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  • 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.

     Updated: 4/5/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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.

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    Douglas F5D Skylancer Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1956
    Type: Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
    Production Total: 4

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 53.81 feet (16.4 meters)
    Width: 33.50 feet (10.21 meters)
    Height: 14.83 feet (4.52 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 17,450 lb (7,915 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 28,076 lb (12,735 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8 afterburning turbojet engine developing 16,000 lb of thrust.

    Maximum Speed: 988 mph (1,590 kph; 859 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,336 miles (2,150 km)
    Service Ceiling: 57,415 feet (17,500 meters; 10.87 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 20,730 feet-per-minute (6,319 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    PROPOSED (standard):
    4 x 20mm internal cannons

    PROPOSED (optional):
    4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles OR 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missiles.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    F5D "Skylancer" - Base Product Name; four prototypes completed.

    F5D-1 - Product designation

    F4D-2N - Initial product designation