Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator
Originally developed as a jet fighter offshoot of the Douglas F4D Skyray, the F5D Skylancer grew into its own program for the United States Navy.
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Developed to fulfill a United States Navy (USN) requirement for a carrier-based supersonic fighter, the Douglas F5D "Skylancer" became just four prototypes which ended their days as military test platforms for NASA. Like the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Cold War years, the USN also conducted a series of programs all its own related to jet-powered fighter and bomber aircraft. Many test aircraft paved the way before the first supersonic aircraft of the USN - the Grumman F11F "Tiger" - was formally adopted as a frontline solution on American carriers.
The initial requirement of 1952 called for an agile fighter capable of Mach 1.2 speeds with afterburning powerplants. Armament would center around a battery of internal cannons as standard with support for aerial rockets and provision for early-generation American Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs). As a fleet defense fighter, rate-of-climb became an important quality for intercepting incoming aerial threats - this led to the agreed upon rate-of-climb of 25,000 feet per minute. Submissions were delivered from such prominent American defense industry players as Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, McDonnell, North American, and Northrop.
Famous American aviation engineer Ed Heinemann designed the F4D "Skyray" for Douglas Aircraft Company and this aircraft first flew in January of 1951 before being adopted by the USN in 1956. It was this general form that was selected for an all-weather guise as the "F4D-2N" to be outfitted with one Westinghouse J40 turbojet engine. The USN saw enough of this proposal to further it into 1953. Douglas engineers largely retained the same form of the Skyray but nonetheless revised it through a thinner, longer fuselage and slimmer, stronger wings. Aerodynamic refinements were applied where possible - a rare opportunity for engineers to right some of the wrongs of their original approach. The design evolved enough to warrant its own designation of "F5D" with the name "Skylancer" eventually following. The USN commissioned for nine test aircraft which was to lead a 51-strong production order of the new fighter pending evaluations.