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F6D-1 Missileer

In the late 1950s, the US Navy was interested in obtaining an interceptor to protect carrier battle groups from Soviet strike aircraft. The Navy required a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with a longer loiter time on patrol than current fighters, the ability to carry a larger and more capable air-to-air missile, and the ability to intercept and defeat threats to the fleet at much greater distances from the carrier.

The program started with the threat projections being such that it was becoming very difficult to protect the fleet against Mach 2 raids coming in. The Navy had to have something better than we had with F4/Sparrow capability aircraft. All the studies said regular fighters just couldn't get there in time to shoot down enough and the surface-to-air missiles just couldn't handle the degree of the threat either. It turned out that studies in the mid-fifties indicated that the state of the art in radar was such that we could do a long-range radar search type of thing and get it into an airplane. Took about a five foot dish to do it.

On 21 July 1960 the Navy announced that a contract for the development of the Missileer aircraft for launching the Eagle long-range air-to-air guided missile, was being issued to the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. The development of the Eagle missile had preceded the airplane by a year or two. The TF-30 engine got started about that time in order to provide the engine and the missile system in time to match the airplane. It was to be a subsonic airplane, two turbo fan engines, two place side by side and with a five foot radar dish in the nose.

The F6D-1 was a subsonic aircraft that looked a lot like a scaled-up F3D Skyknight. It was to be powered by two 10,000 lb.s.t. Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-2 turbofans, and was to carry a three-man crew (pilot, co-pilot, and weapons system operator). The Missileer was to be capable of remaining on patrol for up to six hours, tracking targets at long range using its powerful Westinghouse APQ-81 pulsed-Doppler track-while-scan radar and attacking threats with its six long-range Bendix XAAM-10 Eagle air-to-air missiles. The Eagle was a massive long-range air-to-air missile with a maximum speed of Mach 4. It was equipped with an advanced pulse-Doppler active radar homer. The warhead of the Eagle could be either conventional or nuclear.

The concept of a "launch platform" rather than a pure "fighter" to defend the fleet met with opposition, since the craft would become defenseless right after all missiles have been launched. The airplane would certainly have been a success, but would have required a complementary fighter to handle the jobs requiring airplane speed and agility. The whole idea was at least a bit ahead of its time and the development program didn't go well. It was a controversial airplane in the sense it was such a low performance airplane. The air frame part of the game was really not too difficult a technical job. It would have been obviously a lot easier than it would have been doing a supersonic type of airplane.

Eventually, the Navy development organizations became convinced that the F6D was too slow, too narrow in application, and too expensive. The Eagle missile program faltered as well. Consequently, the F6D and its Eagle missiles were both put on hold in December of 1960 in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration. The outgoing administration did not want to let a full development contract until the incoming administration approved the program. So they kept Douglas on a low level engineering effort probably under $1 million to do some preliminary engineering but then left the decision whether to go ahead in May 1961 to the incoming administration.

McNamara then said the Navy has a new airplane started, the Air Force has a new fighter started called TFX in the Air Force terminology. The Navy's requirements were unfulfilled, but both the Phoenix missiles and the AN/AWG-9 radar used on its replacement, the F-14 Tomcat, evolved from the abortive Douglas F6D Missileer program.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:32:01 ZULU