U.s. Naval Air Superiority: Delevelopment Of Shipborne Jet Fighters - 1943-1962

  • Manufacturer: Specialty Pr Pub & Wholesalers
As World War II came to a close, piston-powered fighter aircraft were at their zenith, and Navy fighters, such as the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought Corsair, dominated the skies over the Pacific. As these fighter designs reached their peak, a new propulsion technology was being developed that held great promise. When introduced, the first jet aircraft were underpowered, and in many ways inferior to propeller-driven aircraft of the time. Naval Air Superiority examines the Navy's internal struggle to adapt the jet engine to its style of warfare as well as the development and evolution of carrier-borne fighters and their airframes and engines, from the closing days of World War II through Vietnam.
For the first time, U.S. Naval Air Superiority profiles the turbulent design and development stage of the Navy's carrier-based jet fighter program. From the successful designs, such as the Fury, Banshee, Crusader, and Phantom II, to the also-rans, like the Fireball, Demon, Pirate, and Cutlass, the Navy's needs are measured against contractor and political demands and the limits of the evolving engine and aerodynamic technologies of the day.
This book includes engine cut-aways, aircraft comparison diagrams, and details the safety improvements made to aircraft carriers to enable higher speed and high-gross-weight jet operations.

Customer Reviews

Superior Book on Developing Superiority, March 22, 2008
By W. L. McRae

This is an excellent must read book for anyone interested in the Navy's jet fighter development from its start thru about 1960. The book is not about statistics as Mr. Thomason says. The book is describing an era and pretty much all that it encompassed for its subject. He goes into detail on how each program came about, how the contracts were awarded, the development of each type to service or cancellation. There is a tremendous amount of information that leads one to understanding of the times and how quickly things were developing. I would not consider the chapters dealing with armament and carrier development with the adoption of the British steam catapult, "canted" deck, and mirror landing system as side trips as each had a direct effect on carrier aircraft design.

There are only three chapters out of fifteen that deal with a specific aircraft and it's understandable that the planes are the F7U, F4D, and F3H as the sum up the problems of defining a mission and manufacturing that the Navy was encountering at the time. The Panthers, Banshees, Cougars, Furies, Tigers, and Crusaders are explained in detail too. One interesting nugget of information concerns the F7U Cutlass. The Cutlass was known for breaking its long nose strut in service and being a hard aircraft to land on a carrier. Mr. Thomason points out the last cruises the Cutlass went on didn't have the accident rate on landing that its reputation making first cruises did. This corresponded to being on carriers with an angled deck so a pilot had a clear deck in front of him and with no need to slam down on the deck to land. Besides its Westinghouse engines the plane was a victim of timing. The book is filled with uncommon information like that. The only things that I noticed that seemed missed were the J79 in connection with the F5D and the development of the Sidewinder 1C beam rider that helped the F8U-2NE play interceptor to replace the F3H on the Essex-class carriers. My impression based on the rest of the book is that it was most likely there but edited out to get the page count right.

This is an impressive book using some of the best resources on the subject such as George Spangenberg. The last naval aviation book that read where I thought the author really described the subject really well was Michael O'Connor's"Mig Killers of Yankee Station" this book is similarly as detailed in its subject. Mr. Thomason you've written the "A Number 1" book on Navy fighter development 1943-1962, thank you.

Navy Jets: The Good, The Not So Bad, The Sort of Ugly, May 30, 2008
By Michael L. Shakespeare

When ground forces in Iraq run into trouble, they have on-call air support -- Navy F18s in orbit -- ready to come into action. Although these fighters are based on aircraft carriers far out to sea, they are able to remain on patrol in Iraq all day by repeatedly refueling from aerial tankers.

In his new book, Tommy H. Thomason skillfully describes a time when the Navy struggled to find ways to keep its fuel-hungry jets in the air for minutes -- not hours. In those days, an aircraft's endurance was key to naval air operations. Early carrier operations depended on carefully cycling thirsty aircraft on and off the ship.

"U.S. Naval Air Superiority: Development of Shipboard Jet Fighters 1943-1962" is a comprehensively researched volume is stuffed with engrossing photographs, first-rate 3D Drawings, and very helpful charts and tables.

The author has meticulously gathered information on Navy aircraft starting with the modest McDonnell FH Phantom I, through the all-world McDonnell F4U Phantom II.

I found Mr. Thomason's coverage of several lesser-known designs to be very interesting.

Very early in the Korean War, Grumman touted its bulbous Grumman XF10F Jaguar to be the Navy's first general purpose fighter. Based on a Nazi inspired variable sweep wing design, its poorly designed control system made it dangerously unpredictable in flight tests. After lengthly delays and substantial modifications, its overall performance was mixed -- the complicated Jaguar was just too heavy. Grumman's overambitious XF10F proved so troublesome only one test pilot ever agreed to fly it.

Consider the FJ-1 Fury, which was an updated version of the famous U.S. Air Force F-86 fighter that adapted surprisingly well to the aircraft carrier -- it was loved by its Marine pilots.

What Navy fighter had great success against the Migs in Korea? The harmless-looking 2-man F3D Skyknight night fighter bagged 7 Migs against only one loss.

His book comprises 15 chapters arranged in chronological order. The Navy jets have been marshaled into chapters chronicling first designs, second-generation jets, Korean War fighters, supersonic jets, and mach 2 fighters.

The author has dedicated a full chapter each to the innovative Vought F7U Cutlass -- the "Ensign Eliminator"; the well-mannered Douglas F4D Skyray -- a very fast climbing, radar equipped all-weather fighter; and the standard setting McDonnell F3H Demon -- the only all-weather, radar-missile-armed fighter in the fleet before the F4 Phantom II.

The Navy had three jets operational in the Korean War. The F2H-2 Banshee, F9F-2 Panther, and F3D-2 Skyknight. Most of the Navy missions were flak suppression and cutting communist supply lines. Air battles were rare because Migs did not often go into the areas of Navy jet operations.

Due to problems with Westinghouse jet engines the Navy could not deploy swept wing jet fighters that were more of a match for Mig-15s. The Korean War proved that refinements to Navy carriers were needed including better catapult systems, lighting, navigation and instrument approach aids for night and all-weather landing operations.

In analysis, Mr. Thomason reveals that carrier based aircraft by nature have more difficult design requirements than land based aircraft. He suggests that this contributed to lower speed and range performance in early Navy aircraft.

In retrospect, Mr. Thomason, also the author of Strike from the Sea: U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft from Skyraider to Super Hornet, 1948-present, explains, "The Navy's approach to creating a world-class fighter was straightforward. It simply funded successive aircraft programs with five different manufacturers until experience and competition generated one." The Navy did not give up on its traditional suppliers even after successive failures.

In many cases, Navy fighters suffered most from inadequate power. Mr. Thomason argues, "As engine companies were challenged to produce more thrust with less fuel and at a lower weight, engine durability and reliability occasionally suffered."

Looking back on this period, the author explains, "As it turned out, straight-wing jets were relatively easy to operate from aircraft carriers with minimal changes to the carrier itself. Swept wing aircraft took considerably longer to put into service, partly because the Navy was too ambitious with the mission requirements in the late 1940s and partly because Westinghouse could not repeat its early engine success."

Ironically, the Navy fighter's highest priority of defending the fleet from attacks by supersonic bombers was never put to the test.

Looks like the first in a series of great aviation history books, February 22, 2008
By Gregory K. Myers "bigiron383"

This book is certainly much more than I expected. I would have been happy with a few color photos covering the jets of the fifties and sixties. .Looking through some of the many photos I did discover a few from other older books in my library, but they were few and far between and didn't distract from the work. The interesting thing about the book is the many different chapters the book goes over. It's not just chapter after chapter following one plane after another, but takes side trips to the whys and wherefores of some of the development and needs of the navy. One chapter covers the changing development of the carriers for example. I was disappointed to find no chapter covering the Grumman Cougar / Panthers. They were talked about in many of the other areas however. At any rate a beautiful work all the way up to the Phantom II. This isn't something you'll read through to fast. The ten by ten format is also nice.

Great Addition to an Aviation Collection, September 11, 2008
By F. Stop Fitzgerald "f/stop"

This book is a worthwhile investment not only of your money but also your time in reading it. This book isn't exactly for the novice reader of naval air material. It presupposes that you bring something to the table in terms of basic knowledge and perhaps some aerodynamics. But that shouldn't preclude an absolute beginner from picking up this book. Just looking at the photos (which are excellent) and reading the captions will provide a decent grounding in naval air for the period covered. If that novice should delve into the text, so much the better for there is a wealth of detail that true aeroaficionados will love. The only disappointing aspect of this book is its illustrations (not the photographs). The drawings of aircraft profiles are amateurist, misleading, and definitely not in keeping with the tenor of this book, which is high-class and informative. But that pales in comparison to what is otherwise available between the covers. You will enjoy this book.

Excellent, absolutely Excellent, January 9, 2009
By William A. Hensler

Happiness is getting this book for your anniversary. Honestly, I loved this book. It gives you your money's worth. Example, this book not only gives you a run down on every major jet fighter produced from 1943 until 1962, but it gives additional information on carriers, landing development, and weapons systems.

I was pleased with how the book starts with the F1H Phamtom's story and concludes it with the development of the F4H Phantom II (F4B). Also, this book gave an honest history of the much maligned F3N-3 Demon. The J-71 was not a great engine. Indeed, it would have been interesting to see how the F3 Demon would have developed had it been given the much more dependable J-57. But after the Wright engine fiasco the McDonnell engineers came up with a very good all weather fighter. Indeed, the book says that the F3 Demon went on over 57 deployments with the Navy and gave good service from 1957 until 1962. That is over five years of service and many hundreds of flights from a carrier. Indeed, when a person looks at the F3N it's fairly clear that in the modern USN the aircraft would have been given a new engine (the J-57) and an avionics upgrade. The F3N could have served as long as the F4N. But the point is the F4N was a jet in a class by itself and the only reason it was phased from service in the mid-1990s was because of cold war draw downs. That is amazing for a design started in mid-1950s.

I liked all of the chapters of the book. What was weird is reading how Grumman really blew it with the F10F Jaguar. That jet and the Westinghouse engine debacle nearly killed the company. Grumman first get design, the F9F Panther, was not as good as the better McDonnell F2N Banshee. Indeed, the book gives a proposed swept wing F2N-5 design that McDonnell proposes but by that time they were far along on the design on the F3N Demon, an advanced design by any standard. The F9F is a tubby design and is a full 60 miles per hour slower than the F2N. Grumman comes out with the modified F9F-6/8 by the mid-1950s. McDonnell is getting the may kinks out of the Demon but the fact is McDonnell is one generation ahead of Grumman at this point. Then in the late 1950s Grumman produces the F11F, a good fighter but not as good as the F8U Crusader. And by this point it's hopeless because the F11F is in a design fly off against the McDonnell F4N and that jet is in a class by itself. Then the author runs quotes of a Grumman engineer bad mouthing the F2 Fury saying it's not as good on station as the Cougar. Well, the Furys were holding the line against a MiG threat when Grumman was trying to get the lead out of their designs.

Vought had as many problems with their designs as the rest. They made the mild failure, the F6U Pirate, a get with half the thrust of the F2N. Then Vought made the dreadful F7U Cutlass, perhaps one of the worst operational jets in the USN. Vought did a great job with the F8U Crusader, one of the best "gunfighter" jets ever made by any nation.

All in all I found this book from Amazon to be quite enjoyable. I got my money's worth. Now, I have one quibble with the book: there was no break down on jet engines nor much information. That was not a big deal for me because I used to work on F-4C, F-4E, F-100, and the F-105 aircraft. So, I know the engines (J-79, J-57, and J-75 respectively). But if you're an aircraft buff that means you'll be scratching your head on keeping all the engines correct. There is one saying in this book that's true, "You can fly a Pratt & Whitney farther than you can ship an Allison". That goes for Westinghouse.

This book is great and I now remember why I used to love aircraft when a kid.

Outstanding overview of early jet development, June 6, 2008
By James Atkins

This book is an outstanding look at the most fertile period in aviation, the transition to jets, specifically the creation of high performance aircraft that could accomplish the most difficult feat in flying- carrier operations. Thomason reviews the misfires as well as the world-beaters, from the little-known Vought Pirate to the masterful McDonnell Phantom. Well written, concise and authoritative. Highly recommended!

Invaluable Reference, October 20, 2008
By Paul F. Austin

An outstanding review of post-WWII US Navy fighters. This is a fairly technical book, discussing not just the history of the aircraft but also giving a good view of US jet engine development during the forties and fifties, aircraft systems and an interesting take of how successful each type was based on numbers of squadrons and number of deployments made.

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