F4D Skyray

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.

Having been conceived of at the end of the pre-AAM era, the Skyray was armed with a quartet of 20mm Colt Mk. 12 cannon, although by the time it entered service missiles were available and four Sidewinders could be carried on wing pylons; other underwing armament options included 2.75" rocket pods. Although not utilized as a fighter-bomber, the F4D could carry a pair of 2,000lb bombs if needed.

In all, Douglas turned out some 419 F4D-1s before the line was shut down. Despite its blistering climb performance, the Skyray was entering service just as the need for a short range interceptor with visual range weapons was going away - faced with the threat of missile-armed Soviet bombers, the USN needed an aircraft that could range further out and attack threats with longer range missiles like the Sparrow. F4Ds hung on into the 1960s, being redesignated as F-6s in 1962, with VMF(AW)-115 finally retiring the type in early 1964, and even then the Naval Test Pilot School and NASA continued to fly the Skyray for several years after that.

F4D Bibliography: Boneyard Almanac: 20th Century Picture Book by Del Laughery p.41: photo of F-6A BuNo 134748 *

"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.

    • I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and other Amazon stores worldwide.