NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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INTRODUCTION In 1945, the US Navy awarded a contract to the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. to design, construct, and test a prototype aircraft that was initially known as the Phantom and later the F2H Banshee. The Phantom and the F2H-1 had a limited production run. However, there were four variants of the -2 and these were used extensively during the Korean War. From these variants came the -3 and the -4 versions. These big Banshees were redesigned, larger versions of the -2 and were among the most dependable single-seat all-weather fighter aircraft in squadron service anywhere in the world. The only differences between the -3 and -4 were the radar and the 10% more powerful engines; externally, they looked identical. Weighing 14 tons fully loaded and fuelled, these Banshees had wing tip tanks, an operational ceiling limit of 46,000 feet and four 20mm cannons. They could also carry a mixture of rockets and 500 pound bombs and were equipped with an ejection seat, automatic pilot, and an all-weather radar fire control system. In all, 894 Banshees were produced by the end of the production run at McDonnell in August 1953. Some of the -4 aircraft were equipped with a centre-line pylon to carry a large nuclear device. By the early 1950s, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) had begun the search for a replacement fighter aircraft for the existing carrier-borne Sea Fury. In April 1952, the Department of National Defence had also committed to the purchase of a new aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, and clearly the aging Sea Fury would not be suitable. The rugged Banshee, with its twin engine long range performance, was a prime candidate for the Canadian Navy. The RCN was interested in a jet carrier fighter with airborne intercept capabilities for fleet protection as well as a ground support capability. The Banshee provided both. Although other aircraft were considered, it became obvious that the Banshee, then in service with the USN and the Marines, could be quickly and fully supported. The added feature was the potential for arming the Banshee with the then new USN air-to-air Sidewinder missile. In 1952, several RCN pilots were sent to the USN for operational cross-training and experience on the Banshee. These were the first Canadians to fly the Banshee and their experiences led to the decision to purchase the aircraft soon afterward. A decision was made to purchase 60 new -3 in 1953 but by the time the arrangements were finalized, the production line at McDonnell had been shut down. The RCN had to be content with the purchase of 39 very used Banshees and they were acquired from the USN as they became surplus. As a part of the purchase agreement with the USN, the RCN personnel were to ferry the 39 Banshees from the US Naval Air Station at Quonset Pt., Rhode Island to Canadian Naval Air Station Shearwater, the designated home base for the Banshees. This was Forget-me-not Remembrance Vol.4 19 IN THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY By Carl Mills

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