The F4D Skyray (later classified F6A in 1962) Navy carrier fighter was produced by Douglas Aircraft. A most beautiful plane, the Skyray was named because of it's huge delta wings resembled a manta ray.
F4D was nicknamed the "Ford" due to its "eff-four-dee" designation.
After the surrender of Germany in May 1945, two Douglas company aerodynamicists, Gene Root and A.M.O. "Amo" Smith, went to Paris to assess aerodynamic data captured from the Germans. The two obtained quite a haul of material, including wind-tunnel test data performed on models of tailless aircraft designed by Dr. Alexander Lippisch. Lippisch had actually developed a production tailless combat aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me-163 rocket fighter, and had many other ideas for tailless aircraft, particularly with delta wings. Root and Smith also had an opportunity to chat with Dr. Lippisch, who was then in Allied custody in Paris.
The Douglas company found the tailless delta configuration very interesting. Early jet engines had poor fuel economy and limited range, and the delta not only promised aerodynamic efficiency to make the most out of the available engine power, it also provided plenty of volume to accommodate internal fuel tanks. Wind tunnel tests on models initiated in 1946 gave excellent results, encouraging Douglas engineers to think they were on the right track.
Although the tailless delta was seen as potentially useful for a number of aircraft configurations -- including bombers, fighters, and transports -- studies focused in particular on a delta-winged interceptor. In January 1947, the US Navy issued a request for a short-range carrier-based interceptor. Douglas took the tailless delta interceptor concepts off the back burner and assigned the design the company designation of "D-571". The project was under the overall direction of Douglas chief engineer Ed Heinemann at the company's plant in El Segundo, California.
The design gradually evolved to the "D-571-4", featuring a smaller rounded-off delta wing -- with a shape somewhat reminiscent of a valentine heart -- and a distinct forward fuselage.
The thick wing roots contained the air intakes feeding a single turbojet engine. Fuel was contained both in the wings and the deep fuselage. Leading edge slats were fitted for increased lift during takeoff and landing, while the trailing edges were mostly elevon control surfaces. Additional pitch trimmers were fitted inboard near the jet exhaust, and were locked upward on takeoff and landing. The aircraft has NO tail wings.
A fast aircraft for its time, with afterburners the Skyray had a top speed of 723, climb rate 29,000'/1 minute, range 593 miles, 1220 miles maximum. In October of 1953 a prototype established a 753-mph world speed record. Dimensions are wing span 33'6", Length 45'8", height 13' and wing area of 557 square feet.
Prototype XF4D-1 flew in 1951, first flew with an operational squadron, VC-3 (VF-3) in April 1956. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 (VMFA-115) flew the Skyrays from 1957 to 1964, the last year any Skyrays were in service. F5D-1 Skylancer was the advanced results of the Skyray which never went into full service. 419 Skyrays were built.
The Skyray had a reputation for fast climb, high ceiling, speed, very agile and a good APQ-50A radar. The negatives were that it was a hard plane to fly with several involved in carrier landing crashes. The wing was big, giving low wing loading, meaning the aircraft tended to be overly responsive to air disturbances. It tended to "skid out" when the landing gear was lowered, because one main gear would drop before the other. One pilot compared it to "standing on top of a pencil", not a particular worry for daylight landings in clear weather but "not so good" for instrument landing conditions.
The following operated F4D Skyrays:
US Navy VFAW-3, VF-13, VF-23, VF-51, VF-74' VF-101, VF-102, VF-141, VF-162, VF-213, VF-881, VF-882
US Marines VMF-113, VMF-114, VMF-115, VMF-215, VMF-314, VMF-513, VMFA-531, VMF(AW)-542
More info on the Skyray from [[http://www.vectorsite.net/avskyray.html|Vectorsite]]