||Last Updated: Apr 21st, 2015 - 23:52:06
The F3H Demon is one of a group of lesser-known aircraft designs that started production in the mid ‘50s and were a link between the aircraft of the Korean War and those of the Century Series era. The Demon was probably more famous or infamous for the failure of it’s initial engine than for it’s subsequent successes. The Navy had directed that the Demon be designed around the Westinghouse J-40 engine which was supposed to double the thrust of then available engines. Unfortunately the J-40 did not come close to delivering the promised power plus it was very unreliable. This problem adversely affected not only the Demon program but also others such as the F4D Skyray, A3D Sky Warrior, the B-52 and the F-102. In the case of the Demon, the Allison J-71 engine was made available. This was not an optimum solution but did provide the Demon with an acceptable powerplant. The first twenty-one aircraft produced for the Westinghouse engine could not be retrofitted and were subsequently towed through St. Lewis and barged down the river to Memphis for use as instructional airframes. This generated a congressional investigation but the Demon remained in production.
The Demon was redesigned to make best use of the J-71 engine. This included a 17.5% increase in wing area. This revised model was designated F3H-2N. In parallel, a missile-armed version was developed. This model, the F3H-2M (M for Missile) included improved radar and other minor differences. The service usage of the Demon started in 1956 and continued through 1964. Over twenty squadrons in both Atlantic and Pacific Air Groups used the Demon and it was involved in operations in the South China Sea (Matsu and Quemoy), Lebanon and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although many considered the Demon to be a failure, the Demon did provide the Navy with its first modern jet. Once the bugs were worked out, it proved to be a dependable aircraft for all weather conditions that was easy to fly and land on a carrier. More importantly, it gave the design team of McDonnell the experience needed to develop their next generation of jet aircraft, the F-4 Phantom II.
The Kit: The Emhar kit has been around since 1991. It has a basic cockpit, but is accurate in size and shape and has recessed panel lines that are somewhat crude by current standards. The kit comes with two external fuel tanks, four missiles and an alternate load of four rocket pods. The bolt-on refueling probe is also included. The nose section is assembled as a separate unit and then assembled into the fuselage. The unique air intakes of the Demon mesh well with the nose section to provide a realistic looking assembly. An all-flying stabilizer can be assembled at any angle chosen by the modeler. The trailing edges of the wings and rudder are very thick and can benefit from judicious sanding and filing. The decals are accurate but very thick. The kit has the feel of the old Frog kits with recessed panel lines that are somewhat thick but not as bad as the old Matchbox kits. No resin or photo-etched parts are included but I used Airwaves set AC72-60 for the Demon to improve the level of detail of the model.
Decals: Two sets included. F3H-2N of VF-122 and F3H-2M of VF-61
Construction: I had no major problems with the assembly of the kit. The parts fit together well without the need for major amounts of filler. No flash was apparent and the parts cleaned up well except for the mentioned thick trailing edges of the wings and rudder. The only areas where some filler was needed was with part 44, the curved panel behind the exhaust and below the fuselage and the top edge of the nose where it connects to the fuselage. Starting with the cockpit, the kit comes with a good representation of the McDonnell ejection seat. The Airwaves set provides belts, footrests and the face shield grab handle to dress this up. The cockpit tub has the consoles molded in the correct place but they have no details or decals. The same goes for the instrument panel. Again, the Airwaves set provides parts that either replace or supplement these areas. Before permanently affixing the ejection seat in place, the modeler should trial fit the nose to the fuselage. I found that I needed to shim the ejection seat up about 1/16-inch in order for the upper portion of the seat to be properly visible. When finally gluing the nose to the fuselage, be sure to check the alignment of the parts. My parts fit well together but any misalignment in this area would make the model look strange. I ended up with a small opening between the nose and the fuselage at the top of the air intake. This was closed with some super glue and painted.
The nose landing gear of the Demon is a somewhat complex design. The Emhar kit does a good job of reproducing this area except for a couple of braces. These are supplied by Airwaves along with the nose wheel torque links to replace the kit parts. I kept the kit torque links because they look ok and provide a stronger assembly. The kit provides all of the major parts for the main gear. The torque links are separate and were replaced by parts from the Airwaves set. For the equipment bay area behind the cockpit, the kit provides a well-molded filler panel. With some appropriate dry brushing, this looks very good, better than the part provided by Airwaves.
My first impression of the fuel tanks and the missiles was poor. I thought that Emhar had really dropped the ball on these parts. The tanks were a strange shape and the missiles looked like toys. The Ginter reference showed that the tanks were correct in shape and the missiles were the Sparrow I design and were also correct for early usage. I planned to build an F3H-2M version so I had to fill and eliminate the center mounting location under the wing. Note-the kit provides two fuel tanks but in practice, the Demon usually carried only one tank. The second tank caused so much extra drag that it more than used up the added fuel. I only installed the left tank. The Demon design also included four machine guns. In practice two were usually removed and external cover plates installed. A set of cover plates is included in the Airwaves set. The only other area that needed some fixing was the wheel wells in the wings. A void is shown between the upper and lower surfaces. I boxed these in with some spackling compound just to eliminate the opening. I chose not to add the air-refueling probe because it was not shown on the squadron aircraft that I was modeling. Also, the kit included a wing-mounted pitot tube. As near as I can tell, this was only used on the prototypes and F3H–1s.
Painting and Markings:
I chose to build the model in the markings of VF-61 because I liked the skull and crossbones marking and the black and yellow tail markings. A color photo of the aircraft with the kit markings was included in the Ginter book. Great – yes? No! The markings on the tail were “AJ”. This would be appropriate for a Demon in the November 1957 timeframe but Demon aircraft were updated in late 1956 with an upper wing mounted spoiler. This is very visible but is not included with the kit or the Airwaves set. I could try to simulate the spoiler by scribing or adding a metal or plastic part but I decided to backdate the markings. In the 1956/57 timeframe, VF-61 featured an “E” on the tail – note the photos on the cover of the Ginter book and page 3 of the Squadron book. This also allowed me to use the early Sparrow I missiles, which were painted blue.
The Demon is represented in the after-market decal area by Super Scale – 72-657 & 658 and Almark S-19. The kit decals were very thick and since Super Scale set 658 included the same aircraft, tried to use as many of the Super Scale decals as possible. The only kit decals used were the squadron insignia, the rudder markings and the model/serial number marking. These parts were either wrong of didn’t exist with the after market decals. I used the rest of the decals from the Super Scale set and made the “E”s by cutting and pasting various decals. The only other item that was missing from the kit and Super Scale decals were a number of small flush antennae on the underside of the aircraft. These were provided on the Almark decal sheet and were added.
I gave the model an initial coat of Mr. Surfacer to clean up the surface and to slightly minimize the panel lines. I then painted the model using Testors Model Masters enamels. Light Gull Gray and White were used. I lightened the gray and re-sprayed a few panels to break up the overall monochromatic look. I then used Future to provide a base for the decals and to seal the decals. Next I applied a thin wash of oil paints for the panel lines. I used a combination of black, white and burnt sienna to provide a color that was compatible with the Gull Gray. Finally, I finished the model with a clear flat acrylic.
I was pleased with the final product. I made the model because I wanted to add the Demon to my collection and this was the only available kit except for the Rareplanes version. I had expected the kit to be crude but ended up impressed with its accuracy and good fit. It really was an easy model to complete. Note, in checking a June, 1992 review of the kit in SAM, I found that Emhar produced two versions. Kit no. 3001 depicts the later F3H-2 and does include the spoilers for people who are not as anal as your author. This model provides a good representation of this important airplane that could have been much more well known if it had had a better engine.
In the end, I was surprised at how large the Demon was. It was very big single engine, single seat aircraft, particularly for its time.
McDonnell F3H Demon – Naval Fighters No. 12 by Steve Ginter
F3H Demon in Action – Squadron Signal Aircraft No. 140 by Jim Mesko
Air Enthusiast No. Forty-three. Article by Mike Spick.
http://www.f3hdemon.homestead.com/ A good web site with some great color photos.
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