F-101B “Voodoo” Fighter Interceptor
Developed from the XF-88 penetration fighter, the F-101 originally was designed as a long-range bomber escort for the Strategic Air Command. However, when high-speed, high-altitude jet bombers such as the B-52 entered active service, escort fighters were not needed. Before production began, the F-101 design was changed to fill both tactical and air defense roles.
The F-101 made its first flight on Sept. 29, 1954. The first production F-101A became operational in May 1957, followed by the F-101C in September 1957 and the F-101B in January 1959. By the time F-101 production ended in March 1961, McDonnell had built 785 Voodoos including 480 F-101Bs, the two-seat, all-weather interceptor used by the Air Defense Command. In the reconnaissance versions, the Voodoo was the world’s first supersonic photo-recon aircraft. RF-101s were used widely for low-altitude photo coverage of missile sites during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and during the late 1960s in Southeast Asia. Attack fighter, interceptor and reconnaissance versions served with the U.S. Strategic Air Defense and Tactical Air Commands and in Canada. The multimission F-101 Voodoo was used by all three U.S. Air Force Commands — Strategic, Tactical, and Air Defense.
In Operation Firewall on Dec. 12, 1957, an F-101A fighter-bomber set a world speed record of 1,207 mph. In Operation Sun Run in 1957, an RF-101 raced from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles in a record time of 6 hours, 46 minutes.
The last Voodoo retired in 1986.
F-101B’s were completed with modified fire control systems and with provisions for carrying a pair of Douglas MB-1 Genie unguided 800 lb. nuclear-armed rockets on the rotary weapons bay in place of the two Falcon missiles. Starting in 1961, many earlier F-101Bs were upgraded to this standard under *Project Kitty Car*. The MG-13 fire control system was capable of hands-off Genie launches, including the automatic launch of the rocket, turning the aircraft into the escape maneuver, and detonating the nuclear warhead at the appropriate time.
Jack, WMØG – Seated in REO (rear cockpit) of F-101B #57-301 in the 322nd FIS Alert Barn at Kingsley Field AFB, Klamath Falls, OR
Since the Genies were bigger and created more drag, and also because they were more classified, they were normally carried internally until they were ready to be fired. Then the door would rotate and the rocket was fired.
Between 1963 and 1966, many F-101Bs were fitted with an infrared sensor in front of the pilot’s cockpit in place of the retractable refueling probe. Other modifications were made to the control system as part of the Interceptor Improvement Program (also known as Project Bold Journey). Most of the F-101B’s were fitted between 1964 and 1968 with a modified pitch control system for the automatic pilot in an attempt to address the “pitch-up” problem that had plagued the Voodoo throughout its service life. Included in the upgrades was an enhancement of the resistance of F-101B airframes to electromagnetic pulses, and an improved MG-13 fire control system was installed for use against low-flying targets.
Once a year the 322nd Fighter Squadron would qualify to represent the 25th NORAD Sector at the prestigious “William Tell Weapons Meet” at Tyndall AFB, Florida. This was the ‘Top Gun’ shoot off for the USAF Air Defense Command Fighters. Only the best fighter squadrons in the USA compete here. We were fortunate to qualify in 1962 and 1963 and placed high both years. Click this link here for old video of the 1965 “William Tell” competition of F-101B’s versus the F-102, F-104 and F-106 squadrons.
Our aircraft #57-301 was converted during the Vietnam War to become an RF-101B which was the designation for the RECON version of this fighter-bomber. This RF-101B flew some of the fastest RECON missions of the war. Top airspeed was in excess of 1150 mph and typically cruised about 800 mph. Only the SR-71 Blackbird was faster! Here is a picture of our converted RF-101B #57-301 on the tarmac in Vietnam.
Earlier, back in October of 1962, some of our F-101B’s were sent to Florida along with, what seemed at the time, almost every able aircraft in the USAF to lend support during the Cuban Missile Crisis. F-101B’s flew many RECON missions over Cuba at low altitudes and at very high speeds taking photographs of the Russian ships and missile installations around the island. Here is a photo from one of those missions in early November of 1962. This was just a few days after one of the Russian-manned Cuban SA-2 missile batteries had shot down an American U-2 Spy Plane over Cuba. Notice in the forefront of this photo the shadow of an F-101B as it snapped this photo at Port Casilda of a Russian freighter with missile transporters on board. The crisis was averted but this was a very dangerous time for the world. We were on DEFCON 2 alert on October 22nd and there were enough nukes on both sides to blow us all to oblivion. DEFCON 2 was the highest alert level the U.S. has ever been at.
The Outstanding Unit Award is awarded any unit of the U.S. Air Force which performs exceptionally meritorious service, accomplishes specific acts of outstanding achievement, excels in combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or conducts with distinct military operations involving conflict with, or exposure to, a hostile action by any opposing foreign force. This was awarded to our squadron in 1963.
The Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), originally called the Distinguished Unit Citation, is awarded to units of the United States Armed Forces and those of allied countries, for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy on or after 7 December 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign. Awarded in 1963.
Other missions our F-101B’s routinely carried out was escorting Russian Tupelov TU95 ‘Bear’ Bombers off the coast of Vietnam. Some of these Russian aircrews were ‘regulars’ and waving to each other was common while we ‘listened’ to their electronics and ‘exercised’ their jamming equipment for our intelligence gathering equipment. These Russian bombers were very impressive up close and in person. These huge turboprop bombers were very fast for their size with extremely long range capabilities and could carry a number of 50 megaton nukes.
Primary function: fighter, reconnaissance
Span: 39 feet 8 inches
Length: 71 feet 1 inches
Height: 18 feet
Weight: 52,400 pounds max.
Armament: Two AIR-2A rockets plus two AIM-4 guided missiles
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55s of 16,900 pounds thrust each (with afterburner)
Maximum speed: 1,095 mph +
Cruising speed: 545 mph +
Range: 1,754 miles +
Service ceiling: 52,100 feet +