1960s it had generally been replaced by the Vought F-8 Crusader and the McDonnell F-4 Phantom. The Phantom had actually begun life as a follow-on to the Demon -- though as it turned out, while the Phantom's Demon ancestry was apparent, there was little design commonality between the two aircraft. An F3H-2N was used in Phantom development to evaluate the F-4's AN/APQ-50 radar.

The Demon was formally out of fleet service by the end of 1964, though a few would be flow in trials and the like for a few years after that. By the time of its retirement, the designations had been changed, with the implementation of the "tri-service" designation scheme in 1962:

   F3H-2N:  F-3C
   F3H-2N:  MF-3B
   F3H-2:   F-3B

The Demon never served with any foreign air arms, and never fired a shot in anger. Some survive on static display, but none remain airworthy.



* In 1952, Grumman Aircraft Company conducted a study to determine if the performance of the F9F-6/7 Cougar carrier jet fighter might be improved by adding "area ruling" -- a scheme in which changes in the cross-section of an aircraft were minimized, resulting in a bulged or "wasp-waisted" fuselage rear of the wings. Area ruling reduced transonic drag and, it was hoped, would help give the Cougar supersonic performance. The project was given the company designation of "G-98".

As the investigation proceeded, the idea of simply modifying the Cougar -- which in itself was a modification of the straight-winged F9F Panther, a first-generation jet fighter -- proved impractical. By the spring of 1953, the G-98 had evolved into an entirely new design, with a slender fuselage featuring area ruling, all-swept flight surfaces, and side-mounted engine intakes. The engine was to be an afterburning Wright J65 turbojet, a license-built version of the British Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire engine.

The Navy BuAer liked the proposal, and awarded a contract to Grumman in April 1953 for two flight prototypes and a static-test airframe. The G-98 prototypes were to be originally designated "XF9F-8" and then "XF9F-9", even though they had nothing in common with the Cougar.

Tests were performed of the G-98 design using a rocket-boosted scale model, and even a model mounted on the nose boom of an F9F-6 Cougar. Results were good enough to persuade the Navy to order 42 evaluation / initial production machines, though the first prototype hadn't flown at the time. The initial prototype of the XF9F-9 performed its first flight on 30 July 1954, with Grumman test pilot Corwin "Corky" Meyers at the controls. Since an afterburning Wright J65 engine wasn't available at the time, the first prototype was fitted with a non-afterburning J65-W-7 engine providing 33.4 kN (3,400 kgp / 7,500 lbf) thrust. Despite the nonafterburning engine, performance was excellent, nudging a top speed of Mach 1.

The second prototype performed its initial flight on 2 October 1954, also being (initially) fitted with a non-afterburning Wright J65 engine. The timing was fortunate, since the first prototype crashed near the Grumman plant on Long Island on 20 October 1954, with the pilot, Lieutenant Commander W.H. Livingston, ejecting safely. The second prototype was transferred to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California for further trials, where it was fitted with an afterburing J65, which permitted it to break Mach 1 in level flight. This was not, however, the first Navy fighter to achieve that distinction, the Douglas Skyray having broken Mach 1 in level flight in June 1954.

The flight tests did demonstrate some problems that dictated changes. The first evaluation / initial production machine, which performed its first flight on 15 December 1954, featured a redesigned tailfin, modified engine intakes, an improved canopy, and a slightly longer nose. With the changes, the Navy judged the machine worthy of full production, ordering another 388 fighters, plus 85 reconnaissance machines.

Grumman Tiger variants

In April 1955, the Navy finally conceded that the Tiger wasn't really an improved Cougar and redesignated the fighter as the "F11F-1", with the reconnaissance machines designated "F11F-1P". In keeping with the tradition of naming Grumman fighters after members of the cat family, the new aircraft was named the "Tiger". Carrier trials began a year later, with initial service deliveries following soon after, the first machines being accepted by Navy squadron VA-156 -- a fighter outfit, despite its "A" for "attack" designation -- in March 1957.



* The Grumman Tiger was, as mentioned, a single-engine aircraft with mid-mounted swept wings and a swept tail assembly. The wings featured a sweep of 35 degrees, leading-edge slats, plus full-span trailing-edge flaps, with spoilers replacing ailerons. A fence was fitted to the wing at about one-third span, and the wingtips folded up for carrier stowage. The tailplane was "all moving", though it retained elevators.

The pilot sat on an ejection seat under a rearward-sliding canopy. The tricycle landing gear included a twin-wheel nose gear that retracted backwards and single-wheel main gear that pivoted from the wings into the fuselage. A stinger arresting hook was fitted, as well as a retractable tail bumper.

The Tiger was powered by a Wright J65-W-18 turbojet, providing 32.9 kN (3,355 kgp / 7,400 lbf) dry thrust and 46.7 kN (4,760 kgp / 10,500 lbf) afterburning thrust. The engine was fed through fixed "dee" type inlets alongside the fuselage rear of the cockpit, with a "splitter plate" forward of each inlet to prevent the engine from ingesting stagnant "boundary layer" air. Internal fuel capacity was 3,464 liters (914 US gallons), and a retractable inflight refueling probe was fitted alongside the nose.

Armament consisted of four 20-millimeter cannon mounted under the engine intakes. There were four stores pylons, capable of carrying either four Sidewinder AAMs, or two Sidewinders and two external tanks with a fuel capacity of 568 liters (150 US gallons) each. Bombs and unguided rocket pods were qualified as well, but rarely if ever carried in service.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                9.64 meters         31 feet 8 inches
   wing area               23.23 sq_meters     250 sq_feet   
   length                  14.3 meters         46 feet 11 inches
   height                  4.04 meters         13 feet 3 inches

   empty weight            6,500 kilograms     14,330 pounds
   MTO weight              10,920 kilograms    20,075 pounds

   max speed at sea level  1,210 KPH           750 MPH / 655 KT
   service ceiling         12,770 meters       41,900 feet
   range                   2,050 kilometers    1,275 MI / 1,110 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

* From the 58th production machine on, the fuel capacity was increased with additional fuel cells in the intake walls and tailfin, raising total capacity to 3,976 liters (1,049 US gallons). Later production machines also had leading-edge wingroot fillets and a longer nose, in principle to accommodate an AN/APS-50 radar set, though it was never fitted operationally. The refueling probe was moved from the left to the right side of the nose.

Grumman F11F-1 Tiger

Only 142 aircraft were built in the second production batch. The Navy was obtaining the Vought F8U Crusader at the time and it proved superior to the Tiger in most respects, in particular with much better climb rate and high-altitude performance. Reliability of the Tiger's J65 engine also was unsatisfactory. Further production of the Tiger was cancelled, with none of the F11F-1P reconnaissance machines ever actually built. The last Tiger was rolled out in early 1959.

The Tiger's life in frontline fleet service was correspondingly short. It flew off the carriers USS BON HOMME RICHARD, FORRESTAL, INTREPID, RANGER, and SARATOGA, but all Tigers had been passed off to training and other roles by the spring of 1961, to be redesignated "F-11A" when the tri-service designation scheme was adopted in 1962. The Tiger was phased out of training service in 1967.

The Tiger never saw combat, but it did have the distinction of service as a mount for the Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team. The team acquired early-production short-nosed Tigers in the spring of 1957, later trading them in for long-nosed Tigers. The Blue Angel Tigers were among the last of the breed to fly in Navy service, being finally traded in for McDonnell F-4J Phantoms in 1969. It seems a bit unusual for the Angels to have been flying aircraft no longer otherwise in Navy service, but it is plausible that demands of the war in Vietnam meant that first-line aircraft had to be committed to the combat zone.

Grumman F11F-1 Tiger in Blue Angels colors

That was not quite the final flight service of the Tiger. In 1973, two of the Blue Angels F-11As were pulled from the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, with one fitted with a thrust reverser for trials and the other used as a chase plane. They were sent back to the boneyard in 1975. A number of Tigers survive as static displays, but none remain in flying condition.

* There were plans for an improved Tiger or "Super Tiger" even before the F11F-1 entered fleet service. Grumman considered a Tiger with a General Electric (GE) J73 turbojet and a Tiger with a wing featuring a sweep of 45 degrees. These studies went nowhere, but a concept for a "G-98J" with a GE J79 afterburning turbojet appealed to the Navy, which in 1955 ordered the last two machines in the initial "short-nosed" Tiger production batch to be fitted with a GE YJ79-GE-3 turbojet with 42.7 kN (4,350 kgp / 9,600 lbf) dry thrust and 66.7 kN (6,800 kgp / 15,000 lbf) afterburning thrust.

These two machines were designated "F11F-2" and were generally similar to stock F11F-1s, except for larger engine intakes to handle the greater airflow. Initial flight of the F11F-2 was on 25 May 1956, with the machine attaining Mach 1.44 ten days later, even though it was fitted with a preproduction J79 with a lower thrust rating. The prototype was then fitted with a fully-rated J79, as well as wingroot fillets and a 34.3 centimeter (13.5 inch) rear fuselage extension. It quickly broke Mach 2, and then set a world altitude record on a dash climb to 24,465 meters (80,250 feet).

The Navy didn't feel like the F11F-2 was particularly attractive relative to the Crusader, and decided not to place a production order. The designation of the prototypes was then changed to "F11F-1F". However, a number of NATO nations and Japan were interested in obtaining a modern Mach 2 jet fighter, performing flight evaluations of the Super Tiger to see if it fit the bill -- though one of the two machines was damaged beyond repair in a takeoff accident on 23 June 1958. In the end, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter won the competition. The sole surviving Super Tiger ended up on display at the US Naval Museum of Armament & Technology at China Lake in California.



* Although the Demon led to the Phantom, the Tiger was effectively a dead-end design -- Grumman's next production fighter, the F-14 Tomcat, having no resemblance to the Tiger. However, in 1971:1972 Grumman did come up with a design, the "G-607A", with a configuration that loosely suggested a descendant of the Tiger.

The G-607A, like the Tiger, was a relatively small single-seat fighter, somewhat larger than the Tiger, with a single engine for propulsion, swept wings with wingroot extensions, and a conventional swept tail arrangement. There the resemblance ended; the G-607 was a much more advanced aircraft, in particular featuring vertical take-off & landing (VTOL) capability. The G-607A's propulsion powerplant was to be the Pratt & Whitney F401-PW-400 afterburning bypass turbojet, it appears with a vectoring nozzle to assist in vertical take-offs; but it would also have twin "liftjets" -- short propulsion units mounted near-vertically, able to produce high thrust for brief periods of time -- for vertical flight, these engines being designed by Grumman and designated "GLE-607A", mounted directly behind the cockpit.

Each lift engine had split pivoting exhausts, one on each side of the forward fuselage; bleed air was drawn from them to drive four "puffer" units -- in the nose, tail, and outboard in each wing -- for maneuvering in VTOL flight. The lift engine intakes and exhausts were covered by doors in forward flight. The G-607A's wings were mounted high, with a strong anhedral droop. Bicycle landing gear was used, with outriggers at the rear of the outboard wing stores pylon; that pylon could be used to carry a Sparrow AAM, Harpoon antiship missile, or other heavy store. There was also a "wet" inboard pylon on each wing for an external tank, and a wingtip rail for a Sidewinder AAM.

Grumman G-607A

A single 20-millimeter Gatling-type cannon was fitted on the right, next to the cockpit. The G-607A would have had a multimode radar, such as the AN/APG-66 used on the General Dynamics F-16. The wingtips folded up for carrier deck storage beyond the outboard pylon. The tailplanes were "all-moving", and there were twin fixed ventral fins under the tail. Length was 15.74 meters (51 feet 8 inches), span was 9.6 meters (31 feet 6 inches), and empty weight was 8,710 kilograms (19,200 pounds). Projected performance was Mach 2 at altitude.

Grumman also proposed a conventional takeoff variant -- one suspects with tricycle landing gear, certainly with the liftjets deleted -- but though the G-607A was definitely sexy, there was no perceived need for it relative to the cost, and it never flew.

* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.

* Sources include:

Elements were also obtained from the online Wikipedia and documents by aircraft enthusiast Joe Baugher.

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 may 14
   v1.0.1 / 01 apr 16 / Review & polish.