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"Crouze": the LTV F-8E(FN) Crusader

by Gaëtan Marie

From 1964 to 1999, the LTV F-8E(FN) Crusader was the sole interceptor in Aéronavale service. Although it was maintained in service for too long, this aircraft whose design dates back to the 1950s, was remarkably popular with its pilots. This document does not cover the development history of early Crusader variants but only that of the F-8E(FN).

Origins and development of the F-8E(FN) Crusader


In 1962, the French Aéronavale (Naval Air Arm) submitted a request for a new naval fighter to replace its SNCASE Aquilon aboard the new aircraft carriers, the Foch and the Clémenceau. Several proposals were made by French aircraft manufacturers, none of which was retained. Dassault proposed a navalized version of its Mirage III, the Mirage IIIM, while Bréguet offered the Br 1120 Sirocco. These very advanced and ambitious projects were deemed too expensive and technologically hazardous, and the Marine Nationale therefore decided to investigate foreign designs.

The only competitors remaining were thus the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and the F-8 Crusader, manufactured by the Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) company. A delegation was sent to the US to determine which of these two aircraft would be best suited to perform aerial protection of the French carrier groups. This delegation included the CC Hurel of the Bureau des Etudes Techniques (Technical Studies Board), M. Faucheux of the Service Technique Aéronautique (Air Technical Service) as well as another engineer.

Although the Phantom II was a more capable aircraft, it was clearly established that it was not suitable for operations from French aircraft carriers, which were substantially smaller than American ones. The French delegation therefore turned to the F-8 Crusader. On 16 March 1962, two F-8 of VF-32 based on USS Saratoga underwent carrier suitability trials on the Clémenceau, demonstrating that the Crusader could operate from it.

Development of the F-8E(FN)

Following this, LTV offered the Marine Nationale a modified version of the F-8E, specifically designed to operate off French carriers with a lower landing speed. This version was designated F-8E(FN), FN standing for French Navy.

The reduction of landing speed was made possible by several modifications. The leading edge slats were split lengthwise, which increased their drooping angle to 44°. Flap and aileron droop was also increased to 40°. These modifications substantially increased the camber of the wing in landing configuration, generating more lift and therefore lowering stall speed. A blown flaps system (known as BLC – Boundary Layer Control) was also used. This used air taken from the engine's compressor and ejected it through adjustable vents located over the flaps and ailerons. The air flow progressively increased as flaps were lowered. The angle of the variable wing was also reduced to 5° instead of the 7° angle of previous Crusader models. (Some sources claim the wing's angle was increased from 5° to 7°, but it was indeed a reduction from 7° to 5°). Also, the surface of the horizontal tailplane was increased to give better control at low speeds.

A Marine Nationale (French navy) LTV F-8E(FN) Crusader aircraft has just caught the wire on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) during joint operations near Toulon, France in 1983. (Photo USN/Walsworth ).

This set of modifications had already been suggested by LTV, but the Navy was satisfied enough with the Crusader's handling during the approach phase and had elected not to modify its F-8 fleet. All summed up, the modifications decreased the Crusader's landing speed by 15 knots and made it far less touchy during landing. A few years later, most US Crusaders received a mid-life update that included these modifications.

The armament was also modified. The F-8E(FN) kept the standard 4-gun and AIM-9 missile armament but was modified to be compatible with the French Matra R.530. The R.530 had a greater exhaust plume and a titanium deflector was added to protect the aircraft's flank when firing missiles. The Matra missile existed both in IR- and radar-guided versions, so a Magnavox AN/APQ-104 radar was installed as well as a modified AN/AWG-4 fire control system. The F-8E(FN) did not carry an IRST, unlike most American Crusaders.

A 65 million US $ contract (AM-114-104) was signed for the delivery of 40 single-seater and 6 twin-seater Crusaders, as well as a large stock of spares and engines. However, when Congress cancelled the development of the “Twosader” trainer, the order was modified to 42 single-seaters. For administrative reasons, the US Navy gave the aircraft Bureau Numbers 151732 to 151773.

F-8D #147036 was then modified by LTV to become the F-8E(FN) prototype. In addition to the modifications already described, it was equipped with a stall warning system, an autothrottle to maintain speed during approach, a J-57P-20A engine and measuring equipment. It first flew on 27 February 1964 under the designation YF-8E(FN). Flown by Bob Rostine, the prototype crashed and was completely destroyed on April 11, during its 21st flight. Testing started again on June 26 when the first serial-production aircraft was fitted with a special probe and measuring equipment to carry on the testing program.


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