Vought F-8 Crusader Carrier-Borne Naval Fighter
The storied Vought F-8 Crusader carrier-based fighter served in an operational role for over 40 years with the United States, the Philippines, and France.
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The Vought F-8 "Crusader" was a direct response to a United States Navy requirement for a modern supersonic, carrier-based fighter. Utilizing nearly the identical powerplant of the North American F-100 "Super Sabre", the F-8 Crusader became the world's first carrier-based aircraft to break the speed of sound. The single-seat Crusader featured a long fuselage with a swept-back high-wing assembly and single-engine installation. A single vertical tail fin was fitted over the rear of the fuselage. The engine, exhausting through a large jet pipe at rear, generated upwards of 18,000lbs thrust with an afterburn capability. As a naval carrier-based fighter, the aircraft was fitted primarily with 4 x 20mm internal cannons for close-in work and supported early forms of American air-to-surface missiles (no ground attack capability was added) including the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range missile. Crusaders were eventually pressed into service over the skies of Vietnam with the growing American commitment in Southeast Asia. There it served with both the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the United States Navy (USN).
As a predominantly cannon-armed fighter, the F-8 has been seen by many as the end of the line for all-cannon-armed fighter jets - making the F-8 the last of the classic "gunfighters".
Of eight initial submissions viewed by USN authorities, the Vought F-8 design was selected for prototyping (as the XF8U - two examples completed). Carrier operations required special qualities in an aircraft, none more so important than the ability to take-off from a short runway, have an integrated tailhook for landing and feature a reinforced undercarriage capable of withstanding the violent force of carrier deck landings. The Vought submission fit the bill with the initial production version designated as F8U-1. The F-8 was also engineered with a special "tilting" wing assembly that could move up 7-degrees from its rest position. This minor movement allowed the aircraft the ability to achieve the short take-off and landings consistent with carrier operations.
The production-quality F8U-1 showcased underwing missile rails which proved a feature not found on the prototypes. The aircraft was capable of supersonic flight and set various speed and endurance records in its early career. In fact, it would be future astronaut and future United States Senator John Glenn that piloted a reconnaissance version of the Crusader from one American coast to the other - a flight taking just over 3 hours. 1962 saw the United States Navy adopt a revised aircraft designation system set down by the United States Air Force (USAF). From this point onwards, all Crusader variants (and other USN aircraft) would inherit all-new designations based on this change. As such, the F8U-1 simply became the F-8A model.