...D-558-1 Skystreak and D-558-2 Skyrocket, from Osprey Publishing
Title: Douglas D-558
Author: Peter E. Davies
Number 12 in Osprey's X-Planes series is interesting as ever, though technically the Douglas D-558 was not an 'X' designated aircraft as that was reserved for the USAF. The D-558 was a US Navy project, and the two operated their own, separate programmes.
After WW2 there was a lot of work to investigate the practicalities of aircraft operating at the speed of sound and above. Compressibility had an effect on aircraft control surfaces, something experienced by a number of allied pilots towards the end of WW2, as they were capable of speeds approaching the sound barrier. Some thought it couldn't be done, but the US, under the banner of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) spent a lot of time, effort and money investigating the future for aircraft design and powerplants. This book gives a good guide to how some late war German designs as well as work in the UK influenced their projects. There was some rivalry between the USAF and USN programmes, with attempts to break speed and height records.
The first of the D-558 series had straight wings and was powered by a jet engine, though had a very cramped cockpit for the pilot. This was the Skystreak. The later Sky rocket had swept wings and a rocket motor. This involved a change to air launches from a B-29 'mother' aircraft. That was expensive and had some issues though so high speeds were eventually achieved.
With a good collection of archive photos, and the super artwork that characterise Osprey's books, this makes interesting reading. I have to say, though not directly concerned with the D-558, it also brought my mind to the start of the film 'Space Cowboys', and those early experimental aircraft flights which did later influence military aircraft design and had numerous lessons that were later applied in the space programme.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy.