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F5D Skylancer
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F5D Skylancer

Douglas F5D Skylancer

Douglas F5D Skylancer prototype in use by NASA for Dyna-Soar abort training.
Role Interceptor
Crew 1
First Flight 1956
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Length 53 ft 9.75 in 16.4 m
Wingspan 33 ft 6 in 10.2 m
Height 14 ft 10 in 4.5 m
Wing area 557 ft² 52 m²
Empty 17,444 lb 7,912 kg
Loaded 24,445 lb 11,088 kg
Maximum takeoff 28,072 lb 12,733 kg
Engines Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8 turbojet
Thrust 10,200 lb dry
16,000 lb afterburner
45 kN dry
71 kN afterburner
Maximum speed 990 mph 1,590 km/h
Combat range 1335 miles 2,148 km
Ferry range miles km
Service ceiling 57,500 ft 17,500 m
Rate of climb 20,730 ft/min 6,320 m/min
Wing loading lb/ft² kg/m²
Radar X-24A
Guns 4 × 20 mm cannon
Missiles 4 × AIM-9 Sidewinder or
2 × AIM-7 Sparrow
Rockets 72 × 2 in (51 mm) rockets

The Douglas F5D Skylancer was a development of the F4D Skyray for the United States Navy. Starting out as the F4D-2N, an all-weather version of the Skyray, the design was soon modified to take full advantage of the extra thrust of the Pratt & Whitney; J57; eventually fitted to the Skyray instead of the Westinghouse J40 originally planned.

Soon the design became too different to the Skyray to be considered just a variation of it, and the aircraft was assigned a new designation as the F5D Skylancer. Almost every part of the airframe was modified, though the basic form remained the same as did the wing shape, though it became much thinner. The wing skinning was reinforced, correcting a problem found in the F4D. The fuselage was 8 feet (2.4 m) longer and area ruled to reduce transonic drag, being thinner in the region of the wing roots. Everything was shaped to reduce drag and increase stability at high speed.

Although the four 20 mm cannon in the wing roots were retained, primary armament was to be missiles or rockets; four AIM-9 Sidewinders or two AIM-7 Sparrows, and/or a battery of spin-stabilized unguided 2 in (51 mm) rockets.

Nine test airframes were ordered, with a 51-aircraft production order to follow. Production aircraft were to be powered by the more powerful J57-P-14 engine, while there were plans to use the even more powerful General Electric J79.

The first flight was on April 21, 1956 and was supersonic; the aircraft proved itself to handle and perform excellently. However, after four aircraft had been constructed, the Navy cancelled its order. The stated reason was that the aircraft was too similar to the already-ordered F8U Crusader, but it is believed by some historians that politics played as big a part; Douglas was already building a very large proportion of the Navy's planes, and giving them the F5D contract would have made it even closer to monopoly.

The four aircraft continued to fly in various military test programs. Two were grounded in 1961, but the other two continued to fly; transferred to NACA (soon to become NASA) in the early 1960s, one was used as a testbed for the American supersonic transport program, fitted with an ogival wing platform (the type eventually used on Concorde; data from the program was shared with the European designers). This aircraft was retired in 1968. The other (pictured) was used for simulation of abort procedures for the X-20 DynaSoar, because it had a very similar shape and handling characteristics. Following the DynaSoar cancellation, it was used as a chase plane and for various other programs until it was retired in 1970. This last plane still exists at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum at Wapakoneta, Ohio, since Neil Armstrong flew the plane during the DynaSoar program.

Related content
Related Development F4D Skyray
Similar Aircraft F8U Crusader
Designation Series XFD - F2D - F3D - F4D - F5D
Related Lists List of military aircraft of the United States - List of fighter aircraft
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