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First to Mach 2 — Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket

29 February 2012

First to Mach 2 — Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket

An evolution of the Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak, the Skyrocket was made to burn. It was swept winged, rocket powered and carried aloft by a mothership — all significant differences from the Skystreak. It was the second Skyrocket airframe which was the first aircraft to obtain Mach 2, albeit in a slight dive, and happening on 20 November 1953.

The Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket at the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall, this is the actual aircraft which was first to fly Mach 2 — photo by Joseph May

That was the record, but the Skyrocket flew most often between Mach 1.5 and Mach 1.7 collecting valuable data which was subsequently used in the Century Fighter designs. The entire D-558 program — both the Skystreak and Skyrocket — made significant contributions seen to this day. These can be noted in the all moving tailplanes as well as the streamlined shapes of the underwing stores carried by fighter and attack aircraft.

The program was a Navy one so the aircraft did not have an “X” designation which was an Air Force term. Later the services would share a common naming convention. However, both the Skystreak and Skyrocket were X-planes in their day and should be better recalled by history.

The three D-558-2 Skyrocket airframes manufactured exist and are on display where they can be seen in these locations:

Placing “D-558″ into the search window and selecting ENTER will bring you to posts about the Skystreak as well as the D-558 program.

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