The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation F3H Demon was that company’s third aircraft design to be accepted for production by the U.S. Navy. In many respects it was an innovative all-weather missile armed fighter and an observer can see the lines of McDonnell’s highly successful F4 Phantom II. The Phantom II originally being designed as an advanced development of the Demon. The Demon was McDonnell’s first swept wing design but like many aircraft of the era it suffered from not having the expected engine performance that it was designed to incorporate.

       In 1948 the Navy requested proposals for a high performance jet fighter. Six companies responded with eleven different proposals. Two of these were accepted for further development, the Douglas XF4D Skyray and McDonnell’s XF3H, later to be named the Demon continuing McDonnell’s tradition of naming its planes after “Spooks”. A contract was issued to McDonnell on September 30, 1949 for two prototypes. The new type would have wing and tail surfaces with a sweep of 45 degrees and would be powered by a Westinghouse J40 jet engine that was promised to deliver more thrust than other engine contemporaries.

       The first flight of the prototype XF3H-1, Bureau # 125444 took place on August 7, 1951. In January of 1952 the second prototype, Bureau # 125445 took to the air. Both prototypes suffered from engine performance and reliability problems. Engine problems continued to delay the test program. In March of 1954 125444 suffered a fuel explosion problem and was destroyed, 125445 was grounded and eventually scrapped. Despite the engine problems during the prototype test program, the Navy continued to see promise in the design and a contract for 150 production F3H-1N Demons was issued in March of 1951.

       Originally envisioned as a 20MM cannon armed day fighter, the mission for the Demon continued to evolve. There were several successful day fighters already in the Navy inventory and a need for a night fighter to replace the F2H Banshee became a priority, thus the “N” designation was added to the aircraft type. The F3H-1N had an AN/APQ-50 radar in an enlarged nose. A newer version of the J40 engine that was larger and heavier than the engine in the prototypes resulted in a redesign of the fuselage. The manual wing fold mechanism was replaced by a hydraulic one and the nose section, including the cockpit, was angled down at 5 degrees to increase visibility for the pilot.

       Even with the uprated version of the J40 engine the reliability and performance issues continued. By this time there had been 8 crashes that had resulted in 4 pilot deaths and 6 airframes being totally destroyed. All due to engine problems. Production was halted after 56 F3H-1Ns were built and an Allison J71 engine was fitted in two existing aircraft. While the Allison J71 didn’t have the same performance that was expected of the Westinghouse J40 it was more reliable by far and all Demons from this point would use J71 engines.

       A further two F3H-1N airframes were modified as F3H-2N prototypes. The 142 production F3H-2Ns incorporated increased wing area to handle additional weight of the -2N and had an upgraded AN/APG-51A radar. Along with the increased wing area, the ability to fire the AAM-N-7A (later redesignated as the AIM-9B) Sidewinder Infrared homing air-to-air missile was added to this and all subsequent versions.

       Even as the F3H-2N was being built, the US Navy wanted to take advantage of the new radar guided missile technology, so the F3H-2M version was developed around the AAM-N-2 Sparrow 1 missile. The Sparrow 1 was beam-rider guidance system weapon, meaning it guided along a beam generated by the launching aircraft. While this method worked fine in the laboratory in practice it proved highly unreliable. Eighty F3H-2Ms were delivered to the Navy but were never deployed operationally with fleet squadrons aboard carriers.

       The final and definitive version of the Demon was the F3H-2 (no suffix) of which 239 were built. The Sparrow III missile had been developed with a semi active radar seeker as part of its guidance system. This system proved to be much more reliable and with it, the Demon became a true all-weather interceptor. The change to the Sparrow III required the radar upgrade to the AN/APQ-51B. During its service life the F3H-2 underwent changes. The McDonnell designed ejection seat proved to be problematic and was swapped out for a Martin-Baker H5 seat. Continuing engine problems resulted in a modified J71 engine that resulted in a further downgrading of performance of the aircraft. It was also noticed that attempts to execute hard use of the ailerons resulted in warping of the wings. To solve this problem, spoilers were fitted to the wings and retrofitted to Demons that were already in service.

       The Demon entered service with fleet squadrons in 1956. At first using the F3H-2N and transitioning to the F3H-2. During the next few years it served as the Navy’s primary night capable all weather fighter. It was complemented by several day fighters in carrier air wing deployments. These day fighters included the North American FJ Fury and the Vought F8U Crusader. Starting in 1960 the Demon was replaced in fleet service by the McDonnell F4 Phantom II.

       This is my second experience with assembling a Hobby Boss kit. I must say they are very detailed and do assemble into very nice representation of the subject aircraft.

      Assembly begins with a highly detailed cockpit that is enhanced by using decals that lay down nicely over both the side and front instrument panels. The kit does not come with a provision for seat belts so I designed my own and printed them out on paper and glued them in place.

      The next steps are pretty straightforward with some pre-painting being a good idea. The various subassemblies that go into the fuselage all fit very nicely with no problems encountered. In step 5 I chose to glue the windscreen in place but I assembled and painted the detailed canopy and put it aside as I wanted to have it partially open on the final model. The dive brakes and opening piston were also left for assembly later on.

       I chose to build the model with the wings folded, so I skipped steps 6 and 7. Hobby Boss made the kit so that you can easily use an X-Acto blade and separate the inner and outer wing panels along the wing fold line. After separating the panels I assembled the main gear bays. I then glued the bays and the photo-etched spoilers, flaps and ailerons in place.

       Part of the wing assembly of steps 8 and 9 is attaching the photo etched wing fences part numbers PE4, PE5, PE6 and PE9. This proved to be very difficult for me even thought I used a .016 inch thick razor saw to groove the plastic and used a pointy toothpick to put some cyanoacrylate adhesive into the groove where the parts were to go. The parts just didn’t want to stay. I had to repeat applying the adhesive several time before I finally got them to stay.

       I then assembled the wings, control surfaces, antennae, refueling probe blister to the fuselage, landing gear and underwing pylons to the already assembled fuselage. I left the refueling probe, wheels, gear doors, missile racks and Pitot tube for final assembly. Lastly before painting, I assembled the Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles.

       A minor bit of Tamiya White Modeling Putty was needed in a couple of place along the fuselage seams and little bit of putty was used on the missiles. After sanding, using Squadron Products Medium Grit Sanding Sticks, and rescribing this area the kit was ready for paint.

       Testor’s Model Master Enamels were used almost exclusively on this model, the only exceptions being the Testors Model Master Aircraft Interior Black Acrylic on the interior of the cockpit and Tamiya’s Rubber Black on the tires. I masked off the windscreen, canopy and cockpit area with Tamiya Masking Tape. The first color I airbrushed was Classic Black enamel on the radome, windscreen and canopy, after giving the paint sufficient time to dry the radome and anti-glare area in front of the windscreen was masked off. I used Aluminum for the leading edges of the wings, which after drying were taped off.

       The wing and vertical surface tips were painted Insignia Red and taped off when dry.

       Next, came the gloss Insignia White for the wheel wells, pylons, rudder, stabilators, wing control surfaces and undersides of the fuselage. The intakes and wheel wells, landing gear, and arrestor hook bay had already received a coat of white paint but I applied another coat at this time.

       The stabilators were taped off leaving the leading edge exposed for aluminum paint and then those areas were covered so that the tips could be painted Insignia Red. The wing control surfaces and rudder were taped off and Flat Light Gull Grey was applied to the fuselage and wing upper surfaces. The dive brake bays were taped off and Insignia Red was applied to those areas. A couple of light coats of Testors Glosscote was applied to the upper surfaces and the model was ready for decaling.

       To help my understanding of the model I was building, I purchased F3H Demon Detail and Scale Series Digital Volume 1. Chapter 7 of this very informative book is entitled Modeler’s Section. There are 7 pages devoted to what is wrong with the Hobby Boss Kits of the Demon. By reading thru the information I was able to determine that I was building a F3H-2 and not the F3H-2M that the box states.

       The kit supplied decals and accompanying marking guide state that 2 F3H-2Ms are offered, but according to Joe Baugher’s Lists 137055 is an F3H-2M but 145288 is a F3H-2. So I decided to mark my model as 145288.

       It turned out that I couldn’t use the kit decals because they fell apart just soaking them in water. I was able to purchase a decal set entitled “Screamin’ Demons” part 2 from Furball Aero Design F/D&S-4807. This decal set comes with markings for 6 Demons, 3 of them are -2s. I chose the markings for F3H-2 BuAer 143428 of VF-161 aboard the USS Oriskany in 1962. These decals went down easily using the Microscale system.

       After the decals were dry I taped off the radome because I wanted it to remain glossy, and sprayed Testors Dullcote over the upper surfaces of the kit.

       Final assembly began with gluing the canopy in place, attaching the outer wing panels in their upright position, painting and attaching the wheels and landing gear doors. Attaching the Pitot tube to the front of the windscreen was next. I bent and assembled the photo-etched part, which is the outside of the dive brake door, to the plastic door, painted the assembly and the piston and then glued these parts to the fuselage and voila a 1/48 Scale representation of an McDonnell F3H-2 Demon was complete.


       F3H Demon in detail & scale, Detail and Scale Series Digital Volume 1 By Bert Kinzey

       Wikipedia Article on the McDonnell F3H Demon - McDonnell F3H Demon Carrierborne Fighter / Interceptor / Fighter-Bomber

       National Museum of Naval Aviation - McDonnell F3H Demon

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