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Ling-Temco-Vought F8U / F-8 Crusader / V-392
Chance Vought F8U


RF-8A Crusader

In September 1952 the US Navy issued a required for a fighter that could fly faster than the speed of sound and operate from a carrier. The RFP (Request For Proposals) was issued to eight different aircraft manufacturers. A total of 21 proposals were submitted. In May 1953 the US Navy selected the V-383 by Chance-Vought as the winner. Two prototypes were built and designated XF8U-1. Shortly after the US Navy also ordered the V-392 which would become known as the F8U-1P.

The design features a high-mounted, variable incidence wing which can pivot upwards to permit lower landing speeds. Originally a dayfighter but later variant were also capable of flying all-weather operations. The Crusader is considered to be a dogfighter, equipped with four 20mm cannons as it primary weapons and two or four short range air-to-air missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder as secondaries.

On March 25 in 1955 the first of two prototypes (138899 & 138890) took off from Edwards AFB for its maiden flight piloted by John Konrad. On this first flight the aircraft went supersonic.
Vought XF8U-1
First production was F8U-1 (re-designated F-8A in 1962), first flying on 30 September 1955. 593 were built; 138899 & 138900, 140444-140448, 141336-141363, 142408-142415, 143677-143821, 144427-144625, 145318-145545, 145604-145647, and 146822-146905.
The first production Vought F-8A Crusader went to the Navy’s VF-32 squadron in March 1957 and these first went to sea on board USS Saratoga.
Vought F8U-1
F8U-1D, re-designated DF-8A, were control aircraft for Regulus missiles and the DF-8F target drone controller.


Shortly after the production of the F8U-1 started, the first unarmed photo-recon F8U-1P flew on December 17, 1956 and it was the F8U-1P that did low-level photo reconnaissance during the Cuba crisis. 144 of the 1957 F8U-1P / RF-8A were built; 141363, 1446507-144625, 145604-145647, and 146822-146901.
The F8U-1 was followed by an improved variant, the F8U-1E, which had an improved APS-67 radar system (and so a bigger plastic nose-cone), giving it limited all-weather capability. The first F8U-1E - a modified production F8U-1 - flew in early September, 1958
Vought F-8E VF-51 149149
A total of 218 F8U-1s and 130 F8U-1Es (145416-145545) were built before production switched in September of 1958 to the F8U-2.

A total of 218 F8U-1s and 130 F8U-1Es were built before production switched in September of 1958 to the F8U-2.




The YF8U-2 prototype flew for the first time on August 20, 1957. It was powered by a new and more powerful engine, a J57-P-16 with afterburner. The new engines also needed additional cooling. The F8U-2 could be fitted with up to four instead of two Sidewinder missiles. However, the four-missile armament was only very rarely carried in combat, since pilots felt that the extra weight and reduction in fuel load was not worth the two extra missiles. The F8U-2N was a limited all-weather interceptor version of the Crusader. The 'N' stood for night, because this version was intended to become a true night fighter. It was equipped with the even more powerful J57-P-20 engine and an approach power compensator (APC). The APC made the carrier landings a lot easier and saver. A total of 152 were built between June 1960 to January 1962 and served also with the US Marine Corps. The US Navy F-8D's were however quickly replaced by the F-8E. The F-8E entered service in September 1961.


The F8U-2, F-8C, -8D, -8E, and -8J featured new fire-control and APQ-94 radar systems, and 10700 lb P&W J57-P-16/-20 engines. First flown on 20 August 1958, 625 were built; 145546-145603, 146906-147077, 147896-147925, 148627-148710, 149134-149227, 150284-150355, 150654-150683, and 150843-150932] included suffixes F8U-2N/F-8D (all-weather with APQ-83 radar) and F8U-2NE/F-8E (with APQ-94 radar); plus 42 as F-8E(FN) for the French Navy (151732-151773). The F-8E was developed further with J57-P-20 as the F-8J, with complications.
Vought F-8C USMC VMF-334 146913
The intent of the F-8J was to improve the F-8E with better radar, tail armament in the form of armor plate protection for the UHT actuators, better cruise and landing flight characteristics with 2-section leading edge droops and BLC, improved approach power compensator with a UHT rate input, improved ECM and wing pylon fuel drop tank capability. There were a few more things, like new wiring, UHF radio, and APR-30 RWR gear. But the plane was rushed to the fleet with only limited carrier-suitability testing.

Squadrons on the Ticonderoga and Bon Homme Richard got to be the carrier-suitability testers for the fleet by default.

The aircraft was woefully overweight by almost 2000lb and underpowered. With BLC on you lost about 800 lb of thrust. Flight control rigging was optimized to achieve the slowest approach speed with apparently little consideration for anything else. The result was a dangerous aircraft around the boat, especially at night. Although approach speeds were down around the 120-kt range at max trap weight, you couldn't see over the nose, and wave-off capability was pathetic. Squadrons tried various things to deal with the poor wave-off performance.
The Tico played with "trim drag" by altering the c/g of the aircraft through fuel management. They would intentionally leave fuel in the aft cluster for this purpose. The Bonny Dick placed limits on temperatures that we could fly using 90° for day and 85° for night. (They promptly installed a thermometer that could be read in tenths, and at 84.9° at night we would launch.) We also were taught the "pulse technique" wave-off. For this you would rotate the aircraft to almost a stall while simultaneously applying full power. With the sink rate halted, you would then ease off and climb out. Imagine that maneuver at night!

To add to your worries, you could actually fly the airplane below the minimum speed required to operate the RAT (Marquardt emergency Ram-Air Turbine). The thought that you could be on final at night, operating off the RAT, and then lose all electrical power was frightening, to say the least.

Gradually, during the cruise, Navair responded to the problems and sent teams to WestPac to begin incorporating the fixes. To relieve the weight problem, armor plate in the tail was removed and the ALQ-51 was re-installed to replace the newer, but heavier, ALQ-100. Visibility over the nose was improved by changing the flight control rigging and increasing the approach speed to around 128 kts. The RATs were reworked to allow for safe operation at approach speeds. Wave-off capability was improved by incorporating a "War Emergency Thrust" throttle position -- a spring was added to the leading edge of the throttle quadrant that would stop the throttle at the MRT position unless you pushed it further against the spring and into the WEP position. We were instructed to get used to using WEP by practicing during fouled-deck waveoffs until the first engine hot section inspection showed that we were destroying the engine's burner cans. It seems that WEP was just intentionally allowing you to overspeed the engine for additional power, and it played hell on the burner cans.

The ultimate fix came with the improved J57-P-400 series engines about a year later. Eventually, Navair made all the necessary mods, and the -8J served well until its retirement. (Jack Musitano 02/01/00)

On September 18, 1962, the Crusader F8U was redesignated F-8 under the new unified Tri-Service designation scheme.

The F8U-2N first flew on 16 February 1960 and deliveries began to the US Navy commenced later that year.
The F-8E or F-8FN Crusaders was the French version of this successful dogfighter and remained in service with the French Navy until the end of 1999 to be replaced by the Rafale-M. A total of 1305 Crusaders were built.




The F8U-2NE or later designated F-8E was the final production version of the Crusader for the US Navy. It was an improvement of the F8U-2N with a new and even larger APQ-94 search and fire-control radar that gave it improved all-weather capability. The F8U-2NE differed from previous Crusaders in having a substantial air-to-ground capability. A total of 286 F-8Es were built until the end of the summer of 1964. It was the E model of the Crusader that was responsible for the greatest number of Crusader MiG kills in Vietnam 


The F8U-3 first flew in early June 1958. It was distinguishable by two retractable ventral fins which improve stability at supersonic speed.

The F8U-1T (TF-8A) was a two-seat version of the original F8U-1. Although it seemed promising during 1962 it never went into full scale production because of US Navy cutbacks. The TF-8A went to Europe to attract customers, the British were at first interested but choose the F-4 Phantom. The TF-8A was sold to NASA and later regained to train Philippine pilots.

The RF-8G was a refurbished RF-8A with a modern engine,strengthened fuselage and wings, ventral fins, new navigation system and cameras. The first RF-8G re-entered service in October of 1965. Lifetime of these unarmed RF-8G photo recce crusader proved to be much longer than anticipated and in 1977 a second upgrade was done. The RF-8G remained in service with the US Navy till 1986 and thereby was the latest and longest serving Crusader in the US Navy.
Vought RF-8G at NAS Alameda, VFP-63
Starting in 1967 the F-8Ds were converted to the F-8H with a new engine. F-8Es were remanufactured as F-8J. The F-8J was the last Crusader fighter to take part in the Vietnam War. The next step was to upgrade the F-8Bs to F-8K and the F-8Cs to F-8L standards. The F-8M was supposed to be the designation for F-8As with low fly time, but there were not enough F-8A.

Crusaders were flown by the navies of France and the Philippines, the French F-8E (FN)s carrying Matra R530 and Sidewinder missiles. The US Navy operated a few modernized RF-8G Crusaders. Power for the F-8E(FN) is provided by one 18,000 lb thrust Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20 turbojet engine, which gives a maximum speed of nearly Mach 2.


So successful was the Crusader, that a serious effort was made to create a Mach 2 development as the F8U-3 Crusader III. This bore a strong external resemblance to the baseline Crusader, but was virtually a new aeroplane characterized by the revised forward fuselage (with a pointed nosecone and forward-raked ‘sugar scoop inlet) and higher aspect ratio ventral fins that were angled down from the horizontal position for additional stability in supersonic flight. The type first flew on 2 June 1958 but the competing Mcdonnell F4H Phantom II was preferred for production.
Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III 146340

Two F8U-3 Super Crusader, or Crusader III, were built in 1958, 146340 and 146341, powered with 16500 lb P&W J75-P-5A/6 turbojets (29500 lb with afterburners). The maximum speed was never determined, as the canopy would overheat and begin turning opaque at about Mach 2.6. With acceleration still evident at that speed, test pilots felt that Mach 3.0 was attainable.


French service
In 1962 the French Navy (Marine Nationale) ordered the F-8 Crusader to serve as a air superiority fighter aboard the new carrier Clemmenceau and Foch. The F-8 needed more upgrading in order to make it suitable and safe for the smaller French carriers. Improvements such as a bigger maximum angle of incidence for the wing to furthur reduce the landing speed were neccessary. A new weapon system was installed to make it capable for the French R.530 Matra missile. The variant was designated F-8E(FN) and entered service in October 1964. The French Crusader saw multiple upgrade (wings, afterburner and the R.550 Magic missile) until it was finally replaced in December 1999. When the carrier Clemmenceau was sent to the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War the Crusader was tasked with carrier protection against small vessels.

Philippine service
In late 1977, the Philippines government purchased 35 ex-US Navy F-8Hs that had stored at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. 25 of them were refurbished by Vought and the remaining ten were used for spare parts. As part of the deal the US would train Philippine pilots using the TF-8A. In 1988, after having intercepted a large number of Soviet bombers, all were withdrawn from service.


Awarded Collier trophy in 1957 and made the first carrier-to-carrier transcontinental flight, on 6 June 1967, and the first supersonic transcontinental flight, on 16 July 1957.


In 1971 NASA modified an F-8 as the F-8SCW to test NASA Langley's SuperCritical Wing designed by (Richard Whitcomb) to minimize drag from shockwaves that subsequetly represented millions of dollars yearly in fuel savings and reduced air pollution as airlines switched to supercritical-wing aircraft.
Vought F-8SCW






F8U-1 (F-8A)
Engines: 1 x Pratt & Whitney J57-P-4A, 16,000 lb.
Wing span: 35 ft 8 in (10.87 m).
Length: 54 ft 3 in (16.54 m).
Height: 15 ft 9 in (4.8 m).
Wheel track: 9 ft 8 in
Max TO wt: 34,000 lb (15,420 kg).
Armament: 4 x 20 mm cannon
F8U-1P (RF-8A)
F8U-1T (TF-8A)
F8U-1E (F-8B)
F8U-2 (F-8C)
Engine: P&W J57-P-16/-20, 10700 lb (16900 lb with afterburner)
Wingspan: 35'8"
Length: 54'3"
Max speed: 1120 mph
Cruise: 560 mph
Range: 1400 mi
Ceiling: 59.000'
F8U-2N (F-8D)
Engine: P&W J57-P-16/-20, 10700 lb (16900 lb with afterburner)
Wingspan: 35'8"
Length: 54'3"
Max speed: 1120 mph
Cruise: 560 mph
Range: 1400 mi
Ceiling: 59.000'
F8U-2NE (F-8E)
Engine: P&W J57-P-16/-20, 10700 lb (16900 lb with afterburner)
Wingspan: 35'8"
Length: 54'3"
Max speed: 1120 mph
Cruise: 560 mph
Range: 1400 mi
Ceiling: 59.000'
F8U-3 Crusader III
Engine: P&W J75-P-5A/6, 16500 lb (29500 lb with afterburners)
Wingspan: 38'11"
Length: 58'9"
Max speed SL: 800 mph (1457 mph at 50,000')
Cruise: 575 mph
Stall: 154 mph
Range: 645 mi
Ceiling: 51,000'
1968 F-8D modified to include external wing ordnance, increased strength fuselage, lead-launch computer, other improvements.
F-8E with larger fuselage, wings, other improvements.
Engine: P&W J57-P-16/-20, 10700 lb (16900 lb with afterburner)
Wingspan: 35'8"
Length: 54'3"
Max speed: 1120 mph
Cruise: 560 mph
Range: 1400 mi
Ceiling: 59.000'
F-8C with structural changes to fuselage, wing, landing gear.
F-8B with structural changes to fuselage, wing, landing gear.
F-8A with structural changes to fuselage, wing, landing gear.


Engine: one 80 kN (19,000 lb st) Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A afterburning turbojet
Length: 16.61m (54 ft 6 in)
Height: 4.80m (15 ft 9 in)
Wing span: 10.72m (35ft 2 in)
Take-off ('empty, equipped') weight: 8.935 kg (19,700 lb)
Max Take-Off Weight: 15.420 kg (34,000 lb)
Max level speed: Mach 1.7+ / 1.827+ km/h (1,135+ mph)
Service ceiling: 17,680m (58,000 ft)
Armament: 4x 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons / 84 or 144 rds each



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