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F4D Skyray

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F4D Skyray
F4D-1 Skyray
Type Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Maiden flight 1951-01-23
Introduced 1956
Retired 1964
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corp
Number built 491
Variants F5D Skylancer

The Douglas F4D Skyray (later redesignated F-6 Skyray) was a carrier-based fighter built by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Although it was in service for a very short time and never entered combat, it was notable for being the first carrier-launched plane to hold the world's absolute speed record and was the first Navy fighter capable of exceeding Mach 1 in level flight. It was also distinguished in being used by the only Navy Squadron (VFAW-3) assigned to the North American Air Defense Command. VFAW-3 was permanently based at NAS North Island, San Diego. Its unique and notable looks also played a part in making the Skyray one of the best-remembered early jet fighters. Affectionately known as the "Ford" (after the 'Four' and 'D' of its designation), this aircraft had a spectacular rate and angle of climb and set a new time to altitude record. It saw the Skyray fly from a complete stop to 50,000 feet in 2 minutes and 36.05 seconds, all while flying at a 70 degree pitch angle.

Later designated F-6 in the unified designation system, the Skyray was a wide delta wing design with long, sharply swept, rounded wings. The thick wing roots contained the air intakes feeding a single turbojet. Fuel was contained both in the wings and the deep fuselage. Leading-edge slats were fitted for increased lift during takeoff and landing, while the trailing edges were mostly elevon control surfaces. Additional pitch trimmers were fitted inboard near the jet exhaust, and were locked upward on takeoff and landing.

The Westinghouse J40 turbojet was the intended power plant, but Douglas fortunately took a conservative view and gave options for other powerplants. The J40 proved troublesome and was eventually cancelled, and the Skyray was fitted instead with the Pratt & Whitney J57, a more powerful but larger engine.

Production aircraft were not delivered until early 1956, while the U.S. Marine Corps received their first in 1957. In total, 419 F4D-1 aircraft were produced.

The Skyray was designed exclusively for the high-altitude interception role and was unsuited to the multi-mission capabilities soon in demand, so it had a short life in Navy and Marine Corps service, the last planes being withdrawn from service in 1964. A single aircraft was used by NACA (soon to be NASA) until 1969.

A derived successor, the F5D Skylancer, was designed and prototypes were built, but it was cancelled as too similar in mission parameters to the Vought F8U Crusader and also to reduce dependence upon Douglas Aircraft, which was also producing several other aircraft for the U. S. Navy.


  • XF4D-1 : Prototype.
  • F4D-1 : Single-seat fighter aircraft.


With the new joint services designations the Navy/Marine designations were replaced (which included a manufacture letter code), the F4D was redesignated as the F-6A. The lower numbers were due to the fighter series being reset back to F-1 (after having gone up to F-111) under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system.

Possible confusion: The F4D (old designation) should not be confused with the F-4D (new designation) - the latter being the "D" variant of the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II.

Specifications (F4D-1)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 33 ft 6 in (10.21 m)
  • Wingspan: 45 ft 3 in (13.8 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 0 in (10.2 m)
  • Wing area: 557 ft² (52 m²)
  • Empty weight: 16,024 lb (7,268 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 22,648 lb (10,273 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 27,116 lb (12,300 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8, -8A or -8B turbojet
    • Dry thrust: 10,200 lbf (45 kN)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 16,000 lbf (71 kN)



  • Guns: 4× 20 mm (0.787 in) Mk 12-0 cannons in wing roots, 65 rounds/gun
  • Rockets:
    • 6 pods of 7× 2.75 in (70 mm) unguided rockets or
    • 4 pods of 19× 2.75 (70 mm) unguided rockets
  • Missiles:AAM-N-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
  • Bombs: 2× 2,000 lb (910 kg) bombs


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Designation sequence

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See also

de:Douglas F4D it:Douglas F4D Skyray ja:F4D (戦闘機) no:Douglas F4D Skyray pl:Douglas F4D Skyray