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  • McDonnell F-101 Voodoo Interceptor / Reconnaissance Aircraft

    The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo achieved several endurance and speed records during her time aloft, earning the nickname of One-Oh-Wonder in the process.

     Updated: 10/3/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo was affectionately called the "One-oh-Wonder" and known moreso early on for its many record-setting achievements in the early years of use. The twin-engine fighter-bomber was a design that nearly wasn't thanks to the development of more potent high-flying long range bombers. Fortunately for the type, the need for escort fighters was as apparent as ever during the Korean War and interest in the Voodoo was brought back to the forefront. With the eventually involvement of Tactical Air Command, the Voodoo would find itself a home in US ranks and become one of the more successful American aircraft designs of the Cold War, inevitably seeing action in the Vietnam War.


    Development of the F-101 Voodoo began as an extension of the twin-engine XF-88 prototype that appeared in 1948. The XF-88 was envisioned as a dedicated interceptor and heavy escort fighter for protection of the USAF's long-range bombers. As was common practice throughout World War Two, bomber formations were protected by smaller and faster fighters such as the North American P-51 Mustang, Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, leaving bombers to concentrate on reaching their target areas and dropping their munitions without concerning themselves entirely on formation defense. Conventional thinking carried on in the post-war world, seeing a need for such performers only this time in sleek new jet-powered airframes. McDonnell introduced the XF-88 and won out in competition against Lockheed and North American designs. By this time, however, the USAF re-evaluated the need for long-range escort fighters in the jet age and saw no need to pursue such a design. As such, the XF-88 project was cancelled.

    With the arrival of the Korean War, the jet age was in full swing. However, the USAF long-range, high-altitude bombers were still shown to be at the mercy of enemy fighters, resulting in unacceptable B-29 losses as the conflict progressed. The XF-88 design was revisited by the USAF and it was acknowledged that the need for a long-range escort jet-powered fighter was still there. The XF-88 was worked through a period of redesign that resulted in a lengthening of the fuselage which in turn provided internal space for more fuel (effectively influencing higher operational endurance in the process). Changes throughout the XF-88 (including a new tail arrangement, larger turbojet engines and redesigned intake openings) now warranted a new series designation and the Voodoo aircraft family was born - the XF-88 now becoming the larger redesigned YF-101 "Voodoo" prototype in 1951. The YF-101 was also reconsidered as a true dedicated "strategic fighter" and not so much a "penetration fighter" as originally categorized. This provided the YF-101 platform the capability to mount various weaponry - including nuclear types - while still retaining its initial bomber escort role. The YF-101 (eventually to become the F-101A production model) took to the skies on September 29, 1954 and entered service with the United States Air Force in 1957 as the F-101A.

    By this time, the conclusion of the Korean conflict and the arrival of the jet-powered B-52 Stratofortress forced a yet another rethinking of Strategic Air Command needs and the idea of a jet-powered escort fighter was once again dropped. Despite this action, Tactical Air Command moved in looking for a replacement for their aging F-89 Scorpion and F-84 Thunderstreak series of jet fighters. The Voodoo seemed to fit the bill and the F-101A found a home.


    Externally, design of the Voodoo was noted for its wing root triangular intake ducts, high-mounted tail plane and engine exhaust ports ending just at the base of the empennage. The crew - be it a single or twin seat model - sat in the forward portion of the rounded fuselage under a clam-shell type canopy, the cockpit itself pressurized. Wings were short, low-mounted, swept and positioned at about the center point of the fuselage. The top aft portion of the fuselage elegantly formed into the vertical tail surface to which the horizontal planes were positioned in the uppermost part. Ailerons were situated on the outer trailing wing edges. This, along with the tail control surfaces, were operated via an irreversible hydraulic system as were the wing flaps (the latter also electrically actuated). A drag chute was incorporated into the design for improved landing roll distances. By any regard, the aircraft maintained a graceful appearance, particularly noteworthy considering the many sharp-angled American designs common in the 1950's. The design elements inherent in the Voodoo design would become apparent in the follow-up McDonnell design - this being the F-4 Phantom.


    The F-101A model series was the first production form of the Voodoo. The platform sported a battery of 3 x 20mm M-39 auto-firing cannons and up to 2,000lbs of external stores. Cannons were placed two on the left side of the fuselage and one to the lower right. Gun firing was assisted via an automatic lead computing sight along with a radar ranging system. Bombing was assisted through LABS (Low Altitude Bombing System) and LADD (Low Angle Drogue Delivery) systems. Manual bomb release was provided for through DIRECT. Additionally, the model could carry one nuclear-tipped missile as needed. A-series models made up 3 squadrons and were produced in 75 examples. Performance allowed by the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 (15,000lb max thrust with afterburning) turbojet included a top speed of 1,009 miles per hour, a maximum service ceiling of 55,800 feet and a range nearing 1,900 miles.

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    McDonnell F-101B Voodoo Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1957
    Type: Interceptor / Reconnaissance Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): McDonnell Aircraft - USA
    Production Total: 885

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 67.39 feet (20.54 meters)
    Width: 39.67 feet (12.09 meters)
    Height: 18.01 feet (5.49 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 28,971 lb (13,141 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 52,399 lb (23,768 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 turbojet engines with afterburn generating 14,880lbs of thrust.

    Maximum Speed: 1,221 mph (1,965 kph; 1,061 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,550 miles (2,494 km)
    Service Ceiling: 54,806 feet (16,705 meters; 10.38 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 36,500 feet-per-minute (11,125 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    3 x 20mm M39 auto-firing cannons (two in left fuselage and one in lower right side).

    2 x MB-1 Genie air-to-air missiles (nuclear-tipped).
    4 x AIM-4C/-4D/-4G Falcon air-to-air missiles OR 6 x AIM-4C/-4D/-4G Falcon air-to-air missiles.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Canada; Taiwan; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XF-88 - Prototype Interceptor Model designation on which the F-101 is based on.

    YF-101 - Redesigned XF-88 lengthened fuselage; repositioned horizontal tail surfaces; larger engines; larger airframe.

    F-101A - Single-Seat Fighter; initial production model of which 75 were produced 4 x 20mm cannons and up to 2,000lbs of external stores.

    F-101B - Two-Seat All-Weather Interceptor; nuclear-capable; air-to-air missile armament suite; Hughes fire-control system; Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 turbojet engines.

    F-101C - Single-Seat Dedicated Fighter-Bomber similar to F-101A; "improved" Voodoo.

    F-101D - Proposed Voodoo with J79 turbojets; never produced.

    F-101E - Proposed Voodoo with J79 turbojet; never produced.

    F-101F - Redesignated from TF-101B trainer models; dual-control trainer.

    EF-101B - Single Example Radar Target based on F-101B model.

    RF-101A - Reconnaissance Conversion Model based on the F-101A model; 35 examples produced.

    RF-101B - Reconnaissance Aircraft; in-flight refueling capability via boom; 3 x KS-87B camera and 2 x AXQ-2 TV cameras.

    RF-101C - Reconnaissance Platform based on the F-101C; reinforced airframe and camera equipment (the latter replacing armament suite).

    RF-101G - F-101A models converted for reconnaissance.

    RF-101H - Unarmed Reconnaissance Platform based on F-101C models.

    TF-101B - Dual-Control Trainer Conversion models based on the F-101B; redesignated to F-101F.

    NF-101A - Single Developmental Model for General Electric J79 turbojet engine tests.

    NF-101B - F-101B model prototype based on F-101A.

    YRF-101A - Two Prototype Reconnaissance Models based on the F-101A.

    CF-101B - Canadian Designation for 56 exported surplus F-101B models.

    CF-101F - Canadian Trainer Models based on the TF-101B/F-101F; 10 examples delivered.