F8U Crusader - Life Extension

During the mid-1960s, with the increasing involvement in the Vietnam war, the US Navy decided to retain a number of its “27 Charlie” class carriers, notably the USS Shangri-La, Intrepid, Hancock, Ticonderoga and Oriskany.  To equip the Air Wings which would man these carriers, the service life of many of the Crusader aircraft would have to be extended. Vought was requested to develop a remanufacturing program for various models of the F-8 to replace fatigue-critical structural components (primarily the wing and nose landing gear strut) and reinforce other components which had reached the limits of their service life. In addition, various navigational, fire control and communications system were upgraded, and electronics countermeasures systems (ECM) were added.  The following were modified:

           Model            Quantity Modified        Model Redesignation

           RF-8A                73                                       RF-8G

           F-8B                   61                                       F-8L

           F-8C                   87                                       F-8K

           F-8D                   89                                       F-8H

           F-8E                   136                                      F-8J

The F8U-1P (RF-8A) was the first model to be introduced into the mod program in early 1965.  This group of 53 aircraft was refitted with a new wing, which included the “hard points” for carrying wing stores and fuel pods.  They were also refitted with the J57-P20 engine, with its constant-speed drive and 20-kva generator.  With the increased speed available from the increased thrust of the -P20, ventral fins were added to provide the required directional  stability at the higher speeds. And with the increased electrical power available from the larger generator, additional and better camera configurations were available, and electric countermeasures (ECM) systems were installed in the vertical tail.  The first of the modified aircraft, re-designated RF-8G, was first flown on 31 August 1965. A second group of 20 additional RF-8A’s were modified during the 1968-70 timeframe.

The next group of F-8’s to enter the mod line at LTV Dallas were the F-8D which began modification in July 1967. Again the aircraft were fitted with a new 4,000-hour wing fitted with the “hard points” for carrying various weapons configurations.  The guidance system for the Bullpup missile was installed on the upper surface of the wing center section, and covered with a low-profile fairing.  Additional structural components were replaced or reinforced on individual aircraft as required to insure a service life compatible with the new wing life.

During 1968-69, the most extensive modifications were made on the F-8E. These aircraft were redesignated as F-8J’s.  As a result of the experience that the French Navy accumulated on their BLC-equipped F-8E(FN) aircraft, the US Navy elected to modify 136 of their -E aircraft to add the BLC system.  This required modification to the two-position wing and the horizontal tail surfaces (see description of F-8E(FN) configuration).  The F-8J was, like the F-8H, equipped to carry and fire the Bullpup missile, and had the same “humpback” fairing on the top of the wing center section.

In December 1968, the final phases of the program got under way with the modification of the F-8B/C aircraft into F-8L/K models.  The modification of these aircraft was less extensive - new 4,000-hour wings with “hard points”, and revised cockpit lighting to improve the night operation characteristics. The -C/K models were fitted with ventral fins for increased directional stability, but the -B/L were only fitted with the fuselage attach fittings which would permit the future installation of ventral fins in the event of a future installation of a more powerful engine.



More F8U:

XF8U-1 Innovative Systems
XF8U-1 In the Cockpit
A New Aircraft and a New Corporation
F8U-1 and F8U-1E Production Aircraft Changes
Life Extension
Loss of XF8U-3 Contract and a New Challenge
Last Flight - December 1999