THE MCDONNELL F-101B (CF-101) Voodoo was a supersonic, all-weather interceptor employed by the Royal Canadian Air Force starting in 1961. In its day, the Voodoo could zoom higher, faster and further and intercept an enemy sooner than any other aircraft. It also had more “kill” potential than any of its contemporaries.
The Voodoo’s primary armament was nuclear AIR-2A Genie unguided air-to-air rockets, and there was significant political controversy in Canada about their adoption. Although they never fired a weapon in anger, the CF-101s served as Canada’s primary air defence means throughout their service life from Quick Reaction Alert facilities at Canadian airbases.
The Voodoo began life as a single-seat fighter for the United States Air Force (USAF). This version first flew on September 29, 1954. Subsequently, it was modified for use as a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft; some of the first combat sorties flown in Vietnam by the USAF were Voodoo reconnaissance missions. In addition, it is little known that it was the Voodoo that first discovered the presence of Soviet Union nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962.
However, the most successful version of the Voodoo was the two-seat F-101B all-weather interceptor, which first flew on March 27, 1957. By August 1960, the F-101B had replaced several older subsonic interceptors and the less-capable F-102 and F-104, which were being flown by 17 Air Defence Command Squadrons in the U.S.
The Voodoo was an enormous aircraft for a fighter, measuring 71 feet long, 18 feet high, and 40 feet from wing tip to wing tip. It weighed 52,400 lb with full armament and two external fuel tanks. A large amount of fuel allowed the aircraft to fly over 1,500 miles non-stop. With its afterburners, it developed 30,000 lb of thrust. It held the early 1960s’ transcontinental speed record of three hours, five minutes, and the world’s speed record of 1,207 mph.
As for speed, the Voodoo gave an impressive performance. Officially, it took two minutes to go from brake release to 35,000 feet; however, the Voodoo could reach that altitude in 92 seconds on a cold day! The aircraft was big, fast, and noisy, especially when the afterburners lit with their characteristic “boom, boom.”
From 1961 to 1984, the Voodoo’s primary mission was protecting the sovereignty of Canada’s airspace. To that end, each Voodoo squadron had two aircraft on quick reaction alert–24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 23 years without interruption.