News | March 23, 2023

Douglas F4D-1/F-6A Skyray

By Cmdr. Peter Mersky, USNR (Ret.)

by Nicholas M. Williams, 2021. 257 pp. Ill.

A considerable upgrade from the previous 1986 “Naval Fighters No. 13,” this new edition offers 60 additional pages that, of course, include many more photos of what might be considered Douglas’ futuristic bat-wing naval interceptor of the late 1950s-early 1960s. Like Chance Vought’s F7U Cutlass of relatively the same period, the Skyray did not enjoy great success or a lengthy career service in the Fleet; unlike the Cutlass, however, the Skyray enjoyed a very short time with the reserves. Neither saw any combat, but could have during its brief deployment (September 1958-March 1959) with Marine Fighting  Squadrons VMF/VMF(AW)-114 and 115 to Formosa during the tense confrontation with Communist China in the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis of that period. As it happened, several Skyray pilots had occasional close radar contacts of mainland Chinese MiG-17s.

The F4D was viewed with some concern by those pilots who flew it, and at best, it offered some performance attributes and technological advances that earned the aircraft a definite place in history. It was certainly one of the most attractive military aircraft of its time.

Following the now well-established format of its lengthy series, this new book, published by Steve Ginter and written by a former enlisted member of the Navy with his own list of published works, gives a close look at this unique fighter in photos and text, as well as the expected survey of scale models of the F4D through the years.

The Skyray has seen another excellent biography, “Killer Rays: The Story of the Douglas F4D Skyray and F5D Skylancer” (the F5D was an advanced upgrade of the F4D) by Mark Frankel, published by Specialty Press in 2010. Williams contributed to this book as he had been a long-time “F4D historian.” Now he has written his own work on the aircraft, and alongside the first book, these three works can be said to really give a three-volume history of Douglas’ foray into delta-winged interceptors.

The two authors’ presentations are definitely different, but in Williams’ and Ginter’s defense, followers of the Naval Fighters series of which this is No. 113, a hundred books beyond the first series book on the “Ford,” as it was often referred to by pilots and maintainers, the series obviously is an established product that has found favor with its readership.