"If you don't know Crusaders, you're out of fighters".
For over 30 years, the F-8 Crusader served, as "Mig Killer," F8U-1P in the early days, RF-8G years later - as the "eyes of the fleet". Operational from early supercarriers in 1957, the supersonic Crusader could achieve air superiority immediately upon arriving in an area of crisis or conflict. The Crusader was special because its entire wing's pitch was modifiable in flight, up to +7° on American planes. This allowing a proper angle of approach at low speeds, for carrier. landings It was the Crusader which went in low and fast to photograph the Cuban missile sites in 1962, and "unarmed and unafraid", brought back the before and after pictures of bombing targets in Vietnam. Fifteen Crusader pilots were lost from six different carriers. Three each were lost from USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CV-31), USS ORISKANY (CV-34) and USS MIDWAY (CV-41).
Major John Glenn flew across the country in a 1P and set a coast-to-coast speed record. Developed by Chance Vought before being absorbed into Dallas, Texas, based Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), over 1200 Crusaders were manufactured between 1956 and the early 1960s. Powered by one Pratt & Whitney J57-P-16 turbojet, the Crusader was capable of speeds near 1100 mph and a range of 1100 miles. Standard armament consisted of four 20mm cannon, two to four Sidewinder missiles, and as much as5000 pounds of ordnance.
The prestigiuos Collier Trophy was awarded to Chance Vought and the Navy for its achievements and design three decades prior to its retirement. Through the U.S. Government Military Assistance Program the French Navy began taking delivery of the Crusader aircraft in 1964. The French bought a number of low-time aircraft using the wings to prolong the service life of their aircraft when the U.S. Navy retired the last of their F-8's in the 1970's. During the seventies a few other F-8 Crusaders were being flown by NASA and other agencies as well.
On March 29th 1984 at the Naval Air Facility at Andrews Air Force Base, Light Photographic Squadron Two Zero Six was disestablished. This marked the end of the "no guns, just guts" dedicated reconnaissance squadrons. Its kind having flown some 2,360,000 hours and more than 385,000 carrier landings, the last F-8 Crusader was presented to the National Air and Space Museum.
A very special thank you to Transitional Man and the sources he so kindly provided. He tells me that these hardy aircraft served the French Navy until very recently and relates that the last flight was Dec 4, 1999 with the aircraft being replaced by the Rafale.
A Tribute to the F-8 Crusader - Avialantic: