The next production version of the F-94 series was the F-94B. The F-94B was outwardly virtually identical to the F-94A, differing primarily in having improved internal equipment and systems.
The nineteenth F-94A airframe (49-2497) was modified during production as a testbed for these new and improved systems, the aircraft being redesignated YF-94B. These items included a Sperry Zero Reader which could be coupled to the ILS indicator to give the pilot an in-cockpit reading of his glide slope for bad-weather landings, an improved hydraulic system, and a high-pressure oxygen system. The pilot was provided with a more roomy cockpit. The Fletcher center-line wingtip tanks were adopted as standard.
The YF-94B flew for the first time on September 28, 1950. The first F-94B-1-LO was delivered to the USAF in January of 1951. The F-94B-5-LO differed by being equipped for Arctic service.
The first F-94B reached service in April of 1951 with the 61st Fighter Interceptor Squadron based at Selfridge AFB in Michigan. A total of 356 F-94Bs were built. The F-94B cured most of the engine and electronics reliability problems experienced by the F-94A, and proved in service to be a thoroughly reliable aircraft with relatively few vices and shortcomings.
Service use of the F-94A/B was primarily with the Continental Air Command, which had been set up in December of 1948 as an overall command structure to cover the Air Defense Command, the Tactical Air Command, plus some fighter squadrons that had previously been assigned to the Strategic Air Command. The F-94A/B also flew with the Alaskan Air Command, protecting the USA from Soviet bombers flying in from Siberia. For three years between 1950 and 1953, the F-94A/B played a vital role in the defense of the continental United States from attack by nuclear-armed Soviet Tu 4 bombers. It was the only jet-powered all-weather interceptor available in quantity at that time, and filled in a vital gap until more advanced equipment could be provided. After wringing out some initial bugs, the F-94A/B interceptors proved to be quite reliable and relatively easy to maintain in the field. However, the F-94A/B lacked sufficient range and adequate climbing speed to make it a really good interceptor, and its armament did not pack sufficient punch to be considered really effective against bombers.
Although in retrospect the Soviet long-range bomber threat of the early 1950s was greatly exaggerated, this does not take anything away from the F-94A/B, which was able to serve with distinction when nothing else was available.
The F-94B was the first *American* jet-powered all-weather fighter to enter combat (the radar-equipped Messerschmitt Me 262B of the German Luftwaffe was actually the first jet-powered night fighter to participate in combat, taking part in the last-ditch defense of Berlin in March of 1945). The first F-94As to reach the Far East Air Force (FEAF) arrived at Itazuke AFB in Japan in March of 1951, equipping the 68th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. They were deployed to Japan primarily to guard US bases in Japan against attack by Soviet bombers. By the end of 1951, this squadron began posting two F-94s on strip alert at Suwon AFB in Korea. They were to be scrambled in case any enemy night intruders came South. During the Korean War, similar duty was carried out by the 339th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, which converted from F-82Gs to F-94Bs in 1951 at Chitose. The 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron began operating F-94Bs from Suwon on March 22, 1952.
Initially, the F-94s operating in Korea were there only to protect their bases from night-flying enemy intruders. They were forbidden to operate over enemy territory, lest their sensitive radar fire control systems fall into enemy hands. However, mounting losses of B-29 bombers following the Chinese and North Korean development of night interception tactics finally led to the lifting of this restriction in January of 1953. In that month, the F-94s of the 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron began flying defensive patrols in advance of the night-flying bombers. On the night of January 30, 1953, an F-94B flown by Capt B. L. Fithian as pilot and Lieut S. R. Lyons as radar operator shot down an unseen Lavochkin La-9 piston-engined fighter, scoring first blood for the F-94B. The Korean-based F-94Bs destroyed three more enemy aircraft during the next six months, but one F-94B was destroyed on the night of June 12 when it collided with a Polikarpov Po-2 biplane.
F-94B-5-LO serial number 51-5502 was modified to test the radar and guidance system of the F-99 (later IM-99) Bomarc missile. The radar and armament in the nose were deleted and replaced by the needle-shaped nose of the Bomarc, making the nose aout 17 feet longer. The longer nose required that additional equipment and ballast be added to the rear of the aircraft. The aircraft was redesignated NF-94B.
Two F-94Bs (51-5500/5501) were modified to become aerodynamic test prototupes for the proposed F-94D ground attack version, and were redesignated YF-94D.
Three Air National Guard units, the 121st FIS (DC ANG), the 142nd FIS (Maine ANG) and the 148th FIS (Pennsylvania ANG), operated the F-94A/B while they served on active duty during the Korean War call-up. However, these F-94s were retained by the USAF when these ANG squadrons returned to State control on October 31, 1951.
The A and B versions of the F-94 were phased out of USAF squadrons by mid-1954 as more advanced interceptors such as the Northrop F-89C/D Scorpion and the North American F-86D Sabre became available in quantity. As they left USAF service, they were passed along to Air National Guard units. F-94A/Bs reentered ANG service in June of 1953 when they replaced F-51H Mustangs in the 137th FIS of the New York ANG. Before being transferred to the ANG, the F-94A/Bs had their cockpits widened to improve the chance of a successful ejection in the event of trouble. The original narrow cockpit had resulted in several unfortunate accidents during emergency ejections.
In ANG service, a number of F-94As were fitted with a twin-gun pod on each wing leading edge. Each pod carried a pair of forward-firing Browning M3 0/50-inch machine guns. This brought the total number of forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns to eight. The mid-wing pods created very little additional drag and increased the loaded weight only slightly.
When I was in high school back in 1957, I went on a class trip to Philadelphia to visit Independence Hall and the Franklin Institute. On our way back home to the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, we stopped the bus somewhere in northern Delaware and got off to get a bite to eat. The restaurant happened by chance to be near the end of an airport runway. While I was walking back to the bus, suddenly a pair of F-94Bs doing a formation takeoff under full afterburner screamed off the runway less than a hundred yards over my head. It sounded like a thousand howling banshees. I'll never forget that sight and sound as long as I live.
The F-94A/B served with the following ANG squadrons: 101, 102, 103, 109, 114, 116, 118, 123, 131, 132, 133, 134, 136, 137, 138, 139, 175, 178, 179, 180, and 190. The last F-94A/Bs left ANG service in 1959.
A design study for a two-seat radar combat trainer based on the F-94B was initiated under the company designation L-199, but it never got past the drawing board.
Serials of the F-94B:
49-2497 Lockheed YF-94B 50-805/876 Lockheed F-94B-1-LO 50-878/954 Lockheed F-94B-1-LO 51-5307/5512 Lockheed F-94B-5-LO
One Allison J33-A-33 or -33A turbojet rated at 4400 lb.st. dry and 6000 lb.st with afterburning. Wingspan 37 feet 6 inches (38 feet 11 inches with wingtip tanks), length 40 feet 1 inches, height 12 feet 8 inches, wing area 234.8 square feet. Weights: 10,064 pounds empty, 13,474 pounds loaded, 16,844 pound maximum. Maximum speed 606 mph at sea level. Initial climb rate 6850 feet per minute. Service ceiling 48,0-00 feet. Normal range 665 miles, maximum range 905 miles. Armed with four 0.50-inch M-3 machine guns in the nose.