27 August 2009

The McDonnell F2H Banshee introduced several new capabilites for tactical fighters in US Navy despite the presence of the Grumman F9F Cougar/Panther which was in service in larger numbers.

The high altitude performance of the Banshee was put to good use in reconnaissance versions that made high altitude photo runs of Chinese and Russian targets in the Far East during the 1950s, all done with no losses on any of the Banshee missions flown.

The long legs of the Banshee also made it the Navy's first nuclear-capable tactical aircraft- a single Mk7 (1650 lbs in weight) or a single Mk8 (3200 lbs) could be carried under the starboard wing. The aircraft also had an inflight refueling probe as well. In a demonstration of the capability, Navy squadron VX-3 flew three Banshees from the USS Midway which was 100 miles east of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Refueling from AJ Savage tankers, the three Banshees went "feet dry" near St. Augustine, Florida at tree top height on their way to strike practice targets near Lake Erie. Despite all of the USAF Air Defense Command units on the entire Eastern seaboard being alerted ahead of time, the Banshees successfully hit their targets and returned to the USS Midway after a second refueling over the Atlantic from AJ Savage tankers.

The F2H Banshee was also the first Navy fighter to have a space-stabilized radar antenna in the APG-37 intercept radar. This allowed the radar to maintain a lock on target even if the aircraft maneuvered.

Source: Combat Aircraft, August/September 2009. "Screaming Banshees" by LCDR Rick Burgess USN (Ret) p68-72.

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