The Douglas F3D Skyknight was the world's first jet fighter designed for use as carrier-based night fighter. Its radar equipment required a wider-than-usual fuselage, so it was nicknamed "Willie the Whale."
The Navy asked Douglas to develop a carrier-based night fighter in 1946. Specifications included twin-jet power, side-by-side seating for a radar operator, a top speed of 500 mph, a combat radius of 500 miles, an operating altitude of 40,000 feet, and an escape system that allowed the crew to depart downward through the bottom of the fuselage.
The result was the straight-wing, two-seat, twin-engine F3D. The first of 28 production-model F3D-1s was delivered to the Navy in late 1950, as work began on the more powerful F3D-2. The F3D-2 flew 100 mph faster and had twice the range. It incorporated new electronic and radar equipment, air-to-air rockets, a thicker bulletproof canopy, wing spoilers to improve rate-of-roll, and an automatic pilot.
Douglas produced 268 Skyknights, including several conversions to special-duty variants. During the Korean War, in 1952, an F3D Skyknight shot down a Yak-15 in the first jet-to-jet aerial victory scored at night. One Marine Corps night-fighter squadron went on to rack up the best night-fighter record of the Korean conflict.
After 1953, Skyknights were converted as trainers for radar intercept officers and for use as electronic reconnaissance and countermeasure aircraft during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. The Skyknight was the only Navy/Marine fighter to fly combat missions in both Korea and Vietnam, and the last was retired in l978.
||March 23, 1948
||45 feet 5 inches
||16 feet 1 inches
||Two 3,400-pound-thrust Westinghouse J46-WE-36 engines
||Four 20 mm guns