Tag Archives: NAWS China Lake

21 August 1956

Commander R.W. "Duke" Windsor, U.S. Naby, flying Vought F8U-1 Crusader Bu. No. 141345, set a U.S. national speed record of miles per hour ( km/h) at 40,000 feet over China Lake, California. (University of Texas)
Commander Robert W. “Duke” Windsor, Jr., U.S. Navy, flying Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 141345. (University of Texas)
Commander Robert W. Windsor, Jr., U.S. Navy, with a Vought F8U Crusader. (U.S. Navy)

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 National Aeronautic Association U.S. national speed record, breaking the previous record set by a North American Aviation F-100C Super Sabre two years earlier by 193.16 miles per hour (310.86 kilometers per hour).

“Duke” Windsor was awarded the Thompson Trophy for 1956 at the National Aircraft Show, Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma, during the first weekend of September.

National Aeronautics Association officials check timers after Commander Windsor's speed record flight. (Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation via Voughtworks)
National Aeronautic Association officials check timers after Commander Windsor’s speed record flight. (Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation via Voughtworks)

F8U-1 Bu. No. 141345 was the twelfth production Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader. It was a single-place, single-engine turbojet-powered air superiority day fighter designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers.

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). With the wings folded for storage, the span is 22 feet, 6 inches (6.858 meters). The wings were swept aft 42° at ¼-chord.

The swept wing is placed high on the fuselage and its angle of incidence is adjustable in flight. The wing has a total area of 375 square feet (34.84 square meters) and has a “dog tooth” leading edge, extending 1 foot, 0.7 inches (0.323 meters). The leading edges are swept aft to 47° (42° at ¼-chord), and there is 5° anhedral. The horizontal stabilator is placed lower than the wings. Its leading edge is swept aft to 50° and it has 3° 25′ dihedral.

The empty weight of the F8U-1 was 15,513 pounds (7,037 kilograms) with a maximum takeoff weight of 27,500 pounds (12,474 kilograms).

The F8U-1 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4 engine. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). Its Normal (continuous) rating is 8,700 pounds of thrust (38.70 kilonewtons) at 5,780 r.p.m. The Military Power rating is 10,200 pounds (45.37 kilonewtons) at 6,100 r.p.m., and it can produce 16,000 pounds (71.17 kilonewtons) at 6,100 r.p.m. with afterburner. The J57-P-4 is 20 feet, 10 inches (6.35 meters) long, 3 feet, 5 inches (1.041 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,860 pounds (2,205 kilograms).

The F8U-1 had a maximum speed of 637 knots (733 miles per hour/1,180 kilometers/hour) at Sea Level, and 880 knots (1,013 miles per hour/1,630 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its service ceiling is 42,300 feet (12,893 meters), and it has a combat ceiling of 51,500 feet (15,697 meters) with afterburner. The airplane’s combat radius is 310 nautical miles (357 statute miles/ kilometers)and the combat range is 1,150 nautical miles (1,323 statute miles/2,130 kilometers) at 494 knots (568 miles per hour/915 kilometers per hour)and 42,100 feet (12,832 meters).

Commander Robert W. Windsor, Jr., U.S. Navy (right) with the Thompson Trophy. (Vought Aircraft)
Commander Robert W. Windsor, Jr., U.S. Navy (right) and Fred Crawford of Thompson Products with the Thompson Trophy. (Vought Heritage)

The F8U-1 was armed with four Colt Mk. 12 20 mm cannon with 500 rounds of ammunition, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-homing air-to-air missiles. It could also carried thirty-two 2.75-inch Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) internally.

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 withdrawn from service in 1964.

Chance 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.

Vought Aircraft F8U Crusader Bu. No. 141345 at NAS Point Mugu, circa 1961).
Vought Aircraft F8U Crusader Bu. No. 141345 at NAS Point Mugu, circa 1961. (Million Monkey Theater)
Midshipman Robert Wilks Windsor, Jr., U.S. Naval Academy (Lucky Bag, 1941)
Midshipman Robert Wilks Windsor, Jr., U.S. Naval Academy, 1941. (Lucky Bag)

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).

USS Currituck (AV-7) at anchor off Santa Catalina Island, California, 12 November 1964. The aircraft is a Martin P5M Mariner. (U.S. Navy)
USS Currituck (AV-7) at anchor off Santa Catalina Island, California, 12 November 1964. The aircraft is a Martin P5M-2 Marlin. (U.S. Navy)

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.

USS Independence (CVA-62) at New York Harbor, Juky 1964. (U.S Navy)
USS Independence (CVA-62) at New York Harbor, July 1964. (U.S Navy)

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.

Commander Robert W. "Dule" Windsor, Jr., stands in teh cockpit of teh record-setting Vought F8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 141345. (U.S. Navy)
Commander Robert W. “Duke” Windsor, Jr., stands in the cockpit of the record-setting Vought F8U-1 Crusader, Bu. No. 141345, at Armitage Field, NAWS China Lake, California. (U.S. Navy)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 September 1953

A Grumman F6F-5K Hellcat drone awaits its fate on “death row” at Armitage Field, NOTS China Lake, California. (U.S. Navy)

11 September 1953: At Naval Ordnance 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).

XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder mounted under the right wing of Douglas AD-4 Skyraider Bu. No. 123920 (U.S. Navy)
XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder mounted under the right wing of Douglas AD-4 Skyraider Bu. No. 123920 (U.S. Navy)

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.

A Raytheon XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder I missile mounted under the left wing of a Douglas AD-4 Skyraider, Bu. No. 123920, circa 1952. (U.S. Navy)
This black-and-white photograph of a Philco/General Electric Sidewinder I missile shows better detail. It is mounted under the left wing of Douglas AD-4 Skyraider, Bu. No. 123920, circa 1952. (U.S. Navy)

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.

This sequence shows the effects of a hit on an F6F-5K drone by an experimental XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder missile. (U.S. Navy)
This sequence shows the effects of a hit on an F6F-5K drone by an experimental XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder missile. (U.S. Navy)

NOTC China Lake is now designated as Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake. It is located approximately 55 miles (88 kilometers) north-northeast of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of Southern California.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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