FH Phantom

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The McDonnell FH Phantom was a twin-engined jet 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[1][N 1] and the first jet deployed by the United States Marine Corps. Although its front-line service was relatively brief, it helped prove the viability of carrier-based jet fighters to the leadership of the Navy. Furthermore, it was McDonnell's first successful fighter, leading to the development of the follow-on F2H Banshee, one of the two most important naval jet fighters of the Korean War.

The FH Phantom was originally designated as the FD Phantom, but the designation was changed as the aircraft entered production.


Design and development

In early 1943, aviation officials at the US 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 the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Three prototypes were ordered on 30 August 1943 and the designation XFD-1 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.[2]

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, and the engines were angled slightly outwards to protect the fuselage from the hot exhaust blast. Placement of the engines in the middle of the airframe allowed the cockpit with its bubble-style canopy to be placed ahead of the wing, granting the pilot excellent visibility in all directions. This engine location also freed up space under the nose, allowing designers to use tricycle gear, thereby elevating the engine exhaust path and reducing the risk that the hot blast would damage the aircraft carrier deck. Unlike the somewhat unconventional XP-67, the construction methods and aerodynamic design of the Phantom were fairly conventional for the time; the plane had unswept wings, a conventional empennage, and an aluminum monocoque structure with flush riveted aluminum skin. Folding wings were used to reduce the width of the aircraft in storage configuration. Provisions for four .50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns were made in the nose, while racks for eight 5 in (127 mm) high-explosive unguided air-to-ground rockets could be fitted under the wings. Adapting a jet to carrier use was a much greater challenge than producing a land based fighter because of slower landing and takeoff speeds required on a small carrier deck. The Phantom used split flaps on both the folding and fixed wing sections to enhance low-speed landing performance, but no other high-lift devices were used. Provisions were also made for Rocket Assisted Take Off (RATO) bottles to improve takeoff performance.

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