The F2H-2 version of the Banshee differed from the F2H-1 by being fitted with 200-gallon wingtip tanks. It also differed by being fitted with external racks which could carry two 500-pound bombs or six 5-inch rockets. The fuselage of the F2H-2 was slightly longer than that of the F2H-1 and larger capacity fuel tanks were fitted. All of these changes naturally increased the weight as compared to that of the F2H-1, but the increased weight was partially offset by the use of 3250 lb.s.t. Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojets.
The F2H-2 was first ordered in May of 1948, and the first example (BuNo 123204) flew on August 18, 1949. A total of 364 F2H-2 Banshees were built, the first being delivered in the winter of 1949 and the last in May of 1952.
There were three variants on the basic F2H-2 theme--the F2H-2B, the F2H-2P, and the F2H-2N. These were produced in parallel with the basic F2H-2.
The F2H-2B was a nuclear strike version of the F2H-2. It was externally similar to the F2H-2, but had some local strengthing of the wings so that the aircraft could carry a 1650-lb Mk 7 or a 3230 lb Mk 8 nuclear bomb underneath the port wing. The F2H-2B was manufactured alongside the "stock" F2H-2 on the McDonnell production line. Fortunately, the F2H-2B was never called upon to carry out its assigned nuclear mission.
The F2H-2P was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance version of the F2H-2. It had the distinction of being the first jet-powered reconnaissance aircraft built for the Navy. It differed from the standard F2H-2 in having a widened and longer nose to provide space for six vertical and oblique cameras. Total length was increased to 42 feet 5.2 inches. All armament was removed. For night photography, a container for 20 flash cartridges could be carried underneath each wing. The first F2H-2P (BuNo 123366) was started down the line as the 184th F2H-2, but was modified during production. It flew for the first time on October 12, 1950. A total of 89 F2H-2Ps were built, the last example being delivered May 28, 1952, this being the last F2H-2 of any type delivered.
Some photographic Banshees were used for special tests, including one on December 16, 1952 when two F2H-2Ps were launched from the USS Princeton (CVA-37) and guided a Regulus cruise missile to a target off the coast of southern California.
The F2H-2N was the single-seat night-fighter version of the F2H-2. It differed from the standard F2H-2 in having a 2-foot 9.6-inch longer nose that housed an AN/APS-19 radar set. The first three F2H-2Ns (BuNos 123300/123302 respectively) started as the 66th to 68th F2H-2 airframes, and were modified during production. The F2H-2N flew for the first time on February 3, 1950. The next eleven F2H-2Ns came off the line one at a time in the midst of batches of standard F2H-2s. This completed the small batch of F2H-2N night fighters.
F2H-2N BuNo 123311 was modified to serve as an aerodynamic prototype for the F2H-3 all-weather fighter version.
The F2H-2 Banshee was delivered to the following Navy and Marine Corps squadrons: VF-11, VF-12, VF-22, VF-62, VF-171, VF-172, VMF-122, VMF-214, VMF-224, and VMJ-1
The first Banshees to serve in Korea were F2H-2Ps. A detachment of three F2H-2Ps from Composite Squadron 61 (VC-61) embarked aboard the USS Valley Forge (CV-45) in June of 1951.
The high climb rate and the good altitude performance of the F2H-2 made it attractive as an escort fighter. VF-172 arrived in Korean waters aboard the USS Essex (CV-9) in August of 1951. Their first mission was to escort a flight of USAF B-29s in an attack on some North Korean railroad marshaling years on August 25, 1951.
This combat cruise ended in November 1951. Since Banshees were assigned with higher priority to the Sixth Fleet in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Navy F2H-2s did not return to the Korean War zone until the autumn of 1952.
In September 1952, the Banshee returned to Korean waters, with VF-11 deploying aboard the USS Kearsarge(CV-33). They were followed by VF-22 and VF-62 in June of 1953, deploying aboard the USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39).
The F2H-2Ns and F2H-2Bs were deployed only twice--with a detachment of VC-4 aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) and with VF-82 aboard the USS Lake Champlain (CVA-39). Strike fighters were operated at sea from several carriers by detachments from VC-3 and VC-4.
With the Marine Corps, the F2H-2 operated with VMF-122 and VMF-124. F2H-2Ps served with VMJ-1 and VMJ-2. The only Marine Banshee outfit to see combat in Korea was VMJ-1, which operated from Pohang Airfield in Korea from March 1952 until the end of the Korean War in July 1953.
Detachments of F2H-2P reconnaissance aircraft from VC-61 and VC-62 operated from several carriers until replaced in the mid-1950s by Grumman F9F-6P and F9F-8P Cougars.
Following the end of the Korean War, the F2H-2 was rapidly replaced aboard Navy carriers by higher-performance aircraft. The F2H-2 fighters then went to reserve units, where they soldiered on for a few more years before being finally retired.
123204/123299 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 123300/123313 McDonnell F2H-2N Banshee 123314/123365 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 123366 McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee 123367/123382 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 124940/125029 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125030/125031 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125032/125053 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125054 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125055 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125056 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125057 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125058/125059 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125060 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125061/125062 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125063 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125064 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125065 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125066/125067 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125068 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125069/125070 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125071 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125072/125079 McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee 125500 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125501 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125502 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125503 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125504/125505 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125649 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125650/125651 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125652 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125653/125654 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125655 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125656/125657 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125658 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125659/125662 McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee 125663/125679 McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee 125680/125706 McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee 126673/126695 McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee 128857/128886 McDonnell F2H-2P Banshee
Engines: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojets, 3250 lb.s.t. each. Performance: Maximum speed 575 mph at sea level, 532 mph at 35,000 feet. Initial climb rate 7300 feet per minute. Landing speed 101 mph. Service ceiling 48,500 feet. Normal range was 1200 miles, combat range was 620 miles, and maximum range was 1475 miles. Normal fuel capacity was 877 US gallons. With the two wingtip tanks fitted, a total of 1277 US gallons could be carried. Weights were 11,146 pounds empty, 20,555 pounds loaded, 21,000 pounds maximum takeoff. Dimensions were wingspan 44 feet 11.9 inches (with wingtip tanks fitted), wingspan 41 feet 8.8 inches (without wingtip tanks), length 40 feet 0.4 inches, height 14 feet 5 1/2 inches, wing area 294.1 square feet. Armament consisted of four 20-mm M3 cannon with 150 rpg. For the F2H-2, an maximum external offensive load of 1000 pounds could be carried. A typical load consisted of two 500-pound bombs or six 5-inch rockets.