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The Douglas F3D/F-10 Skyknight

Development

In 1946 the United States Navy (USN) had a requirement for a night fighter with a maximum speed of 500 miles per hour (800 km/h), an operational radius of 500 miles (800 km) and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet (12,192 meters). A Douglas team directed by Ed Heinemann created the XF3D-1 prototype.[i]

The XF3D-1 made its first flight on March 23, 1948. Douglas test pilot Russell Thaw piloted the prototype.[ii] The USN ordered 28 F3D-1 Skyknights. The Navy used these aircraft as trainers for the F3D-2, which the USN ordered in 1949. Douglas built 237 F3D-2s. The final deliveries were on March 23, 1952. The F3D-2 had a top speed 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) faster than the F3D1. A F3D-3 was planned but difficulties with the planned J46 Westinghouse engine caused the Navy to cancel the F3D-3.[iii]


[i] Military Factory.com, https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=495, last accessed 8/22/2020.

[ii] Avgeekery.com, https://www.avgeekery.com/the-f3d-skyknight-had-a-61-kill-ration-in-korean-war-but-its-remembered-for-these-nicknames/, last accessed 8/22/2020.

[iii] Military Factory.com, https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=495, last accessed 8/22/2020.

In Service

The Marine Corps deployed 12 Skynights to Korea in September 1952.[i] Their nocturnal missions included fighter patrol, interception, fighter escort, and strike missions.[ii] On August 15, 1952 an F3D-2 was lost on a mission. Its pilot, Colonel Peter Donald Lambrecht[iii], and radar operator, First Lieutenant James Montgomery Brown, were killed.[iv] On September 1, a Skyknight crashed on take-off because of an engine malfunction. The pilot, Major Harrold John Eiland, was killed.[v]

On November 3, 1952 a USMC F3D-2, flown by Major William T. Stratton Jr., with radar operator Master Sergeant Hans Hoagland damaged a MiG-15.[vi] On the night of November 7/8 a USMC Skynight scored the first night jet vs jet kill. Captain Oliver R. Davis and radar operator Warrant Officer D.F. Fessler shot down a MiG-15 pilot by the Soviet “volunteer” Lieutenant Kovalyov, who ejected safely.[vii] On December 19 a F3D, with First Lieutenant Joseph A. Corvi, the pilot, and Sergeant Dan George, the radar operator, shot down a North Korean Po-2, a biplane.[viii]

On January 12, 1953 Major Elswin P. Dunn and his radar operator, Master Sergeant (MSgt) Lawrence J. Fortin were credited with shooting down a MiG-15.[ix] On January 28, Captain James R. Weaver and his radar operator MSgt Robert P. Becker were credited with shooting down a MiG-15.[x] On the 31st Lt. Col. Robert F. Conley and his radar operator MSgt James N. Scott were credited with shooting down a MiG-15. [xi]

On May 30, 1953 an F3D-2 was lost after the pilot, Captain James Benjamin Brown, requested landing instructions from Kunsan Airfield.[xii] Captain Brown and his radar operator, Sergeant James Vaughn Harrell were killed.[xiii]

An enemy fighter shot down a Skyknight flown by Lt. (jg) Robert Sterling Bick with radar operator ATC Linton Calton Smith Jr., on July 2, 1953.[xiv] Bick and Smith were killed.[xv] On July 4, another F3D failed to return from a mission. The pilot, Captain Lote Clegg Thistlethwaite[xvi] and his radar operator, Staff Sergeant William Herman Westbrook, were killed.[xvii]

In 1962 the DoD standardized their aircraft designation system and the Skyknight designation was changed to F-10. The F-10s were converted to electronic jamming aircraft, EF-10Bs, for Vietnam service. USMC EF-10Bs flew their first mission on April 17, 1965.[xviii] The EF-10B mission was to jam North Vietnamese surface-to-air (SAM) tracking and guidance systems. On April 29, 1965 EF-10Bs flew a mission to support a USAF strike. This was the first time the USMC flew a radar jamming mission to support a USAF airstrike.[xix] On July 27, 6 EF-10Bs supported a massive airstrike against SAM-2 sites. [xx] The USMC lost a Skyknight in 1965 for non-combat related reasons.[xxi] The first EF-10B combat loss was to an SAM-2 on March 18, 1966. The USMC lost an EF-10B in 1967 and two more in 1968. [xxii]

The USMC withdrew the EF-10Bs from Vietnam in October 1968. The Marines gave 3 Skyknights to the Army where the Raytheon Corporation used them for testing at the White Sands Missile range until the 1980s. The USMC retired their EF-10Bs in 1970.[xxiii]


[i] Avgeekery.com, https://www.avgeekery.com/the-f3d-skyknight-had-a-61-kill-ration-in-korean-war-but-its-remembered-for-these-nicknames/, last accessed 8/22/2020.

[ii] Military Factory.com, https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=495, last accessed 8/22/2020.

[iii] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/16739/korean-war-project-arizona-005458-col-peter-donald-lambrecht, last accessed 8/22/2020.

[iv] Koreanwar.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/3487/korean-war-project-new-york-046616-1lt-james-montgomery-brown, last accessed 8/25/2020.

[v] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/8460/korean-war-project-florida-022043-maj-harrold-john-eiland, last accessed 8/25/2020.

[vi] Airvectors.net, https://airvectors.net/avskykt.html, last accessed 8/42020. The plane was misidentified as a Yak-15. The USMC incorrectly credited Major Stratton with a kill.

[vii] Airvectors.net, https://airvectors.net/avskykt.html, last accessed 8/42020.

[viii] Airvectors.net, https://airvectors.net/avskykt.html, last accessed 8/42020.

[ix] Chapter 38 Navy and Marine Corps Shoot Downs Since 1950, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/dam/nhhc/ Part7.pdf, last accessed 8/25/20.

[x] Chapter 38 Navy and Marine Corps Shoot Downs Since 1950, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/dam/nhhc/ Part7.pdf, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xi] Chapter 38 Navy and Marine Corps Shoot Downs Since 1950, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/dam/nhhc/ Part7.pdf, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xii] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/3480/korean-war-project-washington-028801-capt-james-benjamin-brown, last accessed 8/24/20.

[xiii] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/12302/korean-war-project-louisiana-1182385-sgt-james-vaughn-harrell, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xiv] Military Factory.com, https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=495, last accessed 8/25/2020.

[xv] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/28071/korean-war-project-texas-8411973-atc-linton-calton-smith-jr, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xvi] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/29817/korean-war-project-louisiana-039706-capt-lote-clegg-thistlethwaite, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xvii] Korean War.org, https://www.koreanwar.org/html/32055/korean-war-project-florida-618425-ssgt-william-herman-westbrook, last accessed 8/25/2020.

[xviii] Mike’s Research, F3D2/EF-10B Skyknight, May 6, 2018, https://mikesresearch.com/2018/05/06/f3d-2-ef-10b-skyknight/, last accessed, 8/25/20.

[xix] Mike’s Research, F3D2/EF-10B Skyknight, May 6, 2018, https://mikesresearch.com/2018/05/06/f3d-2-ef-10b-skyknight/, last accessed, 8/25/20.

[xx] Mike’s Research, F3D2/EF-10B Skyknight, May 6, 2018, https://mikesresearch.com/2018/05/06/f3d-2-ef-10b-skyknight/, last accessed, 8/25/20.

[xxi] Vietnam Air Losses.com, https://www.vietnamairlosses.com/index.php/statistics/usmc-losses, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xxii] Vietnam Air Losses.com, https://www.vietnamairlosses.com/index.php/statistics/usmc-losses, last accessed 8/25/20.

[xxiii] Mike’s Research, F3D2/EF-10B Skyknight, May 6, 2018, https://mikesresearch.com/2018/05/06/f3d-2-ef-10b-skyknight/, last accessed, 8/25/20.

F3D Skyknight Specifications

Source: Global Aircraft

 F3D

Speed Sea Level

530 mph (850 km/h)

Speed Service Ceiling

425 mph (680 kn/h)

Service Ceiling

44,000 ft. (13,400 m)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Robert Sacchi

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 31, 2020:

Yes, "volunteer" is a relative term. There is a long history of sending "volunteers" to bolster one side or another in a conflict. From an aviation standpoint the concept gained fame during the Spanish Civil War where the Soviet Union and Germany sent air crews to fight in the conflict. The U.S. got into the act in China with the Flying Tigers. Often with pilots they actually want to fly in combat.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 30, 2020:

This aircraft has an impressive fighting history. The part about the “volunteer” Soviet lieutenant was a little amusing; I can’t imagine that’s a deal you could really turn down in the old Soviet Union.

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 27, 2020:

Thank you both for reading and commenting. The reality is airplanes crash. Even more so for military aircraft. That is part of an aircraft's history. It wasn't until I decided to write an article based on the photo that I realized I was mistaken in what type of aircraft it was. Yes, I've learned a lot by researching the article. I suppose that's the case in any writing research.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 27, 2020:

Looking at your old photos, and then researching each of the airplanes, you probably learn more about them as well. Thanks for sharing that information with us.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 26, 2020:

This is another good article about planes. There are always some losses it seems, but I really find your articles about planes to teach us a bit of history. Thank you for this good article, Robert.

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 26, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, it is quite a list. I have amassed a large collection of airplane photographs. That's how I get ideas for articles.

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 26, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. The Skyknight is from an interesting period in aviation history.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2020:

Thanks for another article showcasing an airplane used in combat missions. You are amassing quite a collection of them!

Liz Westwood from UK on August 26, 2020:

This is a detailed and interesting article about a plane that fulfilled a specific and useful role in aerial combat history.