McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo Escort Fighter / Penetration Fighter Prototype
Though a failed design in itself, the McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo did go on to become the successful F-101 Voodoo aircraft of the Cold War years.
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World War 2 (1939-1945) showcased to American warplanners the importance of "escort fighters" for their bomber forces when traversing over enemy terrain. The value added by such platforms as the North American P-51 "Mustang", the Republic P-47 "Thunderbolt", and the Lockheed P-38 "Lightning" was as much a deciding factor for the Allies in the bombing campaign against Germany and Japan as wee the bombs dropped by Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" and Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers. As technology forced the hand of aeronautics into the jet age, the idea of escorting long-range bombers followed along. The McDonnell XF-88 "Voodoo" was prototyped in an effort to find a suitable counterpart to the growing list of long-range penetration bombers joining the inventory of the United States air service.
The XF-88 was classified as a "penetration fighter" and designed around a 1946 USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) requirement envisioning an aircraft with exceptional operational ranges. The resulting McDonnell design was granted two working prototypes in the form of the "XP-88" (the Air Force designation model would effectively change that to "XF-88" by 1948). The XF-88 featured swept-back wings fitted to streamlined fuselage with triangular intakes mounted at the wing roots. The jet exhaust would pass under the tail unit which featured a conventional arrangement - a single vertical fin being fitted with mid-mounted horizontal planes. An early model form sported a "Vee" tail but this approach was dropped when wind tunnel testing showed instability issues. The aircraft was crewed by one with the cockpit seated well-forward of midships, aft of a nose cone assembly. Proposed armament was 6 x M39 20mm cannons giving the fighter a considerable punch.
Only two flyable prototypes were ever produced for the program as it lost steam when the Air Force decided to go a different route, eventually dropping the idea of a penetration fighter. As such, the program was cancelled even after a North American design was initially selected to fulfill the requirement, the winner then itself dropped in favor of the McDonnell design. Completed Voodoo models were in the form of the XF-88, XF-88A, and the XF-88B.
XF-88 marked the initial prototype fitted with a Westinghouse J34-13 turbojet of 3,000 lb thrust and lacking armament. XF-88A then followed and installed a Westinghouse J-34-22 turbojet which featured an early version of afterburn. Armament for this airframe came later. XF-88B was given an Allison XT38 turboprop engine in its nose outputting 2,500 horsepower - this in addition to its turbojet engine installation - making it a "compound fighter" design relying on two propulsion methods. First flight of this form came on April 14th, 1953.
Though the direct XF-88 Voodoo design came to naught, the aircraft and its name were resurrected a time later when it became the McDonnell F-101 "Voodoo" venture. This aircraft, introduced in 1957 and seeing 807 examples produced, retained much of the form of the XF-88 including its sleek design, single vertical tailfin, and triangular air intakes and went on to see considerable combat service in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The F-101 was a dimensionally larger, missile-armed aircraft modified for a new requirement.
The completed XF-88 prototypes carried serial numbers 46-525 and 46-526.