|F4D Skyray patent image|
The F4D Skyray was another result of US aviation firms acquiring advanced aeronautics data from Germany post World War II. Specifically, Douglas investigated the tailless delta studies of Alexander Lippisch, the designer of the Me-261 Komet rocket fighter. The resulting D-571, later given the USN designation F4D, was a jet design but otherwise had the same conceptual basis as the Komet, being a short-range point defense interceptor able to climb to height very quickly. The unorthodox delta wing was 'wet" - the internal fuel storage compensating (somewhat!) for the immense thirst of early jet engines.
The Skyray's planform was driven by the need to operate a high performance type that could still fit aboard the war-built Essex and Midway class carriers - at the time, the fortunes of the carrier force were at a low ebb, and construction of larger ships seemed increasingly unlikely.
Although the Skyray could indeed climb at a fantastic rate, it was not an overwhelming success. Three types of engines were fitted - the original J35s being suitable only for testing, while the J40 was a dismal failure. P&W's J57 with an afterburner was the ultimate fit. Range was short, and handling the "Ford" was tricky during both take offs and landings. Although first flown in 1951, F4Ds did not enter service until 1956, when far better aircraft such as the F8U and F4H were not far off. Armament consisted of two two or four 20mm cannon, unguided rockets, and early Sidewinder AAMs.
Like many early jet fighters, the F4D had a short operational life; some were still on hand in 1962 when they were redesignated as F-6s, but by that time the type was definitely on its last legs.
3-view profile, F4D-1. Flight 15 June 1956 p.773
"Tow Targets for Navy's Supersonic Jets" Three photos of F4D-1s of VF-101 equipped with Delmar target tow system, including once close-up ground shot of Skyray BuNo 134876. All Hands March 1958 p.9
"Refueling the F4D" VF-74 fits refueling probes to drop tanks. Naval Aviation News May 1961 p.25 One photo of an AD tanking a Skyray.
Photo: VU-5 at NAS North Island retires F-6. Naval Aviation News December 1964 p.3
Lloyd S. Jones U.S. Fighters: Army-Air Force 1925 to 1980s p.317-320 Includes two photos of VFA-3 F4D-1s, a 3-view drawing, and a photo of the prototype J40-powered Skyray.
Ray Bonds Classic Fighters: The Inside Story p44-47. Includes large photos of an VF-101 F4D launching from HMS Ark Royal and XF4D-1 BuNo 124587.
F4D-1 walk around photos
1/48 scale F4D kit as a VF-13 aircraft
In the fall of 1953, the USN ordered a pair of second-generation Skyrays, designated at the time as F4D-2s. The -2 was considerably evolved, featuring a longer fuselage with more fuel, and a thinner wing. The P&W J57 would power the prototypes, but the aircraft for compatibility with the much more powerful General Electric J79.
By the time the new aircraft first flew in April 1956, it had been redesignated as the F5D Skylancer. The Skylancer proved appreciably more powerful than the Skyray, able to achieve Mach 1.44.