Military Factory logo

Douglas F5D Skylancer

United States (1956)
Picture of Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft
Picture of Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft Picture of Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft
+ Images
This entry's gallery contains additional pictures. Click to View.

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.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 3/21/2018. 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.


Picture of the Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft
Picture of the Douglas F5D Skylancer Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft


A prototype F5D achieved first flight on April 21st, 1956 and its design proved sound with good handling characteristics. However, by this time the USN's interest in the Douglas fighter was waning for its attention had fallen on a competing submission from Chance-Vought - the models evolving to become the famous F8U "Crusader" fighter line. This move left the F5D with no requirement to fulfill, leading the USN to terminate its commitment to the F5D in March of 1957. Just four of the expected nine test aircraft were realized before the end. These aircraft were then passed on to NASA for various aeronautical experiments during the 1960s. The last flight of a Skylancer occurred in 1968.

As completed, the F5D design physically mimicked some of what made the earlier F4D Skyray an iconic 1950s-era American fighter. It featured a short, though pointed, nose cone with good downward visibility, triangular wing root-mounted intakes, swept-back wing mainplanes with rounded tips, and a single vertical tail fin. The aircraft exhibited an overall length of 16.4 meters with a wingspan of 10.2 meters and height of 4.5 meters. The undercarriage included three retractable, wheeled legs (two main and one nose). The single engine configuration was nestled within the airframe and exhausted through a large circular port under the tail fin.

While originally intended to carry a Westinghouse J40 turbojet engine, the aircraft was eventually revised to take on the more powerful Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8 turbojet engine (16,000 lbf with afterburner). It was further expected that production-quality aircraft would eventually graduate to use the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-14 engine with future consideration given to mounting the General Electric J79 engine. The PW J57-P-8 fitted offered a maximum speed of 990 mph (Mach 1.48) with a range out to 1,335 miles. Its service ceiling reached 57,500 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing 20,730 feet per minute.

Beyond a standard armament of 4 x 20mm internal cannons there was to be support for up to 72 x 2" (51mm) HVARs as well as provision for the carrying and launching of AIM-9 "Sidewinder" and AIM-7 "Sparrow" AAMs. The F5D would have carried four of the former or two of the latter.






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 Rating
Hi: 1000mph
Lo: 500mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (988mph).

    Graph average of 750 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Douglas F5D Skylancer'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 Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
4
4


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1956
Type: Fighter Prototype / Technology Demonstrator Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
Production: 4
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States
Historical 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 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 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
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Douglas F5D Skylancer model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
53.81 ft


Meters
16.4 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
33.50 ft


Meters
10.21 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
14.83 ft


Meters
4.52 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
17,450 lb


Kilograms
7,915 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
28,076 lb


Kilograms
12,735 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8 afterburning turbojet engine developing 16,000 lb of thrust.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
988 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
1,590 kph


Knots
859 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,336 mi


Kilometers
2,150 km


Nautical Miles
1,161 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
57,415 ft


Meters
17,500 m


Miles
10.87 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
20,730 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
6,319 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of a medium-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Armament - Hardpoints (4):

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.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• F5D "Skylancer" - Base Product Name; four prototypes completed.
• F5D-1 - Product designation
• F4D-2N - Initial product designation