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Douglas XFD

Combat Fighter Prototype Aircraft


The Douglas XFD-1 represented the first foray by the Douglas Aircraft Company into the world of military fighters - it failed to impress.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas XFD Combat Fighter Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/28/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Today the famous Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC) name is buried under its parent label Boeing as part of McDonnell Douglas. DAC went defunt in 1967 under a merger with the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation but, before this, the company was responsible for a myriad of designs spanning a multitude of aircraft types attempting to fulfill various requirements of the United States military. The company was associated with such designs as classic A-4 Skyhawk, A-26 Invader, C-54 Skymaster, the Skystreak/Skyrocket experimental programs, the various DC passenger/cargo haulers, and the SBD Dauntless to name a few. Prior to the company's many contributions to the field of aviation was its first attempt at a military fighter in the short-lived, ultimately cancelled "XFD".

The XFD was a product of the inter period bridging the two World Wars. It was developed for the United States Navy (USN) service as a carrierborne fighter utilizing a conventional fixed-undercarriage, biplane winged configuration. The crew of two sat (in tandem) under a long-running greenhouse-style canopy over midships with the wing members fitted forward. The engine was set in the nose in the usual way and drove a basic two-bladed propeller unit. With the fixed main legs under the forward mass of the aircraft, a single tail wheel brought up the rear giving the aircraft a nose-up attitude when at rest thanks to its "tail dragger" form. Construction of the aircraft involved metal with fabric used for skinning.

Douglas proposed its XFD with an armament array of 2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns of which one would be fixed, forward-firing and controlled by the pilot and the other would be managed by the second, rear-facing, crewmember in the aft-cockpit (the gun seated on a trainable mounting). Beyond this, the aircraft was rated with a bomb load of up to 500lb, the stores to be carried externally.

To power their new development, Douglas engineers selected the Pratt & Whitney R-1535-64 "Twin Wasp Junior" 14-cylinder, air-cooled radial piston engine of 700 horsepower. This would be used to drive the two-bladed propeller unit at the nose and air-cooled units were heavily favored by the USN service for their inherent power and survivability features.

The aircraft was arranged to satisfy USN Specification No.113 calling for a twin-seat fighter capable of operating from the service's existing stock of flat-tops. Three designs were ordered for further development by the USN, these becoming the Curtiss XF12C, the Vought XF3U and, of course, the proposed Douglas XFD.

Douglas flew the XFD-1 prototype for the first time during January of 1933 and, in June of that year, the aircraft was handed over to Naval Air Station Anacostia for formal tests. Testing lasted into the middle-late part of 1934. By this time, authorities of the USN were no longer looking for two-man fighters and gave up interest in the XFD and its competitor from Vought. This resulted in the end of the XFD program in full while the Curtiss XF12C evolved to become the SBC "Helldiver" scout bomber and 257 of the type were produced, the line operating into 1943.

As flown, the XFD managed a maximum speed of 204 miles per hour and cruised at 170mph. Range was out to 575 miles while its service ceiling reached 23,700 feet. Rate-of-climb was a useful 1,670 feet-per-minute.

The XFD marked one of the final interwar attempts at bringing a twin-seat carrierborne fighter for the USN into existence.


YEAR: 1933
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
LENGTH: 25.33 ft (7.72 m)
WIDTH: 31.50 ft (9.6 m)
HEIGHT: 25.33 ft (7.72 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 3,230 lb (1,465 kg)
MTOW: 5,004 lb (2,270 kg)
POWER: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1535-64 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 700 horsepower driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
SPEED: 205 mph (330 kph; 178 kts)
CEILING: 23,622 feet (7,200 m; 4.47 miles)
RANGE: 578 miles (930 km; 502 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,670 ft/min (509 m/min)
OPERATORS: Untied States (cancelled)

1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun in fixed, forward-firing mounting at the engine cowling.
1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun on flexible mounting in rear cockpit.

Up to 500lb of conventional drop bombs mounted externally.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants / Models

• XFD - Base Series Name.
• XFD-1 - Single, flyable prototype example.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (205mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Douglas XFD-1's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (1)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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