The Navy’s first jet-propelled night fighter was the two-place Douglas XF3D-1 Skyknight. A mid-wing monoplane with a pair of Westinghouse 3,000-pound thrust J34-WE-22 jets low on the fuselage sides, the XF3D-l had the then usual four 20-mm guns with 800 rounds behind and below the nose scanner.
Three prototypes were ordered April 3, 1946, and the first XF3D-1 flew March 23, 1948, piloted by Russell Thaw at El Segundo. Twenty-eight F3D-ls were purchased on May 11, and the first flew February 13, 1950, with J34-WE-34 jets. They were operated by VC-3 at NAS Moffett Field and VMF(N)-542 at El Toro NATC.
Over 1,000 pounds of Westinghouse APQ-35 radar included a scanner dish within the fiberglass nose and a warning device in the tail cone. The radar operator and pilot sat side by side in a pressurized cockpit from which they could escape at high speeds by bailing out through a tunnel to the fuselage’s bottom. Fittings beneath the folding wings could accommodate two 150-gallon drop tanks or 2,000-pound bombs.
Larger 4,600-pound thrust Westinghouse J46s had been specified for F3D-2s ordered on September 26,1949. Since these engines were unavailable when the first F3D-2 flew February 14, 1951, the J34-WE-36 was substituted on the 237 F3D-2 Skyknights built by October 1953. Forward protection consisted of a 70-pound armor plate and a 105-pound flack-resistant windshield.
While the faster single-seat Banshee was used on carriers, the Skyknight, except for test and training work, mostly served the Marines. One Korean-based squadron, VMF(N)-513 got F3D-2s to replace the F7F-3N, and beginning on November 3, 1952, downed six enemy aircraft -the best night fighter record of the war, although this was credited more to the APQ-35 radar than to the F3Ds modest agility. Night bombing attacks on enemy positions were added in 1953.
The Navy’s first intercept by a Sparrow I radar beam-riding missile was an F6F drone hit on December 3, 1952, by a Sparrow from an XF3D-1M modified from the second prototype. Two F3D-lM and 16 F3D-2M Skyknights, modified to carry APQ-36 radar and four Sparrow Is instead of guns, completed VX-4 missile tests at Point Mugu and VMF(N)-542 became the first Sparrow missile squadron in 1954.
Electronic countermeasures were added to 35 Skyknights modified to F3D-2Q configurations, redesignated EF-10B in 1962, and flown with a jammer pod in Vietnam patrols by VMCJ-1 from April 1965 to 1969. Other aircraft retired to trainers were designated F3D-2T. The last Marine EF-10B retired in May 1970.
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