The McDonnell FH Phantom was a twinjet fighter aircraft designed and first flown during World War II for the United States Navy. The Phantom was the first purely jet-powered aircraft to land on an American aircraft carrier and the first jet deployed by the United States Marine Corps. Although with the end of the war, only 62 FH-1s were built, it helped prove the viability of carrier-based jet fighters.
The McDonnell FH Phantom was a twinjet fighter aircraft designed and first flown during World War II for the United States Navy. The Phantom was the first purely jet-powered aircraft to land on an American aircraft carrier[N 1] and the first jet deployed by the United States Marine Corps. Although with the end of the war, only 62 FH-1s were built, it helped prove the viability of carrier-based jet fighters. As McDonnell’s first successful fighter, leading to the development of the follow-on F2H Banshee, which was one of the two most important naval jet fighters of the Korean War, it would also establish McDonnell as an important supplier of navy aircraft. When McDonnell chose to bring the name back with the Mach 2–class McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, it launched what would become the most versatile and widely used western combat aircraft of the Vietnam War era, adopted by the USAF and the US Navy, remaining in use with various countries to the present day.
The FH Phantom was originally designated the FD Phantom, but the designation was changed as the aircraft entered production.
In early 1943, aviation officials at the United States Navy were impressed with McDonnell’s audacious XP-67 Bat project. McDonnell was invited by the navy to cooperate in the development of a shipboard jet fighter, using an engine from the turbojets under development by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Three prototypes were ordered on 30 August 1943 and the designation XFD-1[N 2] was assigned. Under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, the letter “D” before the dash designated the aircraft’s manufacturer. The Douglas Aircraft Company had previously been assigned this letter, but the USN elected to reassign it to McDonnell because Douglas had not provided any fighters for navy service in years.
McDonnell engineers evaluated a number of engine combinations, varying from eight 9.5 in (24 cm) diameter engines down to two engines of 19 inch (48 cm) diameter. The final design used the two 19 in (48 cm) engines after it was found to be the lightest and simplest configuration. The engines were buried in the wing root to keep intake and exhaust ducts short, offering greater aerodynamic efficiency than underwing nacelles,[
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The F2H Banshee and Grumman F9F Panther, both of which began flight tests around the time of the Phantom’s entry into service, better satisfied the navy’s desire for a versatile, long-range, high-performance jet. Consequently, the FH-1 saw little weapons training, and was primarily used for carrier qualifications to transition pilots from propeller-powered fighters to jets in preparation for flying the Panther or Banshee.
Delays in the 1954 interceptor project led to demands for an interim interceptor aircraft design, a role that was eventually won by the B model of the Voodoo. This required extensive modifications to add a large radar to the nose of the aircraft, a second crew member to operate it, and a new weapons bay using a rotating door that kept its four AIM-4 Falcon missiles or two AIR-2 Genie rockets hidden within the airframe until it was time to be fired.
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