X-3 Stiletto Test Aircraft

X-3 Stiletto Test Aircraft

Historical Snapshot

X-3 Stiletto Test Aircraft

The single experimental Douglas X-3, called the Stiletto because of its knife-like shape, was built to test the effects of high temperatures induced by high speeds on an aircraft, to investigate the use of new materials such as titanium, and to explore new construction techniques.

Maj. Charles E. Yeager, who was the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound, was part of the inspection team for the Stiletto mockup. The unusual aircraft had a long, tapered nose, which contained most of its 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms) of instrumentation, and tiny wings. The two engines were side by side in the fuselage, and the pilot’s downward ejector seat in the pressurized cockpit also operated as an electronically controlled lift.

Although the aircraft never reached the speeds it was designed for, it contributed greatly to the development of high-speed aircraft. Data obtained with the X-3 was distributed throughout the U.S. aviation industry.

In 1956, the X-3 found its resting place at the U.S. Air Force Museum.

    Technical Specifications

    First flight Sept. 20, 1952
    Wingspan 22 feet 8 inches
    Length 66 feet 9 inches
    Height 12 feet 6 inches
    Weight 22,400 pounds (max.)
    Armament None
    Power plant Two 3,370-pound-thrust (4,900-pound-thrust with afterburner) Westinghouse J34s
    Speed 706 mph
    Ceiling 38,000 feet