American postwar aircraft
Vought F-8 Crusader
The Vought F-8 Crusader was one of the first truly supersonic carrier-based fighter
aircraft. It was built in large quantity and had a significant operational history - in
service as a dogfighter, strike aircraft, and reconnaissance platform - that is only now
coming to a close.
The Crusader began life as a US Navy requirement issued in September, 1952, for a
carrier-based fighter capable of a top speed greater than Mach 1. Eight aircraft
manufacturers participated in the competition, among them Chance-Vought.
The Chance-Vought design was revolutionary, a great step forward in the state of the
art; the Navy was quick to see its promise, and announced it the winner of the competition
in May, 1953. This was followed on 29 June by a Navy contract requiring Chance-Vought to
build two prototypes of an aircraft with the designation XF8U-1.
The first prototype was rolled out in February, 1955, and took to the air on 25 March,
breaking Mach 1 during this initial flight - making it the first fighter designed for
shipboard operation to fly faster than sound.
The F8U-1 was followed by an improved variant, the F8U-1E, which had an improved 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; 130 would be
built in all.
American aircraft had been quietly operating in the festering war in Southeast Asia
since 1962; in June, 1964, an RF-8A had been shot down over Laos.
The Crusader was used by both US Marine and Navy detachments during the war. The Marines
used the aircraft largely in the attack role, for support of their ground forces in South
Vietnam. In Navy hands, the Crusader was operated more as a dogfighter -- wing pylons were
rarely fitted to Navy Crusaders -- and racked up scores against North Vietnamese MiGs --
though enemy fighter opposition was never more than a serious nuisance, with most American
air losses due to an impressive system of ground defenses.
The success of the F-8 Crusader in air combat led to an intense rivalry with pilots of
the F-4 Phantom
. In the early part of the war, Crusaders won
the contest hands down, though their victories all occurred in the period 1966 through
1968. They shot down at least 18 MiGs. But the Vietnam War was the high tide of the
Crusader; increasingly replaced by its rival, the F-4
1972 the fighter versions of the F-8 were being phased out of service.
In service is still F-8F (FN) in French army.
||Carrier-based fighter and attack aircraft
||One Pratt&Whitney J57-P-20A turbofan
|Thrust with afterburner
|Initial climb rate
||350 sq ft
||32.51 sq m
||Four 20mm cannons M39 and up to 2,268 kg weapons incl. two AIM
Matra R530 missiles or eight 5 in (127 mm) rockets.