F5D Skylancer
Douglas F5D Skylancer prototype in use by NASA for Dyna-Soar abort training
Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 21 April 1956
Retired 1970
Primary user United States Navy
Number built 4
Developed from Douglas F4D Skyray

The Douglas F5D Skylancer is a development of the F4D Skyray jet fighter 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.

Design and development

Soon the design became too different from 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 ft (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 (.79 in) 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 was a rejected proposal to use the even more powerful General Electric J79 and variable-geometry inlets in Mach 2 version.[1]

Operational history

The first flight was made by F5D-1 (Bu. No. 139208)[2] on 21 April 1956 and was supersonic; the aircraft proved easy to handle and performed well. After four aircraft had been constructed, however, the Navy cancelled its order. The stated reason was that the aircraft was too similar to the already-ordered Vought 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.[3] The project test pilot was Lt. Cmdr Alan B. Shepard Jr. whose report stated that it was not needed by the Navy. One F5D crashed during testing by the Navy.[4]

NASA use

A Skylancer flown by Neil Armstrong for NASA, on display at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum

The four aircraft continued to fly in various military test programs. Two were grounded in 1961 (likely 139209 and 142349 which had been designated for spare parts in 1958[5]), but the other two: F5D-1 (Bu. No. 139208) NASA 212,[6] later becoming NASA 708 and F5D-1 (Bu. No. 142350) NASA 213, later becoming NASA 802 continued to fly. Transferred to NASA in the early 1960s, NASA 212 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),[7] as well as being used as a vision field test platform for the X-20 Dyna-Soar.[8] This aircraft was retired in 1968. NASA 802 was used for simulation of abort procedures for the X-20, 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.[9]

Surviving aircraft

F5D-1 BuNo 139208 preserved outdoors at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in 2021.

Specifications (F5D-1)

Data from Naval Fighters#35 : Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer,[15] McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I,[16] The American Fighter[17]

General characteristics

28,739 lb (13,036 kg) with full internal fuel + 72x 2 in (51 mm) rockets + 2x AIM-7 Sparrow II AAMs


566 kn (651 mph; 1,048 km/h) / M0.99 at 44,000 ft (13,000 m)
109.4 kn (125.9 mph; 202.6 km/h) approach power



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Frankel 2010, p. 187-188.
  2. ^ "HD Stock Video Footage - First test flight of the Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California". www.criticalpast.com. Retrieved 2021-02-13.
  3. ^ Gunston 1981, p. 73.
  4. ^ "F5D-1 Skylancer". 19 August 2015. Archived from the original on 23 September 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  5. ^ "Douglas XF5D-1".
  6. ^ Conner, Monroe (2015-05-27). "F5D-1 Skylancer". NASA. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  7. ^ "ch3". history.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  8. ^ Conner, Monroe (2015-05-27). "F5D-1 Skylancer". NASA. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  9. ^ Pizza, Katie (September 11, 2008). "Air Faire fun". Argus Observer. Ontario, OR. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "Merle Maine's Warbirds". Ontario Air Faire. 2010. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  11. ^ Conner, Monroe (2015-11-02). "Where Are They Now: F5D-1 Skylancer #708". NASA. Retrieved 2021-02-13.
  12. ^ "WHAT TO SEE | Armstrong Air and Space Museum". Archived from the original on 2015-06-12. Retrieved 2015-06-12.
  13. ^ "Armstrong's Skylancer returns to Wapakoneta". Lima News. Public Notices Ohio. 24 May 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  14. ^ Ginter, Steve (1996). Naval Fighters#35 : Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer (1st ed.). Simi Valley CA: S. Ginter. ISBN 0942612353.
  15. ^ Francillon, René J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I. London: Naval Institute Press. pp. 506–508. ISBN 0870214284.
  16. ^ Angelluci 1987, p. 191.


  • Angelucci, Enzo. The American Fighter. Sparkford, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing Group, 1987. ISBN 0-85429-635-2.
  • Frankel, Mark. Killer Rays: The Story of the Douglas F4D Skyray and F5D Skylancer. North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58007-155-0.
  • Ginter, Steve. Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer (Naval Fighters No. 35). Simi Valley, California: Ginter Books, 1996. ISBN 0-942612-35-3.
  • Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Limited, 1981. ISBN 0-85059-463-4.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "Douglas F4D Skyray." Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.