Douglas’ first jet fighter design, the F4D was another result of US postwar acquisition of German aeronautical data, in this case Alexander Lippisch’s work on delta wing aircraft.
As both the F4D airframe and the J40 engine were new, and in recognition of the risks involved, the first two examples were initially fitted with Allison J35s, with the first flight taking place in January 1951. It would be over a year before a J40-powered Skyray would fly, and even then it would be without an afterburner at first. Thus powered, the second Skyray achieved a world speed record of 752 mph in October 1953, but the J40 program would be still end up being a major failure, the engine proving unreliable and unable to achieve a thrust rating even close to requirements. Fortunately, the F4D airframe had not been closely tailored to the J40, and fitting Pratt & Whitney J57s to production F4D-1s was possible.
The F4D lasted in service past 1962, when the consolidation of Air Force and Navy designations led to the type becoming the F-6A, but the type was very much on its last legs by that time, with far more powerful and versatile aircraft entering service.
“Douglas Skyray Viewed Close Up” Aviation Week October 26, 1953 p.18 The XF4D-1 prototype.
“700-mph Skyray Tests Its Sea Wings” Aviation Week November 30, 1953 p.9 Trials aboard Coral Sea.
“F4D Makes Carrier Evaluation Tests” NATC Skyray evaluations from USS Coral Sea. Naval Aviation News February 1954 p.11
“Navy batwinged interceptor gives carriers a supersonic punch” INCO/International Nickel ad, featuring an artist’s depiction of the F4D. Aviation Week June 6, 1955 p.126
“Skyray Meets the Marines” Naval Aviation News January 1957 p.30 Three photos – covers the conversion of VMF-115 to F4Ds.
“VMF(AW)-115 and Skyray – Records Made at MCAAS Mojave” Naval Aviation News March 1957 p.25
“VF-74 Qualifies in F4D’s” Naval Aviation News May 1957 p.30
Photos (3): “Skyray Gets Catapult Trial” Aviation Week April 9, 1959 p.39
Jordan Ross “Navy Skyray” Scale Modeler April 1973 Building the 1/72 Hawk F4D kit as a VMF-318 aircraft.
Trevor Pask “Fast Flying Ford” Scale Aviation Modeller International April 2007 Building the 1/72 Tamiya F4D.
F4D-1 cutaway diagram Air International October 1982 p.180-181
American Military Aircraft: A History of Innovation editor Jim Winchester p.149: color profile of a VF-162 F4D
Robert D. Archer Edwards Air Force Base: Open House at the USAF Flight Test Center 1957-1966 p.84: XF4D-1 with a closeup of a CJ805 engine mockup that was fitted for test work.
Boneyard Almanac: 20th Century Picture Book by Del Laughery p.41: photo of F-6A BuNo 134748
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