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Vought F-8 Crusader BuAer No. 146898

The Vought F-8 Crusader (originally the F8U) was a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built by Vought Aircraft for the United States Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps, replacing the Vought F7U Cutlass. The F-8 was the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon. The RF-8 Crusader was an outstanding photo-reconnaissance aircraft and operated longer than any of the fighter versions. F-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.

A unique feature of the F-8 was the variable-incidence wing which pivoted by 7° upward out of the fuselage on takeoff and landing. This created greater lift due to a greater angle of attack without compromising forward visibility because the fuselage stayed level.

The first flight was on March 25, 1955. On that flight, the aircraft flew faster than the speed of sound. The second prototype followed a few months later and made a catapult launch on April 4, 1956. The aircraft set a U.S. speed record later in the year. In 1957, Strike Fighter Squadron THIRTY-TWO, VF-32, “Fighting Swordsmen” at Cecil Field Naval Air Station (NAS) was the first squadron to receive the planes. They deployed late in the year on the USS Saratoga for the Mediterranean. The aircraft were all redesignated F-8s in 1962. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, pairs of F-8s made low-level flights twice daily from Key West, over Cuba, and then on to Jacksonville. The films were then taken to Washington, D.C., for processing and interpretation. The F-8 continued to excel during the Vietnam War being used for most every mission type. 1,219 aircraft were built with the last delivered on September 3, 1964. The last fighter unit retired them in 1976. The reconnaissance version stayed active another 11 years with the last being retired to the National Air and Space Museum in 1987.

TECHNICAL NOTES
Length
54 feet, 3 inches
Wingspan
35 feet, 8 inches
Height
15 feet, 9 inches
Payload
5,000 pounds of weapons
Empty Weight
17,541 pounds
Loaded Weight
29,000 pounds
Powerplant
1 × Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A afterburning turbojet
Fuel Capacity
1,325 US gallons
Max. Speed
Mach 1.86 (1,225 mph)
Cruise Speed
570 mph
Service Ceiling
58,000 feet
Rate of Climb
31,950 feet/minute
Armament
  • Internal Guns: 4 x 20mm (0.79 in) Cold Mark 12 cannons in lower fuselage, 125 rounds per gun
  • External Hardpoints: 2 x side fuselage mounted Y-pylons (for mounting AIM-9 Sidewinders and Zuni rockets) and 2x underwing pylon stations hold up to 4,000 pounds of payload.
  • Rockets: 2x LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4x 5-inch (127mm) Zuni rockets)
  • Missiles: Air to Air missiles: 4x AIM-9 Sidewinders, Air to surface: 2x AGM-12 Bullpups
  • Bombs: 12x 250 pound Mark 81 bombs or 8x 500 pound Mark 82 bombs or 4x 1,000 pound Mark 83 bombs or 2x 2,000 pound Mark 84 bombs

AIRCRAFT HISTORY

The Fort Worth Aviation Museum's Vought F8U-1P – later redesignated a RF8-G -- Crusader, Navy Bureau of Aeronautics No. 146898, was built in 1960 in Grand Prairie, Texas. The aircraft was both delivered to and accepted by the Navy on February 26, 1960.

Its first assignment began on March 4, 1960, with Light Photographic Squadron SIXTY-THREE, VCP-63, “Cameras Unlimited” NAS Miramar, California. This squadron used the tailcode “PP” and the aircraft was number “901.” This and other aircraft in the squadron served on smaller detachments when an entire squadron of photo reconnaissance aircraft was not needed. These detachments all performed the same job just in varying locations. On October 26, 1960, this aircraft was assigned to Detachment L from this squadron and boarded the USS Lexington for a Western Pacific Cruise (October 1960-June 1961). They returned to NAS Miramar on June 8, 1961. The squadron designation was changed to Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron SIXTY-THREE, VFP-63, “Eyes of the Fleet” on July 19, 1961. The squadron tailcode remained “PP.”

On November 1, 1961, the aircraft joined Detachment F of VFP-63 and was assigned to the USS Lexington for a Western Pacific Cruise (November 1961-May 1962). They returned to NAS Miramar on May 16, 1962. On November 30, 1962, the aircraft was redesignated as an RF-8A. On May 9, 1963, the aircraft was assigned to Detachment L at NAS Miramar. On August 31, 1963, this detachment deployed joined the USS Hancock for part of its Western Pacific Cruise (June 1963-January 1964).

The aircraft returned to NAS Miramar on December 19, 1963. On July 8, 1964, the aircraft joined Detachment M of VFP-63 at Miramar. Detachment M deployed on the USS Ranger for a Western Pacific / Vietnam Cruise (August 1964-May 1965). On May 11, 1965, the aircraft was assigned to the Bureau of Naval Weapons Representative at the Dallas NAS. This was very likely the office at Vought Aircraft, which is also located on that airfield.

On June 25, 1968, this aircraft returned to VFP-63 at NAS Miramar. On June 27, 1969, the aircraft joined the Marine Corps – Marine Reconnaissance Squadron FOUR, VMJ-4, at Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment (MARTD), NAS Olathe, Kansas. On February 21, 1970, the aircraft returned to NAS Dallas when VMJ-4 relocated to the field and joined Marine Aircraft Group 41 (MAG-41). This was also a Marine Air Reserve unit. Tailcodes for the squadron were 7K (1967-1969), 5K (1969-1970), 5D (1970-1972), and MJ (1972-1973).

On January 5, 1975, the aircraft joined Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron THREE-HUNDRED SIX, VFP-306, “The Peeping Toms,” at NAF Washington DC, located at Andrews AFB. On December 9, 1975, the aircraft returned to VFP-63 at NAS Miramar. On June 15, 1976, the aircraft returned to VFP-306 at NAF Washington DC. On November 9, 1984, the aircraft was administratively removed from service after 24 years. At that time, it was the highest time RF-8 in the inventory.

It was made part of the collection of aircraft at the USS Alabama Memorial in Mobile, Alabama. In 2005 it was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina and removed to National Naval Aviation Museum to be prepared for the bombing range at Eglin AFB. VMAP saved it from destruction, but the aircraft still needs restoration.

Locally, the aircraft was built and served here. Also, local noted aviator, Neil Anderson flew this aircraft while Commanding Officer of the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment (MARTD) at NAS Dallas. This aircraft is on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum, in Pensacola, Florida. It arrived at the museum on December 29, 2008.

The tremendous photo record below is courtesy of the noted photographers and Robert L. Lawson Collection at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

References

UNIT INSIGNIA
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VFP-63

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VCP-63

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MAG-41

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USS Hancock

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VFP-306

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USS Ranger

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USS Lexington

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VMJ-4


HISTORICAL PHOTOS
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VMAPs RF-8 while at the USS Alabama Memorial.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 is in flight. 1979.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 is in flight. Circa 1979.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 is on the ground at Kelly AFB, TX.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 is on the ground at NAS North Island, CA.
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Two (2) RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 are in flight in Nevada.
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Four (4) RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 are in flight over La Jolla, CA.
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Four (4) RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP 306 are in flight.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VMJ-4 is on the ground at Olathe, KS.
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RF-8A Photo "Crusader" aircraft of VFP-63 Detachment "F".
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP-63 attached to USS Hancock (CVA-19) is in flight.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP-63 attached to USS Hancock (CVA-19) is in flight. Circa 1964.
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RF-8G Crusader aircraft of VFP-63 attached to USS Hancock (CVA-19) is in flight.
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F8U Crusader aircraft of VFP-63 Detachment L attached to USS Hancock (CVA-19) is in flight.
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Three (3) F8U Crusader aircraft of VFP-63 attached to USS Hancock (CVA-19) is in flight from Pacific Missile Range, NMC Point Magu, CA.
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View of an RA-5C attached to Reconnaissance Attack Squadron Five (RVAH-5) being led into action off the coast of Vietnam by the veteran Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron Sixty-Three (VFP-63) RF8A of Detachment M. Both squadrons are deployed with the USS Ranger (CVA-61), during her 1964 - 1965 Western Pacific cruise.
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Air to air refueling attempt between an A-4D of Attack Squadron Two Hundred Sixteen (VA-216) and an RF8A of Light Photographic Squadron Sixty-Three (VFP-63).
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Neil Anderson
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VMJ-4
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Photo by Del Laughery. RF-8 at USS Alabama Memorial Park.
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View of an RA-5C attached to Reconnaissance Attack Squadron FIVE (RVAH-5) being led into action off the coast of Vietnam by the veteran Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron SIXTY-THREE (VFP-63) RF8A of Detachment M. Both squadrons are deployed with the USS Ranger (CVA-61), during her 1964 - 1965 Western Pacific cruise.