McDonnell F3H-1N Demon

Last revised December 25, 1999

The US Navy wanted the F3H-1N in service as soon as possible in order to counter the swept-wing MiG-15 then being encountered in Korean skies. Consequently, the Navy had ordered the F3H-1N into production even before the XF3H-1 prototype had taken off on its first flight. The Navy had even issued a contract to the Temco Aircraft Corporation of Dallas, Texas, for an additional 100 Demons to be manufactured under license. This early order for the production of the Demon turned out to be a costly mistake.

The production F3H-1N differed from the prototypes in having its ailerons relocated to mid-wing, and the entire nose and cockpit sections were tilted down five degrees in order to improve the forward vision during carrier approach and landing. Total fuel capacity was increased from 1148 to 1506 US gallons. An AN/APG-30 airborne interception radar was housed under an enlarged dielectric nose cone. Armament consisted of four 20-mm cannon situated below and behind the air intakes.

In September of 1952, the Navy also ordered 22 examples of the F3H-1P, a photographic reconnaissance version of the F3H-1N, in which the guns and radar were replaced by a set of cameras.

For initial trials, the F3H-1N was powered by a Westinghouse J40-WE-8 turbojet rated at 7200 lb.s.t. dry and 10,500 lb.s.t. with afterburning. However, in the production form it was fitted with the J40-WE-22 or -22A engine, rated at 7500 lb.s.t. dry and 10,900 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Even with this engine, the F3H-1N was decidedly underpowered, and plans were to replace the WE-22 with the more powerful J40-WE-24 when it eventually became available.

By September of 1953, it was apparent that the WE-24 engine was never going to materialize, and the Navy would have to be satisfied with the lower-thrust WE-22. The first production F3H-1N (BuNo. 133489) took off on its maiden flight on December 24, 1953. The first few F3H-1Ns were intended for service evaluation and carrier suitability tests. In early 1954, the first F3H-1N was turned over to service evaluation at NATC Patuxent River in Maryland.

Production of the F3H-1N proceeded very slowly because of late deliveries of the J40-WE-22 engines. The Navy service test program immediately ran into serious trouble. Within the space of only a few days, no less than eleven accidents occurred, some of them fatal. Newspaper headlines and editorials screamed about the Navy having acquired a dangerous and deadly aircraft, one that was more hazardous to its own pilots than to any potential enemy. Not only was the F3H-1N seriously underpowered, its powerplant was prone to inflight explosions and sudden failures. Consequently, the F3H-1N was a completely unsafe aircraft, and was heartily disliked by its pilots.

In spite of the troubles with the J40 engine, on February 13, 1955, a F3H-1N piloted by McDonnell test pilot C. V. Braun set an unofficial time-to-height record of 10,000 feet in 71 seconds.

The problems with the J40 engine proved to be incurable, and the Navy was forced to call a halt to F3H-1N production after only 58 examples had been built. Work on the F3H-1P photo-reconnaissance variant was dropped before anything could be built, and the contract with Temco was cancelled in its entirety. The Navy permanently grounded all of its F3H-1Ns in July of 1955. The F3H-1N debacle had cost the Navy before anything could be built. The F3H-1N debacle had cost the Navy some 200 million dollars, most of which had been spent on the unsuccessful J40 engine.

The surviving F3H-1Ns were deemed completely unairworthy and were either used as ground trainers or scrapped. Most never made a single flight. Does anyone know if any survive today?

The J40 experience was so devastating for Westinghouse that the company got entirely out of the jet engine manufacturing business shortly thereafter. As for McDonnell, it did not look too good for that company either, and the entire Demon program seemed on the verge of cancellation. However, McDonnell was able to recover some of its good name with the F3H-2 variant of the Demon, in which the unreliable J40 engine was replaced by an Allison J71.

Serials of the F3H-1N:

133389/133488		Cancelled contract for F3H-1N to be built by Temco.
133489/133519		McDonnell F3H-1N Demon  
133521				McDonnell F3H-1N Demon  
133523/133548		McDonnell F3H-1N Demon  

Specification of F3H-1N Demon:

Engine: One Westinghouse J40-WE-22 or -22A engine, rated at 7500 lb.s.t. dry and 10,900 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed 616 mph at sea level, 628 mph at 10,000 feet. Initial climb rate: 10,900 feet per minute. Service ceiling: 44,000 feet. Normal range: 1130 miles. Weights: 18,691 pounds empty, 26,085 pounds loaded, 29,998 pounds maximum takeoff. Dimensions: wingspan 35 feet 4 inches, length 59 feet 0 inches, height 14 feet 7 inches, wing area 442 square feet. Armed with four 20-mm cannon.


  1. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  2. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  3. The World Guide to Combat Planes, William Green, Macdonald, 1966.

  4. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft Armament, Bill Gunston, Orion, 1988.

  5. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1990.