The Vought name has been associated with naval aviation since its earliest days. The first fighter purchased for the US Navy was the Lewis and Vought Corporation VE-7 “Bluebird”. This aircraft type was the first to take off from a US Navy aircraft carrier. Innovation in naval aircraft design and the Vought name go hand in hand. The F4U Corsair (V-166B), the Bent Wing Bird, the XF5U (V-173) “Flying Flapjack” and the Tailless F7U Cutlass (V-346) all were designs that highlighted thinking out of the box.

       What would turn out to be the last production fighter to carry the Vought moniker would take to the air in February of 1955. The Vought F8U Crusader’s (V-383) design centered around a unique concept that had the wing pivot 7° for take offs and landings. This allowed the wing to have an increased angle of attack while the fuselage remained level, allowing the pilot to have greater visibility when approaching a landing and gave increased lift at take-off. The F8 Design team was awarded the Collier trophy in 1956 for this design innovation.

       The Crusader was the last Navy fighter to have guns as its primary weapons system and thus would be nicknamed the “Last Gunfighter”. The next generation of aircraft designs, such as the McDonnell F4 Phantom II, came off the drawing boards as missile platforms. It was not until after the lessons learned in Vietnam that guns returned to fighter designs, albeit not as the primary weapon.

       The US Navy announced a requirement in September 1952 for new fighter that was capable of a Mach 1.2 top speed at 30,000 ft. with a climb rate of 25,000 feet/minute and a landing speed of no more than 100 MPH. The new fighter was to have 20MM cannon armament as the experience of the air war in Korea had taught that 50 caliber machine guns were not quite up to the task.

       The Crusader was powered by the Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojet engine and, unusual for a fighter, had a high-mounted wing.

       In May of 1953 Vought was awarded a contract to build 3 XF8U-1 prototypes. The first of these taking flight on March 25, 1955. On this flight, test pilot John Konrad exceeded the sound barrier. In 1956 a F8U-1 Crusader (after 1962, the F-8A Crusader) reached 1,015 MPH in level flight, the first production model US fighter to do so.

Vought XF8U-1 Crusader - 1st Prototype - BuAer 138899Vought F8U-1P Photo Crusader - BuAer 146860 - The Last Crusader in US Navy Service

       Air Development Squadron VX-3 conducted an evaluation program on the first production Crusaders. In 1957 the first operational squadron to receive the F8U-1 was VF-32 at Cecil Field, FL. Shortly thereafter VF-32 boarded the USS Saratoga for a Mediterranean cruise. By the time the last Crusader was built Vought had become part of the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) Corporation. The last of 1,219 US Navy Crusaders was delivered to VF-124 at Naval Air Station Miramar on September 3, 1964. The fighter variant of the Crusader was retired in 1976, at the time the longest serving fighter in the US Navy. The last reconnaissance variant of the Crusader would be retired on March 29, 1987 and this aircraft was turned over to the National Air and Space museum at Dulles Airport in Washington DC.

       The “Last Gunfighter” only participated in one shooting conflict, that of Vietnam. During that conflict the Crusader maintained a 19:3 victory ratio and even though the primary weapons system of the crusader was its guns. Only 4 of those 19 victories were scored with the 20 MM cannon, the rest were brought down by Sidewinder missiles.

       I purchased Hasegawa kit # 07225 F-8E Crusader with Bonus Carrier Deck Section from Craftec Hobbies in East Windsor Connecticut. Craftec offers a selection hard to find and out of production model kits. This exceptional kit was produced in 2003, 17 years before I purchased it. I mention this because the age of the kit, in particular the age of the decal sheet, led to some problems during the build.

       In opening the box and looking over the optional markings I decided I wanted to model a Crusader with a history. One of the 4 marking options that come with the kit was BuAer # 150926 which on July 9, 1968 brought down a MiG-17. Looking over the kit instruction I saw that removal of the early variant ECM pod from the tail was recommended. Since all 4 of the marking options do not show this pod, I proceeded to remove it.

       The first step when following the kit instruction sheet is to paint and assemble the cockpit. The kit provides decals for the dashboard and side instrument panels. Probably due to their age, these decals fell apart while soaking in the water. It took some doing to wriggle the decal pieces into place.

       Next, some preliminary painting occurred. The wheel bays, upper engine bay, landing gear doors and stabilators where all painted with Testors Model Master Insignia White.

       Once the cockpit was assembled, work began on the intake, main wheel bay, tail hook and upper engine bay assemblies that make up the fuselage. Later steps included adding the ventral strakes, the landing gear (without the wheels), the elevators, the afterburner cooling inlets, windscreen and canopy in the closed position. Since I had made the decision to model a Crusader MiG Killer I opted to put the kit supplied Zuni rockets and attached the pylons with the Sidewinder missile launch rails instead. Once assembled the fuselage was put aside.

       As mentioned in the Crusader history above, the wing could be raised 7° for take-offs and landings. This kit offers the option of having the wing in the raised position. When in the elevated position the slats and flaps would be in the down position. After assembly the wing was put aside waiting for paint.

       This was my first try with using canopy masks. I purchased a set of Montex masks and am very happy with the results. The anti-glare panel, windscreen and nose cone were masked off and the area was painted black, when this was dry the nose cone, anti-glare panel and windscreen were masked off. The entire bottom surface of the fuselage and wing along with the rudder and ailerons were painted using Model Master Gloss Insignia White.

       After masking off the rudder and ailerons, Testors Model Master Light Gull Gray FS36440 was applied to the upper surfaces. When dry, Testors Glosscote Lacquer was applied to ease the sliding on of the decals.

       This is where my problems with the decals really showed up. I was able to lay down a couple of the decals but most of them cracked while sitting in the water. After a while I had to give up and went online to find another set of decals for a MiG Killing Crusader. Print Scale offers decal sheet Catalog # 48-139 Vought F-8 Crusaders Part 1 that is available from Hannants in the UK. Option 2 of the 3 of the markings on this sheet is for Vought F-8C Crusader (F8U-2) of VF-111, US Navy, 103, AK, (BuNo. 146961) The last MiG kill by a US Navy Crusader took place on September 19, 1968 when this aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant Anthony “Tony” Nargi, downed a MiG -21 with an AIM-9D Sidewinder while escorting a flight of A-4 Skyhawks.

       The original scheme and what I had now decided to model were slightly different. The new scheme had a white nose cone with a black stripe at its base and the area around the gun ports was not black. I made the changes and applied the new decals which went down easily. It was at this point that I became unsure if I had the correct configuration for the F-8C Crusader variant that matched the markings I had applied. There are several profiles of this aircraft that are available for viewing on the internet as well as in the digital Detail and Scale Series Volume 8 book “F-8 and RF-8 Crusader”. Some of these profiles show both the ECM pod on the tail and the Electronics hump on the wing, some only show the electronic hump, some only have the ECM Pod. There is a picture available showing this aircraft landing on a carrier and in the picture one can see the ECM pod but the Electronics hump is not there. The Print Scale Decal Sheet instructions shows a profile with both features missing.

       There is a website on the web called Forgotten Jets – A Warbird Resource Group Website that lists individual histories for aircraft:

       Vought F8U-2 (F-8C) Crusader/Bu. 146961

  • VMF-334 as WU-15.
  • 1966: VMF-334 as WU-5.
  • 1968: VF-111 as AK-103.
  • 9/19/1968: Credited with shooting down a MiG-21 over Vietnam. Or on 9/9/1968?
  • Upgraded to F-8K.
  • VF-301.
  • 1973: VMF-511 as MK-30.
  • 12/1973: Put into storage at the AMARC bone yard.
  • 8/1986: Sent to the Socorro, NM bone yard.

       According to this information the victory over the MiG-17 occurred before the hump and pod where added, at least I hope I am right in my thinking. I decided to make the model into a F-8C without the pod or hump. I had already removed the ECM pod early in the build and I decided, at this late date, to also remove the Electronics Hump from the wing. I scored the area where the hump meets the wing with a Number 11 X-Acto blade until it separated. The same was done with the small hump protrusion on the fuselage. Removing these area left a pretty significant gap that was filled in using built sheets of .040 thick Evergreen Sheet Styrene. The assembled sheets were shaped to fit in the gaps and glued in place. Tamiya White Modeling Putty was used to fill in any gaps and smooth out the edges. The area was then sanded smooth and the panel lines scribed in. Then the paint was touched up as needed.

       The Montex masks where used to paint the wheels and these were glued in place. The fully assembled and painted wing, with its attachment points, was a very tight fit and almost snapped into place. The stabilators were attached and then canopy masks were removed. AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles were obtained from Hasegawa's Aircraft Weapons Kit C to complete the model.

       I am very happy with the results, there were some bumps along the way but I think the final product is a very nice representation of "The Last Gunfighter".

Bibliography:

       F-8 & RF-8 Crusader in detail & scale, Detail and Scale Series Digital Volume 8 By Bert Kinzey

       Wikipedia Article on the Vought F8 Crusader

       MilitaryFactory.com - McDonnell F3H Demon Carrierborne Fighter / Interceptor / Fighter-Bomber

       Joe Baugher's Aircraft Lists - US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos Third Series (145062 to 150138

       Warbird Resource Group - Forgotten Jets - F8U Crusader

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