Post-War Developments: 1946- 1956

The Douglas Aircraft Co. ... Carrier-Based Warplanes

The new science of jet propulsion was the focus of many studies, and in 1948, the U.S. Navy asked RAND, as well as other "think tanks," to see if it was feasible to build a jet-powered, carrier-based strategic bomber, large enough and powerful enough to carry a 5-ton nuclear bomb.

The resulting Douglas A3D Skywarrior was one of the largest airplanes to operate routinely from an aircraft carrier deck. Designed to carry a nuclear bomb 2,000 miles from the vessel, it entered service in 1956. When purchased by the Air Force, it was redesignated the B-66 Destroyer. However, it was never used as a bomber. It entered both services reconfigured for reconnaissance and for electronic countermeasures.

Another Douglas aircraft used for reconnaissance/electronic countermeasures was the straight-wing F3D Skyknight fighter that first flew March 23, 1948. Started during World War II and ordered by the Navy strictly for use at night, it was the first Douglas jet fighter to enter service. The Skyknight entered service in 1950, was stationed with land-based Marine units in Korea, and was not retired until 1970.

The delta-wing Douglas F4D Skyray fighter, begun at about the same time as the Skyknight, was designed as a supersonic interceptor. Named after the sea creature it resembled, the manta ray, the F4D first flew Jan. 23, 1951, and entered squadron service in 1956. It set many speed and time-to-climb records and was the first carrier-based fighter to set a world speed record of 728.11 mph over a 62-mile closed course. Douglas built more than 420 Skyrays for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Another delta-wing aircraft was the F5D Skylancer, about 8 feet longer than the Skyray and equipped with Sidewinder or Sparrow air-to-air missiles. Douglas built four Skylancers. Two became research aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

During the Korean War, Douglas engineer Heinemann designed a small, fuel-efficient jet attack bomber, the A4D Skyhawk (later designated the A-4). Nicknamed "Ed Heinemann's Hot Rod" and "Bantam Bomber," it first flew in 1954. Douglas built 2,960 Skyhawks, serving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the Royal Australian Navy, and air services around the world. The last Skyhawk was delivered in February 1979, ending a 25-year run.

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