Starting the design in 1947, Douglas was awarded a contract for the construction and testing of two prototypes in December 1948. The first prototype took off on its maiden flight in January 1951. The second prototype flew shortly thereafter, and the airframe set two new world records, absolute speed record of 1,211km/h and 100km closed course record of 1,171km/h, in October 1953. Having numerous improvements and refinements, the first production F4D-1 made its maiden flight in June 1954 and entered squadron service in April 1956. The distinctive 50 degree sweptback wings with round tips were equipped with leading edge slats and trailing edge elevons. A set of trimmers were installed on the inboard trailing edges of the wings. The outer portions of the wings could be folded upwards by oil pressure for carrier stowage.
Although the Skyray never saw any combat, it proved its high capability as an interceptor with numerous world records and scramble actions in Taiwan in response to crises in late 1950's.