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Vought F-8Q Crusader, CANA, 1981

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By Sport16ing   |   
© 2020 Sport16ing

Some background:
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 (9,144.0 m) with a climb rate of 25,000 ft/min (127.0 m/s), and a landing speed of no more than 100 mph (160 km/h). Korean War experience had demonstrated that 0.50 inch (12.7 mm) machine guns were no longer sufficient, and as the result the new fighter was to carry a 20 mm (0.79 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 necessitated the use of a fuselage-mounted short and light landing gear.

The Crusader was powered by a Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojet engine. The engine was equipped with an afterburner that, unlike on later engines, was either fully lit, or off (i.e. it did not have "zones"). The engine produced 18,000 lb of thrust at full power, enough to allow the F-8 to climb straight up in clean configuration. The most innovative aspect of the design was the variable-incidence wing which pivoted by 5° out of the fuselage on takeoff and landing (not to be confused with variable-sweep wing). This allowed a greater angle of attack, increasing lift without compromising forward visibility. This innovation helped the F-8's development team win the Collier Trophy in 1956. 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.

The armament, as specified by the Navy, consisted primarily of four 20 mm (.79 in) autocannons, and the Crusader happened to be the last U.S. fighter designed with guns as its primary weapon. They were supplemented with a retractable tray with 32 unguided Mk 4/Mk 40 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (Mighty Mouse FFARs), and cheek pylons for a pair of IR-guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. In practice, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles were the F-8's primary weapon, because the 20mm guns were "generally unreliable."

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 25 March 1955 with John Konrad at the controls, exceeding the speed of sound during its maiden flight. On 4 April 1956, the F8U-1 performed its first catapult launch from Forrestal.

In US service, the F-8 served principally in the Vietnam War and several versions, including all-weather fighters with improved radar and photo-recce versions, were developed. An update program between 1965 and 1970 prolonged the fighters’ time of active duty into the late Seventies. The RF-8 reconnaissance aircraft served longer and were retired in 1987.

Despite its qualities, only a few foreign countries operated the F-8. Beyond France and the Philippines, Argentina bought twelve revamped Crusaders plus two additional airframes for spares from US surplus stock for its carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2) in 1975. The ship previously served in the Royal Navy as HMS Venerable and the Royal Netherlands Navy as HNLMS Karel Doorman and had been put into Argentine service in 1969. It could carry up to 24 aircraft and initially operated with obsolete F4U Corsairs and F9F Panthers and Cougars. These were soon replaced by A-4Q Skyhawks (modified A-4Bs, also from US stock), but these machines were rather fighter bombers than interceptors that could not effectively guard the ship or its surrounding fleet from air strikes. This led to the procurement of Argentina’s small F-8 fleet, a process that started in 1973, just after the Skyhawks had entered service.

The Argentinian Crusaders (locally known as “Cruzados”) were based on the F-8E all-weather fighter variant. This type was the ultimate evolution of the original F-8 series, before the modernization program that turned these machines into F-8Js in US service. The F-8E was, beyond its four 20mm cannon, able to carry up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs on Y-shaped fuselage pylons. The original unguided missile pannier had been replaced by an extra fuel tank, and two dry underwing pylons allowed the carriage of unguided bombs or missiles. The USN’s F-8Es also had extra avionics in a shallow dorsal hump for the deployment of the radio-guided AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground missile, so that the aircraft could also carry out strike duties against small target – in theory, since the AGM-12 had to be visually guided by the pilot all the way while flying at lower levels in the combat environment.

However, the Argentine Navy requested some peculiar modifications for its aircraft, which were quite similar to the French Navy’s F-8E (FN), the last Crusaders that had left the production lines in 1965. This special Crusader variant became the F-8Q. It retained the F-8E’s J57-P-20A engine as well as the AN/APQ-94 fire-control radar and the IRST sensor blister in front of the canopy. A Martin-Baker ejection seat was fitted and the cockpit instruments were updated to Argentinian standards.

In order to ease operation and especially landing on the relatively small Veinticinco de Mayo, the F-8Q was, like the French Crusaders, modified with the maximum angle of incidence of the aircraft's wing increased from five to seven degrees, and blown flaps were fitted, too. This reduced the rate of descent to 11’ (3.35 m) per second and limited the force of gravity during landings to 3.5 G. The approach speed was also considerably reduced, by roundabout 15 knots (17.5 mph or 28 km/h).
Since Argentina did not operate the AGM-12 Bullpup and wanted a dedicated interceptor, the missile avionics were deleted and the hump disappeared, in an effort to save weight. Furthermore, the wing pylons received plumbing so that drop tanks could be carried, beyond the standard unguided ordnance of bombs or unguided missile pods. The F-8Q’s total payload was 5,000 lb (2,270 kg), but when operating from Veinticinco de Mayo, any external ordnance beyond the four Sidewinders was ever carried because the F-8’s TOW was at the ship’s catapult limits. When operating from land bases, the F-8Qs would frequently carry drop tanks in order to extend their range.

Upon delivery in late 1975, the F-8Q’s sported the standard US Navy scheme of Light Gull Grey upper surfaces over white undersides, just like the Skyhawks and other operational aircraft types of the Argentinian Navy. Typically, six F-8Qs were always based on board of Veinticinco de Mayo and rotated with the rest of the machines, which were, together with A-4Qs, based at BAN Rio Grande.
The F-8Qs formed the 1st Flight of the 3 Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque that operated from Veinticinco de Mayo, and the machines received tactical codes between “101” and “112”.  However, this gave in 1980 way to a more toned-down paint scheme in dark blue-grey over white, at a phase when Argentina tried to acquire Dassault Super Étendards and Exocet missiles from France. The new paint scheme was gradually introduced, though, the first to be re-painted were “102”, “108” and “110” in summer 1981.

Despite their availability, the F-8Qs did not actively take part in the Falklands War of 1982. This was primarily because ARA Veinticinco de Mayo was initially used in support of the Argentine landings on the Falklands: on the day of the invasion, she waited with 1.500 army soldiers outside Stanley harbor as first submarine and boat-landed commandos secured landing areas, and then Argentine marines made the main amphibious landing. Her aircraft were not used during the invasion and remained at land bases.
Later, in defense of the occupation, the carrier was deployed in a task force north of the Falkland Islands, with ARA General Belgrano to the south, and this time the usual six F-8Qs were on board and provided air cover. Out of fear from losing the carrier, though (the British had assigned HMS Splendid (S106), a nuclear-powered submarine, to track down Veinticinco de Mayo and sink her if necessary), the ship and its aircraft remained mostly outside of the direct confrontation theatre and rather acted as a distraction, binding British resources and attention.

However, after hostilities broke out on 1 May 1982, the Argentine carrier attempted to launch a wave of A-4Q Skyhawk jets against the Royal Navy Task Force after her S-2 Trackers detected the British fleet. What would have been the first battle between aircraft carriers since World War II did not take place, though, as winds prevented the heavily loaded jets from being launched. After the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank General Belgrano, Veinticinco de Mayo returned to port for her own safety. The naval A-4Q Skyhawks flew the rest of the war from the airbase in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, and had some success against the Royal Navy, sinking HMS Ardent, even though three Skyhawks were shot down by Sea Harriers. The Crusaders were held back for homeland defense from Río Gallegos air base, since Argentina’s limited air refueling capacities (just a pair of C-130s, and all buddy refueling packs for the Skyhawks were out of order) had to be saved and concentrated on the Skyhawks.

After her involvement in the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, Veinticinco de Mayo resumed regular service and was in 1983 modified to carry the new Dassault Super Étendard jets (which had turned out to be too heavy for the original catapult, which also barely got the F-8Qs into the air), but soon after problems in her engines largely confined her to port. She was deemed more or less unseaworthy and this confined the Argentinian Navy’s jet force to land bases.

From this point on, the F-8Qs lost their raison d’être, since the Argentinian air force already had, with the Mirage III and IAI Nesher/Dagger, capable and less costly land-based interceptors available. Due to lack of spares and funds, the remaining Argentinian Crusaders (after several accidents, only eight F-8Qs were still in service and only five of them actually operational) were in 1988 transferred to Villa Reynolds air base in Western Central Argentina, grounded and stored in the open, where they quickly deteriorated. Eventually, all F-8Qs were scrapped in the early Nineties. Only one specimen survived and has been preserved in its original Gull Grey/White livery as a gate guard at the Naval Aviation Command headquarters at Comandante Espora Airport, Bahía Blanca.

General characteristics:
    Crew: 1
    Length: 54 ft 3 in (16.54 m)
    Wingspan: 35 ft 8 in (10.87 m)
    Height: 15 ft 9 in (4.80 m)
    Wing area: 375 sq ft (34.8 m²)
    Aspect ratio: 3.4
    Airfoil: root: NACA 65A006 mod;
           tip: NACA 65A005 mod
    Zero-lift drag coefficient: CD0.0133
    Drag area: 5.0 sq ft (0.46 m²)
    Empty weight: 17,541 lb (7,956 kg)
    Gross weight: 29,000 lb (13,154 kg)
    Max takeoff weight: 34,000 lb (15,422 kg)
    Fuel capacity: 1,325 US gal (1,103.3 imp gal; 5,015.7 L)

    1× Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A afterburning turbojet engine
       with 10,700 lbf (48 kN) dry thrust and 18,000 lbf (80 kN) with afterburner

    Maximum speed: 1,066 kn (1,227 mph, 1,974 km/h) at 36,000 ft (10,973 m)
    Maximum speed: Mach 1.86
    Cruise speed: 495 kn (570 mph, 917 km/h)
    Combat range: 394 nmi (453 mi, 730 km)
    Ferry range: 1,507 nmi (1,734 mi, 2,791 km) with external fuel
    Service ceiling: 58,000 ft (18,000 m)
    Rate of climb: 19,000 ft/min (97 m/s)
    Lift-to-drag: 12.8
    Wing loading: 77.3 lb/sq ft (377 kg/m²)
    Thrust/weight: 0.62

    4× 20 mm (0.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannons in lower fuselage, 125 RPG 
    2× side fuselage mounted Y-pylons for up to four AIM-9 Sidewinders and/or Zuni rockets
    2× underwing pylon stations with a capacity of 4,000 lb (2,000 kg) 
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mthomps016's avatar

Nice Alternate History write up for a real jet. It's plausible, and doesn't change history that greatly. When I lived in Bremerton, I drove by the F-8H in NAD Soroptimist Park regularly.

Sport16ing's avatar

wasn't I that wrote this btw, it was Dizzyfugu (link below)

K4nK4n's avatar

Epic image! You've put a lot of effort into gathering the information regarding this aircraft, too!

Sport16ing's avatar

This ain't mine work (nor any other on this dev) - this model (and the others with background images) are from Dizzyfugu (ense the link below)