Kit No. 339 / C9:900
Decals: Three Versions – One U.S. Navy (VF-162 “Hunters”); One U.S. Marine Corps (VMF(AW)-312 “Checkerboards”; and one French Navy (Flottille 12F (VF-12)
Comments: Older kit, basic cockpit, raised panel lines; two-piece canopy; armament includes four Sidewinder missiles and two 1,000 pound bombs; can be assembled with variable incidence wing in raised or lowered position
The F-8 Crusader was the U.S. Navy’s first supersonic, carrier-based jet fighter, and the last such fighter for over a decade to have a gun of any kind as its primary armament. In September 1952, the Navy called for competitive bids from eight aircraft manufacturing companies for a new, carrier-based fighter. Chance Vought won the bid with a design incorporating a 42-degree swept-wing to achieve the required top speed of Mach 1.2. The wing was also unique in providing a two-position, variable attitude, allowing the pilot to hydraulically raise its leading edge 7 degrees on a rotating rear spar to enable the aircraft to land and take off at slow speeds while keeping the fuselage parallel to a carrier deck or runway, preserving excellent visibility. Armed with four 20mm cannon, the F-8 Crusader was a true gunfighter and considered a pure air superiority aircraft by its pilots — hence the motto, “When you’re out of Crusaders, you’re out of fighters.”
The Crusader was the first aircraft to exceed Mach 1 on its maiden flight, on March 25, 1955. Entering service in 1957 with VF-32 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida, it was also the first aircraft to set a world speed record in excess of 1,000 mph, and went on to win both the Collier and Thompson trophies for setting a new coast-to-coast speed record while piloted by U.S. Marine (and future astronaut and U.S. Senator) Major John Glenn, Jr. As of 2012, the Crusader still holds the record as the fastest single-engined carrier-based fighter ever built. The Crusader also has the distinction, modified for the role, of successfully flying dangerous low-level, high-speed photo reconaissance missions over Cuba at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a time of unprecedented international tension.
Capable of carrying 4,000 lbs. of ordnance, including four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and Zuni air-to-ground rockets, the Crusader had an impressive combat record with the Navy and Marine Corps in Vietnam, and was nicknamed “the MiG killer” because of its numerous victories over these jets. The Crusader distinguished itself in air-to-air combat in Vietnam, with eleven MiGs falling to F-8E’s (11 MiG-17’s and one MiG-21). The F-8 was also pressed into the fighter-bomber role in Southeast Asia. Crusader pilots were less than enthusiastic about such missions, as they had never trained for them, and the Crusader had not been designed with the fighter-bomber or ground support role in mind, but rather air superiority. Although the F-8 got the job done in this role, it did not have the integrated avionics or systems for fighter-bomber operations, unlike the F-4 Phantom or the F-105 Thunderchief.
Cuban Missile Crisis
In October 1962, Crusader fighters escorted their RF-8 counterparts to and from Cuba during the latter’s reconnaissance missions over the island to photograph the missile sites and other potential priority targets in the event hostilities broke out. The fighters never crossed into Cuba airspace, leaving that to the photo-reconnaissance pilots. Instead the F-8’s loitered offshore until the RF-8’s returned, to cover the latter’s withdrawal and ensure that their tails were clear. At the height of the Crisis, these escort missions occurred on a daily basis.
All F-8E Crusaders were re-manufactured from the original F-8A’s. The F-8E prototype took its maiden flight on June 30, 1961, with the first production version taking to the air three months later. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, F-8E’s were just entering fleet service with the U.S. Navy. In all, 286 F-8E’s were built before Crusader production ceased. A total of 1,217 Crusaders were built, with production ending in January 1965. After a distinguished service record, Crusaders were slowly withdrawn from service throughout the 1970’s, with only a few reconaissance versions serving into the 1980’s. The last Crusader, an RF-8G, was decommissioned in 1987.
Hasegawa’s F-8E Crusader consists of 59 grey injection molded parts. There is crisp detail and a total lack of flash typical of Hasegawa kits, with mostly raised panel lines throughout. The cockpit is very simple with a seat consisting of two halves, a control yoke, and decals for the main and side instrument panels. Although the gear themselves are basic, there are mutliple parts for the landing gear and there is good ribbed detail in the wheel wells, and engraved detail on the interior of the gear doors. Although the Crusader has tricycle landing gear, it should not need a nose weight, as it sits relatively low to the ground on its gear when assembled, and weight distribution is good with the nose gear pretty far forward on the fuselage. However, it may be better to paint the interior of the Crusader’s “chin” intake (white) before cementing the fuselage together.
The kit is reasonably accurate in that it features a bulge on the port side of the fuselage for the refueling probe, a nicely detailed interior for the probe bay, as well as a detailed probe. There are also ventral fins just forward of the exhaust nozzle and air scoops on the exhaust nozzle itself. The instructions specify that an antenna extending from the trailing edge of the tail is to be cut off, as it did not appear on the Crusader airframe until the F-8G appeared in 1966. The above mentioned air scoops are accurate, as they first appeared on the earlier F-8C. The tapered fairings for the two 20mm cannon on either side of the fuselage are also accurately re-created. The four Sidewinder missiles have reasonably accurate “Y” racks, and the missiles themselves, although not super-detailed, do not have any real defects in their molding.
There is a two-piece delta wing bearing the Crusader’s trademark “dog tooth” leading edge. Parts are included for optional under wing stores consisting of two 1000 lb. iron bombs. The rear elevators, forming the horizontal tail of the Crusader, should probably be cemented on last, as they have a very small surface with which to contact the fuselage and can be quite delicate. Although it is surpassed in detail by the more recent Academy F-8E in 1/72 scale, Hasegawa’s F-8E continues to hold up well despite its age. While light on detail in the cockpit, there is sufficient exterior detail to satisfy most modelers, with the kit’s only real shortcoming being its raised panel lines. Despite this, there are instances of engraved detail at various points on the airframe, as in the case of the engravings for the ailerons, rudder, and what appear to be cooling vents for nose radar.
A great kit for Crusader fans that can still be obtained at an affordable price. High marks for ease of construction and accuracy. Highly recommended.
- F-8 Crusader in Detail and Scale by Bert Kinzey
Copyright 1988 Squadron Signal Publications; Carrollton, Texas
- Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis by Captain William B. Ecker USN (ret.) and Kenneth V. Jack; Copyright 2012 by Osprey Publishing; Oxford (United Kingdom)
- National Air and Space Museum online