Douglas EF-10B

Douglas EF-10B Skynight

The Douglas F3D Skynight was designed in the mid to late 1940's to meet a US navy requirement for a modern turbojet powered night fighter. The first XF3D-1 flew in March 1948 with a 3000lb thrust J34-WE-24 turbojet and this led to production of 28 examples of the F3D-1. In 1958 a further 128 examples of an improved version, the F3D-2, were produced - this aircraft was intended to be powered by the 4600lb J46-WE-3 engine, but instead were powered by an improved version of the J34 engine. The aircraft saw extensive service during the Korean War (1950-3), during which the US Marine Corps scored numerous air victories with the aircraft. The F3D-2 is also remembered as the aircraft which made the first recorded jet v jet night kill. The Skynight was soon replaced by other aircraft in the US Navy interceptor role, but the US Marines continued to use the aircraft from land bases.

The US Marine later converted a number of Skynights into ECM and ELINT aircraft, giving this variant the designation F3D-2Q. However in 1962 the US military decided to consolidate their aircraft designation system and the F3D-2Q was redesignated the EF-10B. During the Formosa crisis of 1957-8 the aircraft was the first to detect the Communist Chinese fire-control radar. Later during the Cuban missile crisis, the EF-10B was the first to detect the presence of Soviet radars on the island. In 1965, during the Vietnam conflict, as air strikes inside North Vietnam increased, if was apparent that there was a serious lack of ECM aircraft to cover strike formations. As a result a small number of EF-10B's were dispatched to Da Nang airbase to provide cover for US Navy and Air Force raids over North Vietnam.

Douglas EF-10B Skynight

Although there were only ever around 10 EF-10B's available, they were heavily tasked. In support of raids they identified and recorded the location and frequency of enemy radars and then passed the location to defence suppression aircraft who bombed the site, or alternatively, they jammed the radars with chaff and ECM. The EF-10B's were very effective in this role, despite their age, and were used until well into 1966 when their role was taken over by RB-66 Destroyers, EKA-3B Skywarrior's and later the EA-6A 'Electric Intruder', the predecessor of the current EA-6B Prowler. The EF-10B continued to serve in Vietnam until 1969 and was eventually removed from operational service in 1970.

The US Air Force and Navy were very fortunate that the US Marine Corps had sufficient foresight to convert a number of Skynight's into EF-10B's and that were also available in Vietnam at a time when both services lacked the capability that this, by then fairly antiquated, aircraft provided. No Skynights are now in flying condition although some are on display in museums and at US military bases.