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Seaplane Fighter Prototype Aircraft [ 1953 ]

Only five of the CONVAIR F2Y Sea Dart prototypes were ever completed - no serial production followed.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/27/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The concept of a jet-powered "seaplane fighter" had long been on the minds of military aircraft engineers since the end of World War 2 (1939-1945) and many attempts were made to see this plan through. The process involved a jet- or rocket-powered fighter capable of take-off and landing on water all the while retaining fighter-like qualities once in the air. This, theoretically, could give a fighting force a distinct tactical advantage - the aircraft could be deployed anywhere in the world (over 70% of the planet is covered by water) and stationed there until needed - a much less expensive venture than a loitering aircraft carrier to be sure. Its power in getting to the skies quickly would allow it to intercept marauding enemy forces in short order.

The United States Navy (USN) was always interested in supersonic aircraft types, following the United States Air Force (USAF) lead after the Second World War. However supersonic types launched and recovered from aircraft carrier decks presented a whole slew of technical challenges - primarily due to the speeds at play. As such, it would be some time before the USN adopted viable supersonic fighters and, until then, subsonic types remained the order of the day.

Aircraft producer CONVAIR (1943-1996) approached the USN with an idea for a supersonic fighter based around the seaplane interceptor idea. The proposal was interesting enough that the USN ordered a pair of prototypes before the end of 1951 and a further twelve production-quality aircraft were already contracted for.

The resulting design came to be known as the F2Y "Sea Dart". It utilized some of the design qualities made memorable by CONVAIR's upcoming Mach 1-capable "Delta Dagger" interceptor of 1956 complete with its sharp lines, triangular cockpit canopy and a triangular tail fin. For water operation, the fuselage underside exhibited a boat-like appearance and retractable skis would be used for water surface running. Power was to be provided for by 2 x Westinghouse XJ46-WE-02 turbojet engines (6,100 lb thrust each) buried in the fuselage, the twin exhaust rings seen at the rear of the aircraft sitting just above the waterline. Because of the damage salt water could cause the delicate components of the turbojets, the intakes for each unit were fitted dorsally, aft of the cockpit. A delta-wing mainplane arrangement was used that eliminated the need for dedicated tailplanes.©MilitaryFactory.com
Delays occurring with the intended Westinghouse XJ46 engines meant that the prototypes were completed with the alternative (and lower-powered) Westinghouse J34-WE-32 turbojet instead (4,900 lb thrust each). Testing began in San Diego Bay and a first flight was had, rather accidentally, on January 14th, 1953 when a high-speed run took the aircraft up.

From then on, the program revealed mounting shortcomings in both design and performance that would lead to the Sea Dart's undoing. The engines never helped the aircraft perform to expected levels and the ski arrangement was not as successful as hoped (several variations of the ski arrangement were used). Supersonic speed proved elusive and was only attained in a diving action - making the Sea Dart the only seaplane in aviation history to achieve this feat. Aerodynamic drag was an ongoing detriment for the product.

All this led to a termination of the second contracted prototype which moved a service test airframe to the forefront. This model - BuNo 135762 was lost in midair when it broke apart on a November 4th, 1954 flight, claiming the life of its test pilot. By this time, USN authorities had begun moving away from the novel concept of the seaplane fighter and focused greater efforts in delivering the service's first supersonic carrier-based fighter instead (to become the Douglas F4D "Skyray").

A total of five Sea Darts were completed but not all were flown. The program was ended in April of 1957 with the four surviving members becoming museum showpieces.

The finalized Sea Dart exhibited a length of 52.6 feet, a wingspan of 33.7 feet and a height of 16.1 feet. Maximum speed was 825 miles per hour with a range out to 513 miles. Its service ceiling was listed at 54,800 feet and a rate-of-climb of 17,100 feet-per-minute was reported. Proposed armament for the fighter was to include 4 x 20mm Colt Mk 12 series cannons and support for FFAR (Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets) as well as early-generation Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs).©MilitaryFactory.com
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Service Year

United States national flag graphic
United States

Development Ended.


National flag of the United States United States (cancelled)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.

52.5 ft
(16.00 m)
33.8 ft
(10.30 m)
16.1 ft
(4.90 m)
Empty Wgt
12,632 lb
(5,730 kg)
16,491 lb
(7,480 kg)
Wgt Diff
+3,858 lb
(+1,750 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base CONVAIR F2Y Sea Dart production variant)
Installed: 2 x Westinghouse J46-WE-2 turbojet engines developing 6,100 lb thrust each.
Max Speed
823 mph
(1,325 kph | 715 kts)
54,790 ft
(16,700 m | 10 mi)
513 mi
(825 km | 1,528 nm)
17,100 ft/min
(5,212 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base CONVAIR F2Y Sea Dart production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
4 x 20mm Colt Mk 12 internal cannons.

2 x Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs).
30 x 5" aerial rockets (unguided).

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 2

F2Y "Sea Dart" - Series Product Name
XF2Y-1 - Base prototype series designation; five completed
YF-7A - Redesignation of 1962 (in accordance with USAF restructuring).

General Assessment
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 1000mph
Lo: 500mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (823mph).

Graph average of 750 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
CONVAIR F2Y Sea Dart operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (5)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).

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Images Gallery

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Image of the CONVAIR F2Y Sea Dart
Image from the United States Navy image archives.


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