January 23, 1951 marked the first flight of the Douglas F4D Skyray carrier based fighter/interceptor jet. The F4D Skyray was the first US Navy and Marine Corps jet that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight and it held the world’s absolute speed record at just under 753 miles per hour. This airspeed record was a first for a carrier based aircraft.

Although the Skyray had a relatively short career (eight years active service 1956-1964) it was known for its high speed and the ability to intercept and destroy an enemy aircraft at an altitude up to 50,000 feet. The single engine jet had a rounded delta wing shape and was the last fighter manufacturer by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation before they merged with McDonnell Aircraft and became McDonnell-Douglas.

Watch the Official US Navy Operating Procedures for the Douglas F4D Skyray


A total of 419 aircraft were produced for the Navy and Marine Corps. The F4D Skyray, nicknamed the “Ford” was criticized by some for having underpowered engines which when combined with the delta wing shape made the aircraft difficult to fly.

Douglas F4D Skyray-cockpit
Photo of Douglas F4D Skyray Cockpit by US Navy

Length: 45 ft 3 in (13.8 m)
Wingspan: 33 ft 6 in (10.21 m)
Height: 13 ft 0 in (3.96 m)
Max. takeoff weight: 27,116 lb (12,300 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J57-P-8, −8A or −8B turbojet
Dry thrust: 10,200 lbf (45 kN)
Thrust with afterburner: 16,000 lbf (71 kN)


Maximum speed: 722 mph (627 kn, 1,162 km/h)
Range: 700 mi (610 nmi, 1,100 km) combat
Service ceiling: 55,000 ft (17,000 m)
Rate of climb: 18,300 ft/min (93.3 m/s)

Featured image of U.S. Marine Corps Douglas F4D-1 Skyray (BuNo 134815), Marine Fighter Squadron VMF(AW)-115 Able Eagles in flight by US Marine Corps.