Century Wings CW910379 French Navy Vought F-8E(FN) Crusader Fighter - 12F, No. 35, Foch (R 99), Last Cruise, 1999 (1:72 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
In September 1952, the United States Navy announced a requirement for a new fighter. It was to have a top speed of Mach 1.2 at 30,000 ft (9,150 m) with a climb rate of 25,000 ft/min (127 m/s), and a landing speed of no more than 100 mph (160 km/h). Korean War experience had demonstrated that 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns were no longer sufficient and as the result the new fighter was to carry a 20 mm (0.8 in) cannon. In response, the Vought team led by John Russell Clark created the V-383. Unusual for a fighter, the aircraft had a high-mounted wing which allowed for short and light landing gear.
The most innovative aspect of the design was the variable-incidence wing which pivoted by 7 out of the fuselage on takeoff and landing. This afforded increased lift due to a greater angle of attack without compromising forward visibility because the fuselage stayed level. Simultaneously, the lift was augmented by leading-edge slats drooping by 25 and inboard flaps extending to 30. The rest of the aircraft took advantage of contemporary aerodynamic innovations with area ruled fuselage, all-moving stabilators, dog-tooth notching at the wing folds for improved yaw stability, and liberal use of titanium in the airframe. Power came from the Pratt & Whitney J57 afterburning turbojet and the armament, as specified by the Navy, consisted of four 20 mm cannon, a retractable tray with 32 unguided Mighty Mouse FFARs, and cheek pylons for two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Vought also presented a tactical reconnaissance version of the aircraft called the V-382. The F-8 Crusader would be the last U.S. fighter designed with guns as its primary weapon.
Major competition came from Grumman with their General Electric J79-powered F-11 Tiger, McDonnell with upgraded twin-engine F3H Demon (which would eventually become the F-4 Phantom II), and North American with their F-100 Super Sabre adopted for carrier use and dubbed the Super Fury.
In May 1953, the Vought design was declared a winner and in June Vought received an order for three XF8U-1 prototypes (after adoption of the unified designation system in September 1962, the F8U became the F-8). The first prototype flew on March 25th, 1955, with John Konrad at the controls. The aircraft exceeded the speed of sound during its maiden flight. The development was so trouble-free that the second prototype, along with the first production F8U-1, flew on the same day, September 30th, 1955. On April 4th, 1956, the F8U-1 performed its first catapult launch from USS Forrestal.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a F-8E flown by the French Navy (Aeronavale) in 1999. Only 1,500 pieces produced. Sold Out!
Wingspan: 5.75 inches
Length: 9.25 inches
Release Date: June 2011
Historical Account: "Vive l'France!" - The F-8E(FN) was the last Crusader produced and 42 were ordered by the French Navy (Aeronavale) for use aboard new carriers Clemenceau and Foch. The Phantom II turned out to be too large for the small French carriers, and the Crusader was chosen. An evaluation campaign was then performed aboard the Clemenceau on 16 March 1962 by two VF-32 F-8s from the American carrier Saratoga.
The French Crusaders had the same weapons configuration as the U.S. Navy F-8E, but had an improved system of flaps and were modified to carry two French Matra R.530 or four Matra R550 Magic heat-seeking missiles in place of Sidewinders. 12.F squadron was reactivated on October 15th, 1964, with 12 fighters. To replace the old Corsairs, 14.F squadron received its Crusaders on March 1st, 1965.
In October 1974, (on the Clemenceau) and June 1977 (on the Foch), Crusaders from 14.F squadron participated in the Saphir missions over Djibouti. On May 7th, 1977, two Crusaders went separately on patrol against supposedly French Air Force (4/11 Jura squadron) F-100 Super Sabres stationed at Djibouti. The leader intercepted two fighters and engaged a dogfight (supposed to be a training exercise) but quickly called his wingman for help as he had actually engaged two Yemeni MiG-21 Fishbeds. The two French fighters switched their master armament to "on" but, ultimately, everyone returned to their bases. This was the only combat interception by French Crusaders.
Aeronavale Crusaders flew combat missions over Lebanon in 1983 escorting Super Etendard strike aircraft. In October 1984, France sent the Foch for operation Mirmillon off the coast of Libya, intended to calm Colonel Ghaddafi down, with 12.F squadron. The escalation of the situation in the Persian Gulf, due to the Iran-Iraq conflict, triggered the deployment of the Clemenceau task force and its air wing, including 12.F squadron. 1993 saw the beginning of the missions over ex-Yugoslavia. Crusaders were launched from both carriers cruising in the Adriatic Sea. These missions ceased in June 1999 with operation Trident over Kosovo.
Crusaders were renovated (but not modernized) beginning in 1991, the 17 remaining aircraft received a limited service life extension program involving avionics upgrades that included a radar-warning receiver and redesignated as F-8P (P used for "Prolong" -extended- and not to be confused with Philippine F-8P). Although the French Navy participated in combat operations in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and over Kosovo in 1999, the Crusaders stayed behind and were eventually replaced by the Rafale M in 2000 as the last of the breed in military service.