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.