Aircraft History

McDonnell Banshee

McDonnell BansheeIn 1951 The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) sought to find a jet fighter replacement for the 1954 to 1959 time frame for its obsolescent Hawker Sea Furies. The operational requirement was for 60 aircraft, 16 for two squadrons with a 100 percent reserve and an alarming 28 aircraft for attrition over the six year period. After a thorough survey the McDonnell F2H-3 Banshee currently flown by the U.S. Navy was the only aircraft that met the RCN's requirements to provide air defence for the fleet.

In 1952 the Chief of the Naval Staff approved a plan to acquire 60 Banshees at cost of $500,000 each and $9 million for spares including Sidewinder missiles. McDonnell agreed to keep the Banshee production line open beyond its scheduled September 1953 shut down to add the RCN order to the last U.S. Navy production run. However, after making the initial payment, the Canadian Cabinet reneged on the agreement for fiscal reasons and the RCN's only alternative was to buy used Banshees from the U.S. Navy.

The U.S. Navy advised that surplus Banshees would not be available until mid-1955 because their Banshee replacement, the F3H Demon, was delayed due to development problems. Since the RCN's Banshee termination date remained 1959, the number of attrition aircraft could be reduced by six making the total number now required 54. To attempt to start jet training sooner the RCN proposed to use 15 T-33 aircraft, loaned from the RCAF, to be used on one of the proposed Banshee squadrons. It was intended that the 15 T-33's would further reduce the Banshee strength by an equal number so that only 39 Banshees would be required. Thus an order was placed with the U.S. Navy for 39 used Banshees with a price tag of $25 million which included several million dollars of spare parts. However, because of the RCAF's expanded commitment to train NATO air crews, only four T-33's could be loaned to the RCN. As the order for the Banshees was already placed, the difference in the number of aircraft was never made up. The delivery of the first used and tired Banshees commenced in November 1955 and was completed in June 1958.

Fortunately, there was an abundance of spares as the U.S. Navy retired their Banshees. It was only through exceptional diligence and hard work, often performing factory level repairs on the hanger floor, that the RCN maintainers were able to get their Banshees into excellent operational condition.

The effectiveness of the Banshee's primary weapon, the Sidewinder 1A heat seeking air-to-air missile, was demonstrated in November 1959, while VF-870 was deployed to the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton England. The Royal Navy had requested the squadron to demonstrate the effectiveness of its new Sidewinder to gain intelligence for the refinement of their own heat seeking missile, the Firestreak. As an inducement the Royal Navy offered ten drone aircraft as targets. When five of the first six targets were destroyed by the Banshee's Sidewinders the Royal Navy concluded the demonstration to save their remaining drones.

When not embarked on the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure RCN Banshees were the prime interceptors in the 22nd North American Air Defence (NORAD) Region and worked closely with Air Force ground intercept controllers at RCAF Radar Station Beaverbank, located approximately 30 kilometres northwest of the Shearwater air station. Despite the advantages of the RCAF's prime interceptor, the CF-100, in rate of climb, more sophisticated radar and second crew member, the Sidewinder missile gave the Banshee an equivalent or better probability of destroying its target.

The F2H-3 Banshees were flown from the Naval Air station HMCS Shearwater and the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure by VF 870 and VF 871 squadrons from November 1955 to September 1962 when the Banshee was retired from the RCN without replacement.

Type: Single seat, all-weather, carrier based jet fighter

Wing Span:
12.73 m (41 ft 9 in)

14.68 m (48 ft 2 in)

4.42 m (14 ft 6 in)

Max. Speed:
933 kph (580 mph)

Service Ceiling:
14,205 m (46,600 ft)

1883 km (1170 mi)

Max. Weight:
11,437 kg (25,214 lb)

Empty Weight:
5980 kg (13,183 lb)

Power Plant:
Two 1474 kg (3250 lb) thrust Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojet engines

Four 20 mm cannons; plus
Four under wing racks for Sidewinder missiles