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With an upwards " bomb-burst " over the USAF airfield at Bentwaters, Suffolk, seven Voodoos, the world's most powerful operational fighters, roared into the line-up of U.S. air power in Britain.

With an upwards " bomb-burst " over the USAF airfield at Bentwaters, Suffolk, seven Voodoos, the world's most powerful operational fighters, roared into the line-up of U.S. air power in Britain. They were the vanguard of a stream of Voodoos which are coming to replace the F-84F Thunderstreaks in Third Air Force this winter.

It was a little after tea-time on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the seven powerful twin-jet aircraft taxied up to the flight line to be greeted by an admiring group of friends, wives and civilian base employees. They had completed a non-stop flight across the Atlantic from Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, in one minute over eleven hours; a distance of 5,199 miles. They refuelled twice over the Atlantic from KC-135 tankers. Eight aircraft had taken off, but one of the pilots discovered a malfunction in his machine and had to leave the formation. He landed safely.The flight-commander of this Voodoo advance party was Major Walter Eichelberger, a jovial, large southerner who announced as his canopy rose that he had discovered how to eat an orange with his oxygen mask on. Not one of the pilots showed any fatigue as they climbed to the ground to meet the short questions of the British Customs officer who tried to get a word in edgewise amid a round of backslapping and gleeful shouts of " We made it, we made it ! "

Major Eichelberger's band of pilots, all from the 27th Fighter Bomber Wing at Bergstrom, were Major Brian Lincoln, Captain Charles Cleveland, Captain Carl Mackenzie, Captain Howard Maree, Captain Jim Ramsey and Major Adrian Drew. It was Major Drew who, on December 12th, 1957, flying an F-101A,took the world's air speed record from Great Britain by setting the mark at 1,207.6 m.p.h. over the 10.1-mile course at Edwards Air Force Base, California. A short-lived record, as it happened, for another USAF pilot, Captain Walter Wayne Irwin, wrested it from him on May 16th this year in a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, clocking an average of 1,404.19 m.p.h.

First to speak to Major Brian Lincoln (left) on arrival was his crew dhief. Other pilots, tired but happy after their eleven hour flight, are Cpptains Howard Mare*, Carl Mackenzie, Jim Ramsey and Charles Cleveland
First to speak to Major Brian Lincoln (left) on arrival was his crew chief. Other pilots, tired but happy after their eleven hour flight, are Captains Howard Mare*, Carl Mackenzie, Jim Ramsey and Charles Cleveland


The arrival of the Voodoos in England means additional striking power for the United States Air Force in Europe. Earlier this year it had been announced by Colonel S. Bruce, chief of the atomic energy division of Air Defence Command, that later-version F-101 B Voodoos will carry ; the Douglas MB-1 Genie air-to-air missile which has an atomic warhead. The Air Force's European ,Headquarters at Wiesbaden revealed that these fighter-bomber and reconnaissance versions of the Voodoo would be stationed at Laon and Phalsbourg, in France, as well as at Bentwaters.

The evolution of the Voodoo began twelve years ago at the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation's plant at St. Louis, Missouri, when designs for the first long range penetration fighter, the XF-88, were drawn up. Making its first flight in October, 1948, the XF-88 had two 3,000 lb. turbojets. It was followed by the XF-88A which was equipped with short afterburners to boost the 3,600 lb. thrust of its J34-WE-22 jets.

Owing to a cut-back in defence funds, the development contract awarded by the USAF was cancelled in 1950 and it was not until the following year that revised Air Force requirements allowed the project to be revived. Modifications, including an increase in fuselage length to 67 ft. 41 in. to accommodate greater fuel tankage, and the installation of Pratt and Whitney J57-P-13 turbojets, were made and under the designation F-101A the Voodoo was ordered into production for Strategic Air Command as a long range escort fighter.

The first F-101A was flown from the Corporation's plant to Edwards Air Force Base, California, in two Globemasters. unassembled. At Edwards it was reassembled for the big test. Bob Little, McDonnell's chief test pilot, flew it out of Edwards for the first time on September 29th, 1954, and exceeded Mach unity on the first flight.

The Voodoo is, in the words of many a pilot, " some bird ! " Its two 11,700 lb.s.t. (14,500 lb. with afterburning) turbojets make it the most powerful single-seat fighter in service in the world.



And it is also the heaviest (it has been flown at a gross weight of 49,000 lb.), being about three times as heavy as a normally-loaded Meteor. Its wings are, however, disproportionately small—a span of only 39 ft. 8 in. and a gross wing area of under 400 square feet It is the only supersonic aircraft to have been exposed in flight to an H-bomb blast (Bikini,, May, 1956). There it proved its capability to withstand blast and radiation effects.

Voodoo production suffered in 1957 with yet another change in USAF requirements. Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses began replacing the elderly Convair B-36s and the need for fighter escort dwindled.

Accordingly, the F-101 A entered service with the Tactical Air Command as a multi-purpose aircraft, the fighter-bomber role being added to its repertoire, and, simultaneously, the RF-101A reconnaissance version was delivered to the same Command. New production was concentrated on the F-101B two-seat interceptor fighter for the Air Defence Command and the single-seat F-101 C for the Tactical Air Command, most of the original long range escort F-101As being converted for the reconnaissance-fighter role. The F-101 B was first flown on March 27, 1957, and its overall dimensions are identical to those of the F-101A, and the F-101C has a strengthened airframe for low-level ground attack duties. The RF-101A has been in service with TAC since May, 1957, and at Bentwaters it will replace the F-84F Thunderstreak as the mission aircraft of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing. Most of the unusually large fuel load from which the Voodoo draws its range of more than 2,500 miles is carried in the fuselage. Provision has also been made to carry fuel externally and, on short range missions, this capacity can be used to carry a deadly payload of ordinary bombs and rockets.



One thing will make the Voodoo outstanding in British skies this winter : its own particular "signature tune." When the afterburners for the J57 turbojets are cut in at altitude they produce a sound like an off-key sonic bang !

Larry Ruddock.- Flying Review November 1958