Douglas X-3 Stiletto

Visually one of the most striking aircraft ever, the Douglas X-3’s advanced airframe design was unfortunately underpowered. Contemporary engine technology could not match the airframes potential.

In its fastest flight on July 28, 1953 the X-3 was clocked at Mach 1.21 in a dive. This was far below what Douglas and the Air Force had anticipated. Only one X-3 flew, providing little data for researchers into high-speed flight. It did however, provide Douglas experience in the use of titanium and other exotic production techniques.

One interesting fact, the X-3 had one of the fastest take-off speeds in history – 260 m.p.h.! Lockheed’s ‘Kelly’ Johnson used data relating to the low aspect ratio wings of the X-3 when finalizing his F-104 Starfighter design.

Pictured in this painting, the X-3 Stiletto is seen flying high over the California desert with a F-86 Sabre chase plane.