11 September 1953: At Naval Ordinance Test Station China Lake, the experimental Philco/General Electric XAAM-N-7 “Sidewinder” heat-seeking air-to-air missile scored its first “hit” when it passed within 2 feet (0.6 meters) of a radio-controlled Grumman F6F-5K Hellcat. The missile was fired from a Douglas AD-4 Skyraider flown by Lieutenant Commander Albert Samuel Yesensky, United States Navy, the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of Guided Missile Unit SIXTY-ONE (GMU-61).
The Sidewinder was later redesignated AIM-9. It entered service in 1956 as the AIM-9B and has been a primary fighter weapon for 60 years.
The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a Mach 2.5+ missile, equipped with an infrared seeker to track the heat signature of the target aircraft. (The Hellcat drones used in the early test had flares mounted on the wingtips to give the experimental missile a target).
The current production version, AIM-9X Block II, is produced by Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona. It is 9 feet, 11 inches long (3.023 meters), 5 inches in diameter (12.70 centimeters), and weighs 188 pounds (85 kilograms). The warhead weighs 20.8 pounds (9.4 kilograms). The missile’s range and speed are classified. At current production levels, the average cost of each AIM-9X is $420,944 (FY 2015 cost). Block III development was cancelled for FY 2106.
Future Astronaut Wally Schirra flew many of the early test flights at NOTS China Lake. On one occasion, a Sidewinder came back at him, and only by skill and luck was he able to evade it.
NOTC China Lake is now designated as Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) China Lake. It is located approximately 55 miles (88 kilometers) north-northeast of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California.
21 August 1956: At 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) over Naval Ordnance Test Station China Lake, near Ridgecrest, California, Commander Robert Wilks Windsor, Jr., United States Navy, flew a production Chance Vought Aircraft F8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 141345, to 1,015.428 miles per hour (1,634.173 kilometers per hour)—Mach 1.54—over a 15 kilometer (9.3 miles) straight course. This established a new U.S. National Speed Record, breaking the previous record set by a North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre two years earlier.
“Duke” Windsor was awarded the Thompson Trophy for 1956 at the National Aircraft Show, Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma, during the first weekend of September.
F8U-1 Bu. No. 141345 was the twelfth production Crusader. It was a single-place, single-engine carrier based day fighter capable of supersonic speed.
The F8U-1 (redesignated F-8A in 1962) was 54 feet, 3 inches (16.535 meters) long with a wingspan of 35 feet, 8 inches (10.770 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 9 inches (14.801 meters). Its empty weight was 15,513 pounds (7.036.6 kilograms) with a maximum takeoff weight of 27,468 pounds (12,459.3 kilograms).
The Crusader was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4A turbojet engine which produced 16,200 pounds of thrust with afterburner. This gave the fighter a maximum speed of Mach 1.53 (1,013 miles per hour/1,630 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) or 733 miles per hour (1,180 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. The airplane could climb at 20,000 feet per minute (101.6 meters per second) and had a service ceiling of 42,300 feet (12,893 meters).
The F8U-1 was armed with four Colt Mk. 12 20 mm cannon with 144 rounds per gun, and carried two AIM-9A Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.
Commander Windsow was a Navy test pilot who carried out much of the F8U test program, including the aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Forrestal (CVA-59).
Bu. No. 141345 was assigned to the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), NAS Point Mugu, California, in 1961. It was converted to an F-8D, but was removed from service in 1964.
Vought built 1,213 F-8 Crusaders. 318 were the F8U-1 variant. Crusaders were in service with the United States Navy for 30 years.
A Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader (F-8A), Bu. No. 143806, is on display at the Harold F. Pitcairn Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum at Horsham, Pennsylvania, approximately 30 minutes north of Philadelphia.
Robert Wilks Windsor, Jr. was born at Wilmington, Delaware, 8 October 1918, the son of Robert W. Windsor and Mary B. Hackett Windsor. He studied at the University of Virginia before being appointed as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, entering 9 July 1937 and graduating in 1941. He was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy, 7 February 1941, and promoted to the temporary rank of Lieutenant, effective 1 December 1942.
Trained as a pilot, Windsor was designated a Naval Aviator in 1943. During World War II, he served aboard the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) and USS McLanahan (DD-615 ), a Benson-class destroyer, in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He also commanded Composite Squadron 68 (VC-68) aboard the escort carrier USS Shamrock Bay (CVE-84).
Lieutenant Windsor was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander, 20 July 1945. He served on the staff of Admiral Marc A. Mitsher. He was promoted to commander, 1 June 1951.
Following World War II, Lieutenant Commander Windsor trained at the Combat Information Center School, and then the Naval Air Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. During the Korean War, Commander Windsor flew off of USS Yorktown (CV-10).
After two tours as a test pilot, Commander Windsor was promoted to the rank of Captain, 1 July 1959. He served on the naval operations staff. Captain Windsor commanded USS Currituck (AV-7), a sea plane tender, from April 1962 to February 1963. From 31 July 1964 to 11 August 1965, he commanded the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA-62), and then served on the staff of Commander, Second Fleet, aboard USS Newport News (CA-148). Captain Windsor retired from the Navy in April 1967, after 30 years of service.
Captain Windsor married Miss Elizabeth Bethell Foster of Denver, Colorado. They had one son, also named Robert. Mrs. Windsor died in 1963.
Captain Robert Wilks Windsor, Jr., United States Navy (Retired), died at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 27 May 2000, at the age of 81 years. He and his wife are buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.