News | Dec. 21, 2022

F3D/EF-10 Skyknight Units of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

By Cmdr. Peter Mersky, USNR (Ret.)

Occasionally forgotten in Navy and Marine Corps aviation history, the Douglas F3D Skyknight was a twin-jet carrier-based night fighter with a mixed career that included a brief use in its intended role aboard carriers with the Navy. It eventually became a shore-based escort and night fighter for the Navy and Marine Corps during the Korean War. It then served a surprisingly lengthy and vital tour as an Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) platform in the first half of the Vietnam War, where it was sorely needed during the Rolling Thunder campaign to defend against North Vietnamese antiaircraft and surface-to-air missile (SAM) defenses and occasionally against the initial engagements involving MiG-17s directed by ground-based ground controllers. In this last role, the EF-10 model of the Skyknight was an important companion to the Air Force’s EB-66 Destroyer originally developed from the Navy’s long-lived A3D (later A-3) Skywarrior carrier-based bomber.

The Skyknight’s night exploits over Korea have seen more exposure than those of the EF-10s Vietnam period of service. By that time, the Navy had long retired its F3Ds, but the Marines had kept the aircraft in service long afterward. It is this period in the Skyknight’s career that gives much new information, photos and profiles for the reader interested in the Skyknight’s career. Details in how the F3D became the EF-10 are a new revelation. How the big two-engine once-carrier-based night fighter assumed the vital role protector of strike forces into North Vietnam for the last half of the 1960s have never been described in such detail.

One error, however, on page 56, lists the Pacific Fleet’s VFP-63 as the RF-8A squadron involved in 1962’s Operation Blue Moon during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, that squadron was the Atlantic Fleet’s VFP-62.

No. 143 in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft series, first-time Osprey author Joe Copalman’s biography of Douglas’s Skyknight book is well written and nicely supported with photos and color profiles by busy company artist Jim Laurier, with the usual exciting cover illustration by Scottish digital artist Gareth Hector.
For their help in researching facts for the F3D review, thanks to Dr. Brian F. Neumann and Dr. Seth Givens of the Marine Corps History Division, Quantico, Virginia, and the late Dr. Frank Olynyk, well-known “aceologist” authority and long-time historian for the American Fighter Aces Association.