Fifty-nine years ago today, the Vought F-8 Crusader took flight for the first time. Pilots saw the Crusader as the ultimate dogfighter – light, maneuverable and packing heavy cannon armament. The F-8 had long range and was very fast for a naval fighter. With its supersonic shape and Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet engine, the Crusader set many speed records and was the Navy’s best carrier-based fighter when it went to war in Vietnam. The F-8 was armed with four 20 millimeter Mk 12 cannons and could carry up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. From 1965 to 1968 the Crusader was the leading MiG-killer over Vietnam, accounting for a total of 18 confirmed victories. During the war the F-8 had the highest kill ratio of any Navy aircraft. The aircraft took on extra duty as a carrier-based reconnaissance platform and RF-8A photo Crusaders played an important role during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The F8U Crusader was the first carrier-based jet fighter to exceed 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) per hour. Its variable-incidence wing, which could elevate up to seven degrees in the front while rotating about its rear spar, helped improve the aircraft’s flight characteristics at slow speeds and increase pilot visibility for takeoff and landing. Its folding outer wing tips facilitated storage on aircraft carriers. Improvements were made to the engines and radar, and ventral fins were added under the tail for increased directional stability. Of the 1,261 Crusaders built, 73 were modified as RF-8G reconnaissance models.
This RF-8G was the last operational Navy F-8. Delivered as an F8U-1P, it spent its first seven years with the Marine Corps and flew 400 combat hours in Southeast Asia. Its career total of 7,475.2 flight hours is the most of any U.S. Navy Crusader built ( Source The National Air and Space Museum).
Visit the full website at www.aviation-enthusiasts.com for more aviation and air show memories.