F-8 Crusader, Vought

F-8 Crusader

Before the introduction of the 'tri-service' designation system this aircraft was known as the F8U. It originally was a fast dayfighter, but later models were capable of all-weather operations. The problem of putting a powerful, heavy supersonic fighter on a carrier deck was solved by giving the F-8 a variable incidence wing, and it could operate even from smaller carriers. The Crusaders sold to the French 'Aeronavale' (which were in service well into the 1990's) had further modifications to reduce landing speed. The F-8 enjoyed a long and distinguished career, and was still very effective in Vietnam. There was also an RF-8 reconnaissance version, with a large rectangular fairing under the forward fuselage housing cameras. The F8U-3 was a totally new design, superficially similar, but with large belly fins and different nose contours; it did not enter service. 1305 built.

Type: F-8D (F8U-2N)
Country: USA
Function: fighter
Year: 1958
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 8165 kg P&W J57-P-20
Wing Span: 10.87 m
Length: 16.53 m
Height: 4.80 m
Wing Area: 34.84 m2
Empty Weight: 7957 kg
Max.Weight: 13154 kg
Max. Speed: 1976 km/h
Ceiling: 17700 m
Max. Range: 2795 km
Armament: 4*g 20 mm

Type: RF-8A (F8U-1P)
Function: reconaissance
Year: 1957
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 7258kg P&W J75-P-4
Speed: 1589km/h
Ceiling: 15790m
Range: 3233km

Type: F8U-3
Function: fighter
Year: 1958
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 13381 kg P&W J75-P-5A
Wing Span: 12.16 m
Length: 17.88 m
Height: 4.98 m
Wing Area: 41.80 m2
Empty Weight: 9917 kg
Max.Weight: 17587 kg
Speed: 2832 km/h
Range: 3289 km


In September 1952, United States Navy announced a requirement for a new fighter. It was to have a top speed of Mach 1.2 at 30,000 ft (9,150 m) with a climb rate of 25,000 ft/min (127 m/s), and a landing speed of no more than 100 mph (160 km/h). Korean War experience had demonstrated that 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns were no longer sufficient and as the result the new fighter was to carry 20 mm (0.8 in) cannons. In response, the Vought team led by John Russell Clark created the V-383. Unusually for a fighter, the aircraft had a high-mounted wing which allowed for short and light landing gear. The most innovative aspect of the design was the variable-incidence wing which pivoted by 7 out of the fuselage on takeoff and landing. This afforded increased lift due to a greater angle of attack without compromising forward visibility because the fuselage stayed level. Simultaneously, the lift was augmented by leading-edge slats drooping by 25 and inboard flaps extending to 30. The rest of the aircraft took advantage of contemporary aerodynamic innovations with area ruled fuselage, all-moving stabilators, dog-tooth notching at the wing folds for improved yaw stability, and liberal use of titanium in the airframe.

Power came from the Pratt & Whitney J57 afterburning turbojet and the armament, as specified by the Navy, consisted of four 20 mm cannons, a retractable tray with 32 unguided Mighty Mouse FFARs, and cheek pylons for two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Vought also presented a tactical reconnaissance version of the aircraft called the V-382. Major competition came from Grumman with their Pratt & Whitney J79-powered F-11 Tiger, McDonnell with upgraded twin-engine F3H Demon (which would eventually become the F-4 Phantom II), and North American with their F-100 Super Sabre adopted for carrier use and dubbed the Super Fury.

In May 1953, the Vought design was declared a winner and in June Vought received an order for three XF8U-1 prototypes (after adoption of the unified designation system in September 1962, the F8U became the F-8). The first prototype flew on 25 March 1955 with John Conrad at the controls. The aircraft exceeded the speed of sound during its maiden flight. The development was so trouble-free that the second prototype, along with the first production F8U-1, flew on the same day, 30 September 1955. On 4 April 1956, the F8U-1 performed its first catapult launch from USS Forrestal (CVA-59), and VF-32 Swordsmen began accepting first deliveries by March 1957.

Crusader III

In parallel with the F8U-1s and -2s, the Crusader design team was also working on a larger aircraft with ever greater performance, internally designated as the V-401. Although externally similar to the Crusader and sharing with it such design elements as the variable incidence wing, the new fighter was larger and was powered by the Pratt & Whitney J75-P-5A engine generating 29,500 lbf (131 kN) of afterburning thrust. To deal with Mach 2+ flight conditions, the aircraft was fitted with a complex variable air intake and large vertical ventral fins under the tail which rotated to the horizontal position for landing. To ensure sufficient performance, Vought made provisions for a Rocketdyne XLF-40 liquid-fuel rocket motor with 8,000 lbf (35.6 kN) of thrust in addition to the turbojet. Avionics included the AN/AWG-7 fire control computer, AN/APG-74 radar, and AN/ASQ-19 datalink. The system was expected to simultaneously track six and fire at two targets.

The F8U-3 first flew on 2 June 1958. During testing, the aircraft reached Mach 2.6 at 35,000 ft (10,670 m). With Vought projecting a top speed of Mach 2.9, the Navy designated the project F8U-3 and in December of 1955 declared a competition for a Mach 2+ fleet defense interceptor. Flyoffs against the Crusader III's main competitor, the future F-4 Phantom II, demonstrated that the Vought design had a definite advantage in maneuverability. However, the solitary pilot in the F8U-3 was easily overwhelmed with the workload required to fly the intercept and fire Sparrows which required constant radar illumination from the firing aircraft, while the Phantom II had a dedicated radar intercept officer onboard. In addition, with the perception that the age of the guns was over, the Phantom's considerably larger payload and the ability to perform air-to-ground as well as air-to-air missions, trumped Vought's fast but single-purposed fighter. The F8U-3 program was cancelled with five aircraft built. None have survived to this day.
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