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The Douglas F4D Skyray fighter – The Navy’s Speedy Ford

The Douglas F4D Skyray fighter – The Navy’s Speedy Ford

The first United States Navy and United States Marine Corps fighter that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight, the Douglas F4D Skyray was an American carrier-based fighter/interceptor. Although it was in service for a relatively short time and never entered combat, it was the first carrier-launched aircraft to hold the world’s absolute speed record, at 752.943 mph. Designed to meet the Navy requirement (issued in 1947), for a fighter aircraft that could intercept and destroy an enemy aXF4D-1_124586_CVA-43ircraft at an altitude of 50,000 ft. within five minutes of the alarm being sounded.

The original J40 turbojet engine proved troublesome and was eventually replaced by the Pratt & Whitney J57, a more powerful but larger engine. Production aircraft were not delivered until early 1956, and the US Marine Corps received their first aircraft in 1957.

 

In total, 419 F4D-1 (later designated F-6) aircraft were produced. Its unique design also played a part in making the Skyray one of the best-known early jet fighters. It was affectionately known as the “Ford”.

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(Above) The test pilot,  LCDR James B. Verdun USN, straps into the cockpit of the Skyray during carrier evaluation flights aboard the USS Coral Sea. October 29, 1953.

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One of several catapult launches off the USS Coral Sea aircraft carrier. October 29, 1953.

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One of the very first unclassified photos of the Skyray released to the public.

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(Above) The XF4D-1 during a test flight over El Segundo, CA. on June 1, 1951.

Updated: November 28, 2017 — 12:30 PM
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  1. To my mind the Skyray was one of the great aeronautical achievements of the the 50s. It exceeded a design requirement for climb and speed that was considered impossible at the time. It held the world absolute speed record even though it was a carrier aircraft with an airframe encumbered with the added weight of folding wings, robust landing gear and a tailhook. It was the Navy’s first truly high performance jet and paved the way for the next generation of Crusaders and Phantoms.

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