|Shamelessly stolen from Tuna|
Tuna's account of his visit to the Naval Aviation Museum down in Pensacola brought back a number of fond memories, The WSO received her Naval Flight Officer wings there. Great ceremony with an awesome tour of the museum afterwards. Now I saw two aircraft that were outside the building, one was the obvious F-14 Tomcat at the entrance, the other was an F/A-18 in Blue Angels livery just outside the atrium where the kiddo got her wings. Little did I know that there were other aircraft outside! Tuna's photo of the F-3D tipped me off to that. An interesting aircraft is that one.
Back in the day most aircraft flew during the day. Why? Well, at night it's tough to see where you're at and where you're going without the right instruments. A long time ago pilots were lucky to have an airspeed indicator and an altimeter! Some aircraft didn't even have that. If you can see where you're at that's no problem. At night? Yes, things get interesting. If the aircraft is alone in the dark that's one thing, put other aircraft up there and yeah, most pilots would want to stick to the hours of daylight. Even in these modern times a lot of pilots don't have an instrument rating allowing them to putter around in the wee hours.
As time went on, especially in war, it became necessary to fly at night. The bad guys couldn't see you to shoot at you. The Zeppelins which bombed Britain in World War I came at night. In World War II the Germans came at the Brits during the day, and suffered heavy losses to British fighters and antiaircraft. So they started bombing at night. Which the British also resorted to later in the war as they too discovered that trying to bomb German cities during the day was just too costly.
As the bombers switched their activities to the hours of darkness, means were explored to attack those bombers at night. Eventually radar sets became small enough to be mounted in aircraft, not the smaller single seat fighters as the radar sets were still rather bulky. So twin-engined aircraft which had not been very useful during the day were converted to night fighters. One guy to fly and pull the trigger, the other guy to stare at the radar and equipment and tell the nose gunner where to go.
Eventually purpose-built night-fighters were designed and deployed, during World War II the United States had its first purpose built night-fighter, the P-61 Black Widow.
|P-61C Black Widow at Udvar-Hazy (Source)|
Another thing I found to be awfully cool...
What's that? More pictures? Sure, I can do that.
|A U.S. Navy Douglas F3D-1 Skyknight (BuNo 123763) from Composite Squadron VC-3 "Blue Nemesis" in flight. VC-3 was home based at Moffett Field, CA (PD).|
|A U.S. Marine Corps Douglas F3D-2Q Skyknight (BuNo 124618) of Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron VMCJ-2 "Playboys" in flight. VMCJ-2 was based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC (PD).|
|Maintenance on an APQ-35 radar of an F3D-2 in Korea, 1953. (PD)|
|Four Douglas F3D-2 Skyknight night fighters of Marine night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 "Flying Nightmares" parked are on the flight line at Pyeongtaek, Korea (K-6), in 1952-53. (PD)|
|Sparrow I's during tests on a F3D Skyknight in the early 1950s (PD).|
|A U.S. Navy Douglas F3D-1 Skyknight (BuNo 123748) launches an AAM-N-2 Sparrow missile at the Naval Air Weapons Testing Center, Point Mugu, CA, in 1950. (PD)|
Another interesting thing about this aircraft was how the crew got out of it in a hurry. No ejection seats, no pop the canopy and jump, oh no, nothing like that. There was a chute between the two seats which the crew were expected to slide down, departing the aircraft from underneath. Oh yeah, don't forget to pull that ripcord! Interesting stats (and pictures) over at Project Get Out and Walk, a most interesting place to visit.
|A U.S. Navy aviator bails out through the cockpit floor of a Douglas F3D-1 Skyknight at Naval Air Facility El Centro, CA. (PD)|
Did you notice the side number in Tuna's photo, 12 7/8? Yeah, what's up with that? Well, I looked that up for you...
|Tigercats, Corsairs, F3Ds - all the aircraft of VMF(n)-513 painted with side number 13 kept going missing. An F3D was painted with the number 12 7/8 to foil the curse. (Source)|
Though at first glance the Skynight is something of an odd looking bird, it actually has quite a storied history. It was even used in Vietnam for electronic warfare until it was replaced by the EA-3A "Electric Intruder."
|US Marine Corps EA-6A Intruder electronics aircraft of VMCJ-2 Playboys aboard USS America in 1974 during a visit to Scotland. (Source)|
Want to know who designed the Skynight?
|Douglas Aircraft Company chief designer Ed Heinemann (1908-1991). (Source)|
|Douglas A-4 Skyhawk (Source)|
|At NAS Oakland in October 1953. The wartime camouflage on the Reserve hangar is still there. (Source)|
|A former U.S. Navy Douglas F-10B "Skyknight" (BuNo 124598) in service with the U.S. Army in May 1980. This aircraft was flown under contract by Raytheon and is today on display at the U.S. National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, FL. (Source)|
In my research I kept coming across photos of a swept wing version of the Skynight. Never happened, it was planned to do that and re-equip the jet with the J-46 engine. Said engine never made it into production. But the redesigned bird looks pretty awesome!
It's only a model...**
The Skynight was in service through the Vietnam War. (You might note that some photo captions call it the "Skyknight" which was the official name, "Skynight" was unofficial. It was also called the "Drut" by the Marines. What's a Drut you might ask, look at it backwards. Shaun pointed that out in Tuna's post as well. He knows his carrier birds!) According to Wikipedia -
Skyknights continued in service through the 1960s in a 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 re-designated F-10A and the F3D-2 was re-designated F-10B.
The U.S. Navy continued to use the F-10s for avionics systems testing. The F-10 was used as a radar testbed to develop the APQ-72 radar. The nose of an F-4 Phantom was added to the front of an F-10B. Another F-10 had a modified radome installed by the radar manufacturer Westinghouse. Yet another TF-10B was modified with the nose from an A-4 Skyhawk. In 1968, three Skyknights were transferred to the U.S. Army. These aircraft were operated by the Raytheon Corporation at Holloman AFB where they were used testing at the White Sands Missile Range into the 1980s; they were the last flyable Skyknights. (Source)Hhmm, a Skynight with a Phantom radome? The horror!
A pretty interesting jet, we actually have one here in Little Rhody over at the Quonset Air Museum, which is currently closed and may never reopen. From what I understand, you can't get close to the birs they still have. Sigh...
It's always sumthin'.
|I don't see the Skynight anywhere! Google Maps|
With a tip from Jack - downloaded Google Earth, went back in time, and voilà, the Quonset Air Museum when it was still open and still had a Skynight.
|To the left of the big red arrow...|
* Actually olive drab, but our service dress uniforms were blue. Not that we wore those on the flight line mind you.
** Yes, that was a lame Monty Python reference.