McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo
All-Weather Dedicated Interceptor Aircraft
The Royal Canadian Air Force acquired 132 of the American McDonnell F-101 to operate as the CF-101 Voodoo.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
For a time during the Cold War period (1947-1991), the supersonic, missile-armed interceptor was a mainstay of air powers of the West. Canada, lying within dangerous reach of the dreaded Soviet Union, was, with heavy support from the United States, charged with protecting this vast northern hemisphere airspace and this led to adoption of various aircraft designs to meet the demand. From 1961 until 1984, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) utilized the CF-101 "Voodoo" in the critical interceptor role, the aircraft procured from the existing stock of F-101 models of the United States Air Force (USAF).
The original F-101 was conceived of as a single-seat, twin-engine, long-range "bomber escort" set to work in conjunction with equally-long-ranged American bomber types flying sorties against targets throughout the Soviet Union. The F-101 design was a further evolution of the experimental XF-88 "Voodoo" (detailed elsewhere on this site) and was eventually developed into a more complete fighter-bomber aircraft before it found even greater value as a reconnaissance platform (as the "RF-101").
First-flown in 1954 and formally introduced into USAF service in 1957, production of this high-speed, all-weather interceptor reached 807 units before the end. F-101s were in a frontline service role until 1972 while reconnaissance models soldiered on into 1979. Besting both were United States Air National Guard (ANG) forces operating Voodoos into 1982.
For its time in the air, the F-101 was not an outright success and proved itself more of a "bridge" design to the classic McDonnell F-4 "Phantom II" than anything else (indeed the Phantom II carried over traits of the Voodoo that made it an excellent multirole combat aircraft). The F-101 nonetheless remained a high-performance jet-powered solution with inherent capabilities suitable for the interception role.
In RCAF service, the F-101 was selected to directly succeed an aging line of homegrown, straight-winged, twin-engined Avro CF-100 "Canuck" interceptors (detailed elsewhere on this site), these aircraft dating back to 1952 and 692 arriving from the efforts of local Canadian industry. The Voodoo, receiving the local designation of "CF-101" in Canadian service, gave the RCAF a potent replacement offering impressive performance and the capability to carry the AIR-2A "Genie" nuclear-tipped unguided rocket weapon.
The need to succeed the CF-100 fleet was born largely out of the cancellation of the CF-105 "Arrow" (detailed elsewhere on this site), another interceptor offering of the Cold War period that was being championed by local industry and would have provided the RCAF with a Mach 2-capable twin-seat, twin-engine radar-equipped interceptor. The sleek aircraft saw considerable development work completed throughout the 1950s that resulted in five aircraft before project cancellation took the wind out of the project sails in a February of 1959 political decision. The move, in turn, held long-lasting, damaging effects on Canadian aero-industry that have been felt for decades since (it also led to the end of Avro as a major aeronautics player).
Against this backdrop, the proven F-101 was selected as the USAF looked to unload some 56 F-101B twin-seat interceptors along with ten F-101F twin-seat, dual-control trainers to its northern neighbor. The first pair of aircraft made it onto Canadian soil in July of 1961 and, in October of that year, the first RCAF squadron began regular, formal operations with the type under Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) status in an effort to thwart any inbound Soviet bomber threats. Some 56 of the original lot were then handed back to the USAF (with many being scrapped thereafter) for 66 low-hour airframes to keep the RCAF squadrons at strength.
Providing decades of faithful service, time and age ultimately worked against the CF-101 fleet and it was ultimately succeeded decided to replace these Voodoos by, yet-another, McDonnell product, this becoming the supersonic, twin-engined McDonnell Douglas "CF-18" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The CF-18 was nothing more than the American Navy's carrierborne F/A-18 "Hornet" multirole fighter to be operated by the RCAF from land bases.
During their time in RCAF service, the CF-101 line included just two notable variants: the "CF-101F" twin-seat, dual-control trainer and the "EF-101B", and Electronic Warfare (EW) platform (the "Electric Voodoo" as it were).
Its form, function, and capabilities were identical to their original F-101 brethren, having a twin-seat (tandem) arrangement for its two crew and carrying 2 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 afterburning turbojet engines (12,000lb to 17,000lb thrust) in a side-by-side configuration. Speeds reached Mach 1.72 and range was out to 1,520 miles. Its service ceiling could reach 55,000 feet and rate-of-climb was 49,200 feet-per-minute.