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Douglas F4D Skyray

Douglas F4D Skyray

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: January 14, 2020 — 3:29 PM

4 Comments

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  1. Interesting looking aircraft, the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray. What a pity it wasn’t around for longer. -Spud- from Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

    1. Yes, agreed! Looks like it should have been more successful!

  2. Interesting looking aircraft, the Douglas F4D-1 Skyray. What a pity that it wasn’t around for longer. -Spud- from Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

  3. Mag-11, 1stMAW flew combat patrols from September 1958 until approximately April 1959 from Ping Tung Air Base, Ping Tung, Taiwan during the 1958-59 Taiwan Straits crisis. Ping Tung had been a Japanese air base during WWII and while the runway was long enough for take-off using afterburners, it was too short for a hot jet to land. We used Morest gear, similar to the arresting gear used on board carriers to bring the hot jets to a halt before they ran off the runway into the rice paddies at the end of the strip.

    The F4D was used to impress civilian dignitaries with a performance take off. It could climb at almost 90° and disappeared into the sky at what was an amazing rate for those days.

    We lost one F4D while at PingTung. The pilot “didn’t realize he was in afterburner” and ran out of fuel. He ejected but his a/c crashed into the Port of Kaohsiung causing a significant amount of damage. Fortunately none of the armament he carried discharged or the damage would have been significantly more severe. There was no large fire because there wasn’t any fuel on board.

    The MAG-11 CO took an F4D out, shut off his engines where the hapless pilot ejected and landed at Ping Tung dead stick. I worked in the group legal office and I know from the shouts emanating from the CO’s office which was adjacent to ours that the CO who was famous for a short fuse was not pleased with the pilot’s lack of performance.

    Knowing what I know now, I wonder why he wasn’t court-martialed. But he wasn’t. However, the grapevine reported that his fitness report was less than stellar. The grapevine also reported that he was told he wouldn’t get within 100 feet of an a/c should he be so unlucky to ever serve in a unit that the CO was also in.

    Should anyone be interested, I would be happy to provide my personal observations of our stay on Taiwan beyond what I related above.

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