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McDonnell F-101 Voodoo


Twin-Engine Interceptor / Reconnaissance Aircraft (1957)


Aviation / Aerospace

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Jump-to: Specifications

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.



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/24/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
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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

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.

Design

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.
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Armament

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 2,000lb 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.

The F-101B became a two-seat model and was produced to the tune of some 479 examples. The system was fielded with an arrangement of air-to-air missiles through a four-missile internal rotary weapons bay - initially consisting of 4 x AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles (2 x AIM-4A semi-active radar-homing, 2 x AIM-4B infrared-guided). This later went on to include support for 2 x AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets generally coupled with 2 x AIM-4C infrared-guided missiles. Missile management was through the Hughes MG-13 fire-control system. Power for the B-model was served through twin Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 turbofan engines generating 14,880lb of thrust and offering afterburning capability. F-101B's served Air Defense Command and, at one point, made up 16 squadrons. Performance-wise, the B-model could reach speeds of up to 1,221 miles per hour with a ceiling of 54,800 feet and a range of 1,550 miles. Climb rate for the type equaled 36,500 feet per minute. Canada became the only foreign operator of the B-series Voodoo (CF-101B with the RCAF).

The F-101C model was a single-seat dedicated fighter-bomber derivative utilized by Tactical Air Command. This model served for only a short time but was still fielded in quantity, making up nine full squadrons for TAC. The F-101C entered service in May of 1957 but was already on its way out by early 1960. C-models were later upgraded (along with the A-models) with LADD and LABS bomb delivery systems for nuclear weapons deliveries at low altitudes. F-101C models never saw combat and were eventually replaced by F-4C Phantom models by 1966. However, in their converted RF-101C reconnaissance forms, F-101C models did see prolonged usage.

Operational Service

As a show of force, the Voodoo was the subject of American propaganda use in that the type was showcased in a variety of world record speed and endurance attempts. These attempts were single-minded and intended to show off to the Soviet Union the progression of American jet-powered technology. To prove the point, four RF-101A reconnaissance Voodoos launched from California, refueled in-flight, and one set of Voodoos reached the East Coast (New Jersey) while the other pair returned cross-country back to California. In another such attempt, Major Adrian Drew flew his F-101A Voodoo at speeds topping 1,207 miles-per-hour, setting a speed record in the process. Such were the capabilities of the new Voodoo that the aircraft was quickly respected by her pilots. Despite the A-model's intended 7.33 g allowance, the airframe was reportedly only able to withstand some 6.33 g forces. This inevitably led to the development of the improved and reinforced F-101C model which was physically and outwardly similar to A-models.

RF-101C "Long Bird" (USAF nickname) models (converted F-101C fighter-bombers sans armament) saw operational duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis and also became the first USAF fighters to arrive in the Vietnam War. RF-101C's were also the only Voodoo models to see active combat and found success in their intended reconnaissance role throughout the conflict. Though eventually overtaken in this role by the McDonnell F-4 Phantoms, the Voodoos displayed an impressive 35,000 sortie record to just 39 losses of their own. Their speed was definitely a major consideration for their success, outplaying the various MiG aircraft it encountered. ECM pods were later added to the mix in an effort to increase the reach of the Voodoo over hostile terrain though these decreased overall speeds enough to warrant protection of these slower Voodoos with capable escort fighters.

In 1961, Canada received 56 surplus F-101B Voodoos for their Royal Canadian Air Force inventory as CF-101B's. CF-101B's operated until 1985 to which they were inevitably replaced by more capable types. Additionally, Taiwan received several reconnaissance ("RF" designation) Voodoos for their Chinese Nationalist Air Force. On the whole, the US Air Force Voodoos performed their required roles into the early 1970's to which they were retired in1971. The US National Guard - another American Voodoo operator - flew their F-101's until 1983.

Conclusion

The F-101 Voodoo was truly a testament of advanced design concerning the changing face of warfare brought about by the jet age. As a "bridge design" between the early 1950's fighters and the early 1970's hotrods, Voodoos operated with distinction in both war and peacetime, setting several aviation speed and endurance records along the way. No doubt the Voodoo design had a direct influence on the magnificent McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II to come as these physical elements can clearly be seen between the two types of aircraft when compared side-by-side. In any regard, both aircraft went on to prove their worth in more ways than can, or ever will, be documented.

Specifications



Service Year
1957

Origin
United States national flag graphic
United States

Status
RETIRED
Not in Service.
Crew
1 or 2

Production
885
UNITS


McDonnell Aircraft Corporation - USA
National flag of Canada National flag of Taiwan National flag of the United States Canada; Taiwan; United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Interception
Ability to intercept inbound aerial threats by way of high-performance, typically speed and rate-of-climb.
Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.


MULTI-ENGINE
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
WING SWEEPBACK
Mainplanes, or leading edges, features swept-back lines for enhanced high-speed performance and handling.
RUGGED AIRFRAME
Inherent ability of airframe to take considerable damage.
HIGH-SPEED PERFORMANCE
Can accelerate to higher speeds than average aircraft of its time.
HIGH-ALTITUDE PERFORMANCE
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
EXTENDED RANGE PERFORMANCE
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
SUPER PERFORMANCE
Design covers the three all-important performance categories of speed, altitude, and range.
PILOT / CREW EJECTION SYSTEM
Assisted process of allowing its pilot and / or crew to eject in the event of an airborne emergency.
CREWSPACE PRESSURIZATION
Supports pressurization required at higher operating altitudes for crew survival.
ENCLOSED CREWSPACE(S)
Features partially- or wholly-enclosed crew workspaces.
RETRACTABLE UNDERCARRIAGE
Features retracting / retractable undercarriage to preserve aerodynamic efficiency.
CAMERA EQUIPMENT
Payload supports photographic equipment providing still and / or real-time image / video results.


Length
67.4 ft
(20.55 m)
Width/Span
39.7 ft
(12.10 m)
Height
18.0 ft
(5.50 m)
Empty Wgt
28,660 lb
(13,000 kg)
MTOW
52,470 lb
(23,800 kg)
Wgt Diff
+23,810 lb
(+10,800 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo production variant)
monoplane / mid-mounted / swept-back
Monoplane
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mid-Mounted
Mainplanes are mounted along the midway point of the sides of the fuselage.
Swept-Back
The planform features wing sweep back along the leading edges of the mainplane, promoting higher operating speeds.
(Structural descriptors pertains to the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo production variant)
Installed: 2 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 afterburning turbojet engines developing 12,000lb of dry thrust and 17,000lb of thrust with reheat.
Max Speed
1,134 mph
(1,825 kph | 985 kts)
Ceiling
58,399 ft
(17,800 m | 11 mi)
Range
1,519 mi
(2,445 km | 4,528 nm)
Rate-of-Climb
36,500 ft/min
(11,125 m/min)


♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030


(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo production variant. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database. View aircraft by powerplant type)
F-101A:
3 x 20mm M39 automatic cannons (two in left fuselage and one in lower right side).

F-101B:
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.


Supported Types


Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an air-launched nuclear weapon


(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 6
Mounting Points




-
-
-
-
5
3
-
2
4
-
-
-
-
HARDPOINT(S) KEY:
X

15
13
11
9
7
5
3
1
2
4
6
8
10
12
14


COLOR KEY:
Fuselage Centerline
Fuselage Port/Wingroot
Fuselage Starboard/Wingroot
Wing/Underwing
Wingtip Mount(s)
Internal Bay(s)
Not Used

Note: Diagram above does not take into account inline hardpoints (mounting positions seated one-behind-the-other).


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 2,000lb 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.


Cockpit image of the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo
(Cockpit image represents the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo production model)


General Assessment
Firepower  
Performance  
Survivability  
Versatility  
Impact  


Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
86
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 1200mph
Lo: 600mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (1,134mph).

Graph average of 900 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
McDonnell F-101B Voodoo operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The 3 qualities we look at for a balanced aircraft design are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (885)
885
36183
44000
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history (Ilyushin IL-2 and Cessna 172, respectively).
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