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Douglas F-3D Skyknight
Douglas F-3D-2T2 (TF-10B) Skyknight
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Long before Free Willy came to movie theaters, the Douglas Aircraft Company had its own version of Willie, only theirs flew instead of swam. Late in 1945, Douglas was among a handful of aircraft manufacturers approached by the US Navy to discuss the requirements for a jet-powered, two-seat, carrier-borne all weather fighter. The fighter had to reach a speed of at least 500 mph (805km/h), an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,192m), and detect other aircraft from 125 miles (201km) away. This eventually led to the Navy placing an order in 1954 for three aircraft from Douglas, designated XF3D-1. A team led by Ed Heineman in the El Segundo, California, division of Douglas designed the aircraft. Carrying a crew of two seated side by side, the jet had a unique escape system. There were no ejection seats. Instead, the pilot and radar operator slid, one at a time, feet first and facing rearward, down a chute, exiting the aircraft through its belly.

The XF3D-1 first flew on March 23, 1948. By June, a production order of 28 F3D-1s was made for delivery to the US Navy and Marine Corps. The aircraft was officially known as the Skyknight, but during its testing phase and due to its appearance, it earned the nickname, Willie the Whale. The aircraft has a rotund fuselage, necessary to house the APQ-35 radar in the nose. The first production F3D-1s went into service in February 1951. These were soon followed by the F3D-2. In all, eight versions of the Skyknight were built or modified from original airframes.

The Skyknight’s service in frontline Navy units was short-lived. The F3D-1s did not meet aircraft carrier qualifying standards. All the shortcomings were corrected with the F3D-2, but it was not a particularly popular aircraft aboard the carriers. The downward pointing exhausts would scorch, and in some cases, burn the wooden flight decks even at idle speeds. Fleet Composite Squadron VC-4 was the only F3D squadron to deploy on carrier cruises. By 1956, the Navy planes were in training and experimental squadrons. F3D service with the US Marine Corps was a far more successful venture. F3D-2 versions entered the Korean War during the spring of 1952 with Marine Corps night fighter squadrons. They escorted US Air Force B-29 Superfortresses on nighttime bombing raids over North Korea. On 2 November 1952, a Skyknight of Marine Night Fighter Squadron VMF(N)-513 scored the first shoot down in a jet versus jet night action, downing a Yak-15 jet fighter. Skyknights scored the most shoot downs of enemy aircraft by any US Navy or Marine Corps fighter-type during the Korean War. Two F3Ds were lost in Korea.

Twelve years after the 1953 Korean Armistice, Marines were flying electronic countermeasures EF-10B Skyknights in the Vietnam War. In 1962, the F3D designation was changed to F-10. A detachment from Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron VCMJ-1 flew missions over South and North Vietnam and Laos until its return to the US in 1969. Four EF-10s were lost in Vietnam. The last Marine Skyknight was retired in May 1970. By then, the only remaining flying Skyknights were three aircraft bailed to the Raytheon Company and US Army, performing testing of Army missile defense systems out of Holloman Air Force Base (AFB), (Alamogordo) New Mexico. One of these three is the aircraft exhibited here.

This F3D was built in El Segundo as an F3D-2 and accepted by the US Navy on March 31, 1953, as Bureau Number 125807. It initially flew with Navy Fighter Squadrons. After an Overhaul and Repair (O&R) period in 1955, it became an F3D-2T2 radar-operator trainer, training fighter pilots in radar intercept missions. Its final Navy assignment was as a research and development aircraft at Naval Air Facility China Lake, (Inyokern) California with periodic visits to O&R facilities. In September 1962, the aircraft was re-designated a TF-10B. Its naval service ended in 1968.

In 1969, this aircraft and two other Skyknights began flying as Raytheon and US Army test support aircraft. BuNo 125807 flew with a gloss red and white paint scheme and ARMY on its rear fuselage. A wheels up landing ended its flying career in 1981. Rather than being repaired, it was used as a source for spare parts to keep other two F-10s flying.

The General Services Administration granted authorization for Combat Air Museum to acquire the Skyknight in January 1988. In March 1990, a crew of six museum volunteers journeyed to Holloman AFB and recovered 125807 for the museum. In order to transport the aircraft over highways, its wings were cut off as the plane was not built with a removable wing center section.

The aircraft is painted in Korean War markings of Marine Corps Night Fighter Squadron VMF(N)-513, the Flying Nightmares, but this particular Skyknight never flew with the Marine Corps.

This aircraft is on Conditional Transfer to Combat Air Museum from the Kansas State Agency for Federal Surplus Property
and the General Services Administration.

April 1953 Navy Fleet Composite Squadron VC-4, Naval Air Station (NAS) Atlantic City, New Jersey
July 1953 VC-4, Detachment 41, NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island
August 1953 VC-4, NAS Atlantic City
October 1953 Fighter Squadron VF-11 the Red Rippers, NAS Jacksonville, Florida
November 1953 VF-11, NAS Key West, Florida
February 1954 Fighter Squadron VF-14 the Top Hatters, NAS Jacksonville, Florida
July 1955 Overhaul & Repair (O&R) NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Converted to F3D-2T2
March 1956 Fleet All-Weather Training Unit, NAS Key West
April 1958 O&R, NAS Quonset Point
October 1958 Fighter Squadron VF-101 the Grim Reapers, NAS Key West.
October 1959 Research, Deployment, Test & Evaluation, Naval Air Facility, China Lake, California
July 1968 Stricken from US Navy inventory
1969-1981 US Army missile defense system testing, Raytheon and US Army, Holloman AFB, New Mexico
March 1990 Combat Air Museum
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
Basic Role: Carrier-based all-weather night fighter aircraft
Crew: Two (Pilot and Radar Observer )
Power Plant: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-36/36A turbojets of 3,400 lbs (1,542kg) static thrust each
Maximum speed: 565 mph (909 km/h)
Cruising Speed: 390 mph (628 km/h)
Range: 499 miles (803 kms)
Service Ceiling: 39,900 ft (12,162m)
Combat ceiling: 39,400 ft (12,009m)
Wingspan: 50 ft (15.2 m)
Length: 45 ft 6 in (13.9m)
Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.9m) over tail
Wing Area: 400 ft² (37.2 m²)
Weight (empty): 18,160 lbs (8,237kg)
Max Runway: 28,800 lbs (13,064kg)
Max Catapult: 27.362 lbs (12,411kg)
Armament: Four 20mm cannon; 4,000 lbs (1,814kg) bombs
Serial number: US Navy BuNo. 125807
Douglas F-3D Skyknight Nose OnDouglas F-3D Side View
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