F-8 Crusaders were among the most advanced and lethal fighters in existence between the late 50s and early 70s – thanks largely to their stubby noses and gaping engine inlets.
However, F-8s weren’t as sleek as their early jet counterparts, yet these planes featured advanced avionics and revolutionary design features.
The Last of Gunfighters
Built by the Vought Corporation, F-8 Crusaders were designed to replace the Navy and Marine Corps’ Vought F7U Cutlass.
This carrier-based air superiority aircraft was the last American fighter that used guns as their primary weapon, earning them the title “The Last of the Gunfighters.”
Four 20mm Colt Mk 12 cannons were fitted in the lower fuselage, while two side-mounted Y-pylons and two underwing pylon stations housed a total of 4,000 lbs of ordinance.
Although Fairy Delta held the world record of 1,132 miles per hour, the Crusader would go on to become the first operational jet to exceeded 1,000 mph in level flight.
In July 1957, future Astronaut John Glenn Jr. flew F-8s on a record-breaking transcontinental flight between Los Angeles and New York, including refueling the Crusader, covering 2,807 miles in just over three hours and 20 minutes.
Coming in at 54 ft in length and 35 ft in wingspan, the Crusader could takeoff with a maximum weight of 60,000 lbs. Its Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A afterburning turbojet engine could produce 11,400 lbf dry or 18,000 lbf with afterburner.
Because of this, the F-8 was rated to have a maximum speed of Mach 1.8, climb up to 58,000 ft, and have a combat range of up to 450 mi.
F-8 in Service
By the end of the Vietnam War, F-8s had officially downed 19 enemy MiGs while losing only three of their own. Despite being called the Last Gunfighter, only four of its 19 confirmed kills were achieved with cannons while the rest were credited to AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
This was partly due to the fact that its Mk 12 cannons would sometimes jam under G-loading during high-speed dogfighting maneuvers.
Regardless, Crusader pilots would end up claiming the best kill ratio of any American fighter in the Vietnam War with a 19:3 kill ratio.
Crusaders were the first post-Korean aircraft to have relatively long tenures with the Navy.
The last operational was a reconnaissance variant that ultimately ended up on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.