Operational History

The few F3D-1 aircraft were used primarily to train F3D crews and did not see combat. F3D-2 aircraft, however, saw extensive service during the Korean War and destroyed more enemy aircraft in Korea than any other Navy or Marine fighter aircraft. Although initially designed to shoot down bombers, they were painted in black and served to escort B-29 Superfortress bombers on night raids. They also flew nighttime intercept and interdiction missions. By the end of the war, while the F-86 Sabre would become famous for victories over MiG Alley, Skyknights had claimed six enemy aircraft shot down (one Polikarpov Po-2, one Yakovlev Yak-15 and four Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15). During that time there was the loss of one aircraft piloted by Lt. (jg) Bob Bick and crewman Chief Linton Smith on July 2, 1953. This aircraft was with a detachment from VC-4 of NAS Atlantic City, and was attached to Marine Squadron 513. The first air-to-air victory occurred on 3 November 1952 in a United States Marine Corps F3D-2 piloted by Major William T. Stratton, Jr. and radar operator Master Sergeant Hans C. Hoglind of VMF(N)-513. While the Skyknight lacked the swept wings and high subsonic performance of the MiG-15, its onboard radar enabled it to find and kill other fighters, while the MiG-15 could only be guided by ground-based radar to the general vicinity of large B-29 formations.

In the years after the Korean War, the F3D was gradually replaced by more powerful aircraft with better radar systems. The F3D's career was not over though; its stability and spacious fuselage made it easily adaptable to other roles. The F3D (under the designations F3D-1M and F3D-2M) was used to support development of a number of air-to-air missile systems during the 1950s, including the Sparrow I, II, and III and Meteor missiles.

The F3D-2M was the first operational Navy jet aircraft to be fitted with an air-to-air missile, the Sparrow I, a missile that used beam riding guidance for the aircrew to control the flight of the missile. Only 38 aircraft (12 F3D-1Ms, and 16 F3D-2Ms) were made able to use the missiles.

In the late 1950s, a number of the Marine F3D-2 aircraft were re-configured as electronic warfare aircraft and were designated F3D-2Q (later EF-10B). Also, a few aircraft were converted for use as trainers and were designated F3D-2T.

EF-10B Skyknight
Douglas EF-10B Skyknight (Bu 127041) of VMCJ-1 over Vietnam in 1965/66.
[Source: USN]

Skyknights continued service through the 1960s in gull white color scheme, when their contemporaries had long since been retired. In 1962, when the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force unified their designation systems, the F3D-1 was redesignated F-10A and the F3D-2 was re-designated F-10B. The Skyknight was the only Korean war fighter that also flew in Vietnam (as also did the A-1 Skyraider attack plane). EF-10Bs served in the electronic countermeasures role during the Vietnam War until 1969. The U.S. Marine Corps retired its last EF-10Bs in 1970. Some aircraft continued flying as testbeds for Raytheon until the 1980s.

When the U.S. Navy issued a requirement for a fleet defense missile fighter in 1959, Douglas responded with the F6D Missileer, essentially an updated and enlarged F3D that would carry the AAM-N-10 Eagle long-range missile with the most important characteristics being able to carry a large load of fuel, long time-on-station, crew of two, and sophisticated electronics rather than speed or maneuverability. This concept which kept the straight wings in an age of supersonic jets was soon cancelled because it would not be able to defend itself against more nimble fighters. Its weapon system would be adapted for the supersonic swing-wing General Dynamics/Grumman F-111B which also specified side-by-side seating, but would also prove vulnerable to MiGs. The AWG-9/Phoenix and TF30 turbofan engine (with afterburner) would eventually reach service on the F-14 Tomcat which could swing its wing straight forward for loiter.

The unusual portly profile earned it the nickname "Willie the Whale". It is less clear how it also came to be known "drut." It should be noted, however, that "Drut" is "Turd" spelled backward.

Wikipedia: Douglas F3D Skyknight