Vought F-8 Crusader

The Vought F-8 Crusader (originally F8U) was a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built by Vought for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, replacing the Vought F7U Cutlass, and for the French Navy. The first F-8 prototype was ready for flight in February 1955, and served principally in the Vietnam War. The Crusader was the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon, earning it the title "The Last of the Gunfighters".

The RF-8 Crusader was a photo-reconnaissance development and operated longer in U.S. service than any of the fighter versions. RF-8s played a crucial role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, providing essential low-level photographs impossible to acquire by other means. U.S. Naval Reserve units continued to operate the RF-8 until 1987.

Vought F-8 Crusader
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Vought
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1955
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
France 1957 1999 View
Philippines 1957 1991 View
United States of America 1957 1976 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Vought 1219 View

In September 1952, the 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 (9,144.0 m) with a climb rate of 25,000 ft/min (127.0 m/s), and a landing speed of no more than 100 mph (160 km/h).[4] Korean War experience had demonstrated that 0.50 inch (12.7 mm) machine guns were no longer sufficient and as the result the new fighter was to carry a 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon. In response, the Vought team led by John Russell Clark, created the V-383. Unusual for a fighter, the aircraft had a high-mounted wing which necessitated the use of a fuselage-mounted 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 (not to be confused with variable-sweep wing). 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. The armament, as specified by the Navy, consisted primarily of four 20 mm (.79 in) autocannon; the Crusader happened to be the last U.S. fighter designed with guns as its primary weapon. They were supplemented with a retractable tray with 32 unguided Mk 4/Mk 40 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (Mighty Mouse FFARs), and cheek pylons for two guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Vought also presented a tactical reconnaissance version of the aircraft called the V-382.

Prototype XF8U-1s were evaluated by VX-3 beginning in late 1956, with few problems noted. Weapons development was conducted at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and a China Lake F8U-1 set a U.S. National speed record in August 1956. Commander "Duke" Windsor set, broke, and set a new Level Flight Speed Record of 1,015.428 mph (1,634.173 km/h) on 21 August 1956 beating the previous record of 822 mph (1,323 km/h) set by a USAF F-100, however, the world speed record of 1,132 mph (1,822 km/h), set by the British Fairey Delta 2, on 10 March 1956, was not broken.

An early F8U-1 was modified as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft, becoming the first F8U-1P, subsequently the RF-8A equipped with cameras rather than guns and missiles. On 16 July 1957, Major John H. Glenn, JR, USMC, completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight in a F8U-1P, flying from NAS Los Alamitos, California to Floyd Bennett Field, New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.3 seconds.

Role Fighter aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Vought
First flight 25 March 1955
Introduction March 1957
Retired 1976 (fighter, U.S. Navy)
29 March 1987 (photo reconnaissance, U.S. Naval Reserve)
1991 (Philippines)
19 December 1999 (fighter, France)
Status Retired completely in 2000
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
French Navy
Philippine Air Force
Number built 1,219
Developed into Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III
LTV A-7 Corsair II

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1

  • Payload: 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of weapons

  • Length: 54 ft 3 in (16.53 m)

  • Wingspan: 35 ft 8 in (10.87 m)

  • Height: 15 ft 9 in (4.80 m)

  • Wing area: 375 ft² (34.8 m²)

  • Airfoil: NACA 65A006 mod root, NACA 65A005 mod tip

  • Aspect ratio: 3.42:1

  • Empty weight: 17,541 lb (7,956 kg)

  • Loaded weight: 29,000 lb (13,000 kg)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A afterburning turbojet

  • Dry thrust: 10,700 lbf (47.6 kN)

  • Thrust with afterburner: 18,000 lbf (80.1 kN)

  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0133

  • Drag area: 5.0 ft² (0.46 m²)

  • Fuel capacity: 1,325 US gal (5,020 L)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.86 (1,225 mph, 1,975 km/h) at 36,000 ft (11,000 m)

  • Cruise speed: 570 mph (495 knots; 917 km/h)

  • Combat radius: 450 mi (730 km)

  • Ferry range: 1,735 mi (2,795 km) with external fuel

  • Service ceiling: 58,000 ft (17,700 m)

  • Rate of climb: 31,950 ft/min (162.3 m/s)

  • Wing loading: 77.3 lb/ft² (377.6 kg/m²)

  • Thrust/weight: 0.62

  • Lift-to-drag ratio: 12.8


  • Guns: 4× 20 mm (0.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons in lower fuselage, 125 rpg

  • Hardpoints: 2× side fuselage mounted Y-pylons (for mounting AIM-9 Sidewinders and Zuni rockets) and 2× underwing pylon stations holding up to 4,000 lb (2,000 kg) of payload:

    • Rockets:

      • 2× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4× 5 inch (127mm) Zuni rockets)

    • Missiles:

      • Air-to-air missiles:

        • 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or Matra Magic (mounted only on F-8E(FN) of French Navy)

        • Air-to-surface missiles:

        • 2× AGM-12 Bullpup

    • Bombs:

      • 12× 250 lb (113 kg) Mark 81 bombs or

      • 8× 500 lb (227 kg) Mark 82 bombs or

      • 4× 1,000 lb (454 kg) Mark 83 bombs or

      • 2× 2,000 lb (907 kg) Mark 84 bombs


  •  Magnavox AN/APQ-84 or AN/APQ-94 Fire-control radar

End notes