McDonnell F2H-3/F-2C Banshee

Last revised November 29, 2010

The F2H-3 Banshee was a single-seat all-weather fighter adaptation of the basic Banshee design. It had a Westinghouse AN/APQ-41 radar installation housed inside the nose of an 8-foot 1.6-inch longer fuselage.

The longer fuselage of the F2H-3 enabled it to carry more internal fuel. Total internal fuel capacity of the F2H-3 was increased to 1102 US gallons. The capacity of the wingtip tanks was decreased to only 170 gallons, but these tanks were rarely carried during actual missions.

The horizontal tailplane on the F2H-2 had been mounted on the vertical tail, but on the F2H-3 it was moved downward and mounted on the rear fuselage tailcone. The tailplane of the F2H-3 was provided with a ten-degree dihedral, whereas the higher-mounted tailplane of the F2H-2 was completely flat. The vertical tail surfaces of the F2H-3 were also redesigned.

M12 or M16 20-mm cannon replaced the M-3 cannon of earlier Banshee variants, and these guns were moved further aft. The upper pair of cannon were equipped with 220 rpg, with the lower pair carrying 250 rpg.

Four weapons racks were provided underneath each wing of the F2H-3, two racks underneath the outer wing and two underneath the wing roots just beyond the air intakes. They could carry bombs of up to 500 pounds in weight, or HVAR and HPAG rockets. A nuclear store could be carried underneath the port wing. In later years, a Sidewinder air-to-air infrared homing missile could be carried beneath each wing.

F2H-2N BuNo 123311 was modified to serve as an aerodynamic prototype for the F2H-3. The first production F2H-3 flew on March 29, 1952. The last of 250 F2H-3s was delivered to the Navy on October 31, 1953. VC-4 received the first F2H-3s in mid-1952. The F2H-3 (along with the later F2H-4) became the Navy's standard carrier-based all-weather fighter for much of the 1950s.

In order to correct a flutter problem, F2H-3s were retrofitted in service with a triangular-shaped extension forward of the tailplane leading edge. Some F2H-3s were fitted with an air refuelling probe that replaced the upper port cannon and which protruded forward of the radome.

Following its withdrawal from front-line service in the late 1950s, the F2H-3 continued to serve with reserve units until 1961, when the last examples were retired and placed in storage.

The designation F2H-3P was assigned to a projected reconnaissance version of the F2H-3. However, this project was cancelled before anything could be built.

On September 18, 1962, the US Department of Defense combined all Air Force and Navy aircraft designations into the existing Air Force system. A new F-for-fighter series was begun, and Navy and Marine Corps fighters were redesignated to fit in with the new system. Although all existing Navy Banshees were by now in storage and no longer flying, the F2H-3 was redesignated F-2C. The F-2A and F-2B designations were never assigned, having presumably been intended for F2H-1 and F2H-2 Banshees which had long been out of service.

Serials of the F2H-3:

126291/126350		McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee
126354/126489		McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee
127493/127546		McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee

Specification of the F2H-3 Banshee:

Engines: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojets, 3250 lb.s.t. each. Performance: Maximum speed 527 mph at sea level, 524 mph at 35,000 feet. Initial climb rate 5900 feet per minute. Landing speed 114 mph. Service ceiling 46,600 feet. Normal range was 1170 miles, combat range was 620 miles, and maximum range was 1716 miles. Normal internal fuel capacity was 1102 US gallons. With the two wingtip tanks fitted, a total of 1442 US gallons could be carried. Weights were 13,183 pounds empty, 21,200 pounds loaded, 28,500 pounds maximum takeoff. Dimensions were wingspan 45 feet 0 inches (with wingtip tanks fitted), wingspan 41 feet 8.8 inches (without wingtip tanks), length 48 feet 2 inches, height 13 feet 11.4 inches, wing area 294.1 square feet. Armament consisted of four 20-mm M12 or M16 cannon, with 220 rpg for the upper pair and 250 rpg for the lower pair. Four weapons racks were provided underneath each wing for bombs of up to 500 pounds or HVAR or HPAG rockets. Alternatively, a nuclear store could be carried underneath the port wing. In later years, a Sidewinder air-to-air infrared homing missile could be carried beneath each wing.


  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.

  6. E-mail from Howard in correcting typo on bombload.