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Douglas F10 / F3D Skyknight



Unique in being the US Navy’s first jet-powered night-fighter, the Skyknight began development in 1945, Douglas being awarded a contract for three XF3D-1 prototypes in April 1946.

The type emerged as a cantilever mid-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, the wings incorporating hydraulic folding for carrier stowage. The circular-section fuselage mounted hydraulically actuated speed-brakes, provided side-by-side pressurised accommodation for the pilot and radar operator, and carried at the rear a tail unit very similar to that of the D-558-1 Skystreak. An unusual feature was a crew escape tunnel, extending from the rear of the cabin to the underside of the fuselage. Landing gear was retractable tricycle-type, and the powerplant of the prototypes was two 1361kg thrust Westinghouse J34-WE-24 turbojets, mounted on the lower edges of the forward fuselage, beneath the wing roots.

The first prototype made its maiden flight from Muroc (now Edwards AFB) on 23 March 1948, this event being fol-lowed in June by an order for 28 production F3D-1 (later redesignated F-10A) fighters while company testing was still in progress. The first of these was flown on 13 February 1950. Service acceptance trials were conducted by VC-3 at Mof-fett Field from December 1950, the type then being handed over to Marine Night Fighter Squadron VMF(N)-542. The F3D-1 differed from the prototypes by having improved avionics and equipment and, as delivered initially, had 1361kg thrust J34-WE-32 turbojets. These engines were uprated subsequently to 1474kg thrust, becoming redesignated J34-WE-34. In the event, the F3D-l did not see action.

Before delivery of the first F3D-1, Douglas had received a contract for production of an improved F3D-2 (F-l0B), which was to be the major and ultimate production version, with a total of 237 built in the early 1950s. It was intended that the F3D-2 should be powered by 2087kg thrust J46-WE-3 turbojets, but development of this engine was abandoned and, instead, they were all powered by J34-WE-36s. Improvements included the provision of an autopilot and updated systems and equipment. The first of these F3D-2s was flown on 14 February 1951 and all had been delivered just over a year later. It was this model which made the Skyknight’s combat debut with VMF(N)-513 in June 1952.

The Skynight saw extensive use in Korea, this all-weather fighter accounting for the majority of all victories scored by the US Navy and US Marine Corps. On the night of 2 November 1952, it succeeded in downing a North Korean Yakovlev Yak- 15, this marking the first recorded kill in a jet-versus-jet combat at night. Even more remarkable is the fact that the F3D ended the Korean War as the most successful naval fighter type in terms of aircraft destroyed in air combat.

In US Navy service, the F3D enjoyed only a brief front-line career, being quickly relegated to radar intercept training duties as the F3D-2T and F3D-2T2 (TF-10B), the last example being retired in the early 1960s. US Marine Corps composite squadrons continued to use the F3D-2Q (EF-10B) type in ECM duties, however, and the type again saw action in Vietnam with VMCJ-1 until 1969 when it was finally replaced by the Grumman EA-6A Intruder.

Two examples of the Skyknight were used by the US Army in support of air defence missile testing at White Sands, New Mexico.

A proposed swept-wing version known as the F3D-3 was cancelled in 1952, but other service variants were the missile-armed F3D-1M and F3D-2M (MF-l0B).

F3D-1 Skyknight

Engines: 2 x Westinghouse J34-WE-32 turbojets, 3000 lb thrust.
Wingspan: 50 ft
Length: 45 ft. 5 in.
Loaded weight: 27,000 lb.
Max speed: approx. 530 m.p.h.
Range: about 1,200 miles.
Armament: 4 20 mm cannon
Crew: 2.

F3D-2 / F-10B Skyknight

Powerplant: two 1542-kg (3,400-lb) thrust Westinghouse J34-WE-36/36A  turbojets.
Wing span 15.24 m (50 ft 0 in)
Length 13.84 m (45 ft 5 in)
Height 4.90 (16 ft 1 in)
Wing area 37.16 sq.m (400 sq.ft).
Maximum speed 909 km/h (565 mph) at 6095 m (20,000 ft)
Cruise speed: 628 km/h / 390 mph
Service ceiling 11645 m (38,200 ft)
Range 2478 km (1,540 miles)
Empty weight: 8237 kg (18,160 lb)
Maximum take-off 12556 kg (27,681 lbs).
Armament: four 20-mm cannon, plus two 907-kg (2,000-lb) bombs.



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