Specialty Press' Vought F-8 Crusader


William Spidle


Specialty Press




Scott Van Aken

Notes: 228 pages, 10.5 x 10.5 inches, Hardbound, lots of photos and drawings, ISBN: 978-1-58007-242-7

To many enthusiasts, the F-8 Crusader was called the 'last of the gun fighters'. It got that name in an era where the Navy's then-newest fighter had no gun and indeed, USN fighters did not get a gun until the F-14 came on line. It was the Navy's first supersonic fighter and had several rather unique features. In order to keep the fuselage at such a level where the pilot could see well enough to land, it used a variable incidence wing that lifted up to increase the angle of attack. One would think that this would put a lot of stress on the piston that lifted the wing, but it was quite beefy and did not provide the issues that one might think it would.

Developed at a time when Vought was not exactly in favor with the Navy thanks to its failed F6U and the horribly slow production and upgrading of their F7U Cutlass, the F8U met the then rather stringent Navy requirements and came with a promise not to delay the introduction of the aircraft. They were given what is now considered an impossible time frame to get the prototype into the air, but they did and the AF8U went supersonic on its first flight (which isn't that unusual as this sort of thing was common in the 1950s when it came to supersonic fighters).

No airplane is perfect and some are able to reach operational status better than others. The Crusader had its issues, but was relatively trouble-free as these things go. It entered service in the late 1950s and had a nice long (20 plus year) operational life before reaching the end of the airframe life and being phased out.

This particular book is the story of the development of the F-8, its modifications into later variations and the development of the reconnaissance version of the Crusader, the RF-8. It also tells the story of the XF8U-3 and plane that was up against the XF4H-1 Phantom but lost out to the McDonnell entry for a number of reasons that is covered in the book. This is not an operational history of the type. Indeed, to tell that story would require several volumes and so the author wisely chose to limit things to just the development side of the story. It is quite obvious that a lot of time was spent in the archives going over material related to the aircraft as there is a ton of information in here of which I have never heard before.

Add into all this great prose a ton of photo and drawings along with some very useful tables and you get an in depth look at what it took to make the Navy's premier fighter of the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is a book that is an absolute must for fans of the type and for those who are fascinated by what it takes to develop a military aircraft. A book that I can quite easily recommend to you.

September 2017

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