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Home of the fighters.

F-8 Crusader

The F-8 Crusader (originally F8U) was a single-engine aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft built by Vought. It replaced the Vought F-7 Cutlass. The first F-8 prototype was ready for flight in February 1955, and was the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon.[1] 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. Naval Reserve units continued to operate the RF-8 until 1987.

When conflict erupted in the skies over North Vietnam, it was U.S. Navy Crusaders that first tangled with VPAF MiGs in April 1965. Although the MiGs claimed the downing of a Crusader, all aircraft returned safely. At the time, the Crusader was the best dogfighter the United States had against the nimble North Vietnamese MiGs. The Navy had evolved its "night fighter" role in the air wing to an all-weather interceptor, the F-4 Phantom II, equipped to engage incoming bombers at long range with missiles such as Sparrow as their sole air-to-air weapons, and maneuverability was not emphasized in their design. Some experts believed that the era of the dogfight was over as air-to-air missiles would knock down adversaries well before they could get close enough to engage in dogfighting. As aerial combat ensued over North Vietnam from 1965 to 1968, it became apparent that the dogfight was not over and the F-8 Crusader and a community trained to prevail in air-to-air combat was a key ingredient to success.

Despite the "last gunfighter" moniker, the F-8s achieved only four victories with their cannon — the remainder were accomplished with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles,[4] partly due to the propensity of the Colt Mark 12 cannons' feeding mechanism to jam under G-loading during high-speed dogfighting maneuvers.[5] Nonetheless, the Crusader would be credited with the best kill ratio of any American type in the Vietnam War, 19:3.[1] Of the 19 aircraft shot down, 16 were MiG-17s and three were MiG-21s.[4]

USMC Crusaders flew only in the South, and U.S. Navy Crusaders flew only from the small Essex class carriers; there weren't many F-8s. USMC Crusaders also operated in CAS missions.

Performance

Maximum speed: Mach 1.86 (1,225 mph, 1,975 km/h) at 36,000 ft (11,000 m)
Cruise speed: 570 mph (495 kn, 915 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

Armament

Guns:

4× 20 mm (0.787 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons in lower fuselage, 125 rounds/gun
Rockets: 8× Zuni rockets in four twin pods

Missiles:

4× AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
2x AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground guided missiles

Bombs:

12× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs or
4× 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs or
2× 2,000 lb (900 kg) bombs