The F-101 Voodoo

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 like the B-52 entered active service, escort fighters were not needed. Therefore, before production began, the F-101’s design was changed to fill both tactical and air defense roles.

The F-101 made its first flight on Sep. 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-reconnaissance aircraft.

F-101 Voodoo used to keep the F-117 Nighthawk secret

Noteworthy, the F-101 was also used to keep the F-117 Nighthawk secret. Here’s how.

“Four ‘retired’ F-117 Stealth Fighters were secretly deployed to the Middle East and conducted air strikes in Syria and Iraq in 2017,” Scramble Magazine Says

On Jul. 11, 1986 35-year-old Maj. Ross E. Mulhare, assigned to the 4450th Tactical Group, took off from Tonopah Test Range in Nevada and flew his F-117 into California airspace on what would prove to be his last flight. Mulhare, a 1974 graduate of the Air Force Academy, told his friends and members of his family in New Jersey that he flew F-5E fighter airplanes in mock combat missions against pilots from Tactical Air Command.

Air & Space Forces Magazine reports:

‘Shortly before his flight, Mulhare was overheard telling a colleague that he was tired and “couldn’t shake it.” Despite his physical condition, Mulhare took off at 1:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time–such late night flights were intended to prevent discovery of the airplane’s unique shape–and proceeded westbound into the eastern portion of the San Joaquin Valley. He flew down the eastern side of the valley toward Bakersfield.’

At about 1:45 a.m., at about 17 miles northeast of Bakersfield, Mulhare’s airplane went into a steep dive and smashed into a hillside just inside the Sequoia National Forest. Mulhare was killed.

That time USAF used the debris of a crashed F-101 Voodoo to replace those of a crashed F-117 to keep the Nighthawk Secret
McDonnell F-101C Voodoo 

The physical damage to the aircraft was such that one of the crash investigators described it as “without exception … the worst crash I have worked.” He went on to observe that while there was only light fire damage to the airframe, “the structural breakup was almost absolute” and that ” ‘shattered’ may best describe the aircraft after impact.” As a result, identification of special components was frequently impossible.

A 150-acre brush fire

According to Knowledge Stew, the crash caused a 150-acre brush fire.

The USAF was vague about the incident. Actually, the head of the service public affairs said the airplane had only one crew member and “was definitely not a bomber.” Air Force officials at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) acknowledged that Mulhare had not been a member of the base’s aggressor squadrons, which emulated Soviet air combat tactics in order to train USAF pilots. An Air Force spokesman also acknowledged that Mulhare was a member of the 4450th Tactical Group but said that all information about the unit was classified, and he could not discuss any of it.

The Kern County sheriff’s office, whose jurisdiction included Bakersfield, did relay some further information from the Air Force–telling reporters that the “whole area has been restricted, including the airspace above the crash site” and that “there will be military aircraft in the area and anyone entering the area will be dealt with appropriately by the Air Force.”

Air & Space Forces Magazine says:

F-117A print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-117A Nighthawk (Stealth) 49th OG, 8th FS “The Black Sheep Squadron”, HO/88-843, Holoman AFB, NM – 2008

‘At the crash site investigators collected evidence and evaluated the remains of the aircraft for clues to the cause of the tragedy. Then came the task of cleaning the site and leaving no pieces of the highly classified aircraft for scavengers, the media, or others to find. A clean-up team moved out a thousand feet from the last of the recognizable debris and then dug and sifted all the dirt in the area.

Debris of a crashed F-101 Voodoo to keep the F-117 Nighthawk Secret

‘On Jul. 23, controlled explosive charges were detonated on the hillside to free pieces of the aircraft buried as the result of the crash.’

Then, according to Knowledge Stew, the Air Force brought in a crashed F-101A Voodoo, an aircraft that had been out of service with the Air Force since 1972 and with the Air National Guard since 1982. The crashed Voodoo had been in storage at the secretive Area 51 in Nevada for more than 20 years, and it was broken up and put in place of the F-117 debris. Almost a month later, the Air Force said the area was no longer restricted.

The very next day, a reporter and photographer from Bakersfield’s KERO-TV were transported to the crash site by helicopter. They later said they didn’t expect to find anything because they assumed the Air Force had cleaned the area thoroughly. But to their great surprise, they found countless pieces of debris scattered within 100 to 150 feet of a dirt helicopter landing pad built by the Air Force. They filled three bags with the material, and it was displayed on the station’s Friday evening news broadcast. They then turned the bags over to an Air Force public affairs officer. An Edwards AFB spokesman said the debris would be examined as a precaution, but that there were no immediate plans to return to the crash site to recover more.

F-117 Model
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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and RuthAS Own work via Wikipedia