We start with a look at the development of the first McDonnell jets – the FH-1 Phantom and the F2H Banshee. These were both first generation jets, with straight wings that rather limited their top speed, and comparatively short front line careers. The FH-1 Phantom was very short-lived, but the F2H served for most of the 1950s.
Chapter two focuses on the Banshee’s rather limited career as a front line fighter. Although it entered service earlier, it was used on carriers based in the Atlantic until August 1951, when the first squadron reached Korea on the Essex. By this point the war had stabilised and the Banshee was mainly used for close air support, proving to be a capable fighter-bomber. On later tours the Essex’s Banshees focused more on interdiction missions. The last Banshee squadron left Korean waters on 11 October 1953, effectively ending the type’s combat career.
The book then moves on to look at other uses of the F2H-2. First we examine its career as a photo reconnaissance aircraft, a fairly simple conversion with cameras replacing the guns in the nose. Once again the F2H-2P went to war on the Essex in Korea, and soon proved to be a great success in this role – indeed it appears to have been more successful as a photo recon aircraft than as a fighter. One does get the impressive we are hearing about just about every major incident to involve the Banshee in these two roles
The F2H-2 proved to be a versatile design. A small number were built as night fighters, but the most impressive (at least technically) modification saw it converted into the US Navy’s first tactical carrier borne nuclear bomber, capable of carrying the large Mk 7 or smaller but heavier Mk 8 nuclear bombs. This saw the aircraft given stronger wings, but with a slot cut out of the port flap to make way for one of the bomb’s fins, the undercarriage to be raised to its greatest possible height and aerial refuelling equipment installed to give it more range with the heavy bombs.
This was a period of rapid progress in jet aircraft design, and the Banshee was no exception. Chapter four covers the development and service of the larger F2H-3 and F2H-4, which were larger, stronger, had more powerful engines and carried more fuel. They were thus able to carry the radar of the night fighter version and the wing racks of the nuclear bomber in a single package. This chapter also includes a useful section of squadron histories, tracing the full service career of the F2H (this is backed up at the end by a detailed table of all carrier deployments).
We finish with a look at the only over-seas use of the Banshee, which served on the Royal Canadian Navy’s last aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, from 1957 to 1962. This doesn’t appear to have been a happy deployment – twelve of the 29 aircraft bought by Canada were lost in accidents, and the Canadian Navy never ordered another carrier jet fighter!
This is a comprehensive look at the service career of one of the more significant of the first generation of jet fighters.
1 – First Generation Jets
2 – War Deployments
3 – Photo-Banshee
4 – Nightfighters and Nukes
5 – The ‘Big Banjo’
6 – Canadian Operations and Retirement
Author: Richard R Burgess