In 1962, the French Navy (Marine Nationale) ordered the Vought F-8 Crusader as a carrier-based air superiority fighter to succeed the Aquilon. Serving aboard the new Aeronautique Navale (Aeronavale) aircraft carriers Foch and Clemenceau. The French aviation industry was unable to come up with an acceptable design, so the French Navy somewhat reluctantly opted for an American aircraft.
The F-8E(FN), where the FN stood for "French Navy". The Marine Nationale was to order 40 single seat F-8E(FN) fighters, plus six TF-8E(FN) two-seaters. The two-seat Crusader was abandoned, the order was adjusted to 42 F-8E(FN) fighters. The 42 F-8E(FN) aircraft were assigned the Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers 151732/151773 for administrative purposes.
To operate safely aboard French aircraft carriers, which were somewhat smaller than their American counterparts, reducing the approach speed, the maximum angle of incidence of the variable-incidence wing was increased from five to seven degrees. The drooping wing leading edges were separated into two sections to increase the amount of camber that was achieved when extended. A boundary layer control system was added, blowing pressurized air from the engine compressor through adjustable air vents that exhausted over the trailing edge wing flaps. The airflow pressure automatically increased with the angle of flap deflection. Both the surface area of the tail plane was increased as was the maximum angle of deflection of the trailing-edge flaps.
The four 20-mm cannon were retained and the French Crusader carried the Matra R530 missile. The Sidewinder infrared-homing missile was still compatible with the F-8E(FN), but it was very rarely carried. An R530 was carried on each side of the fuselage on rail launchers. Often, an infrared-homing R530 would be carried in one side of the fuselage, with a radar-homer on the other side. For the R530 radar-homing version, a Magnavox AN/APQ-104 radar was fitted, together with a modified AN/AWG-4 fire control system.
After the initial test air frame, an F-8D crashed, the first production F-8E(FN) flew on June 26, 1964, and duly completed the test program.
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The first French Crusaders arrived at Saint Nazaire on October 5, 1964. Flotille 12F received the first F-8E(FN), followed by Flotille 14F six months later. Flotille 14F stood down in 1991, leaving 12F to soldier on with the Crusader as the only Aeronavale interceptor squadron, a highly popular "foreign" aircraft with its French Navy pilots,
In late 1989, the Matra R530 was withdrawn from service, the all-aspect Magic 2 replacing it as the French Crusader's primary missile armament.
New F-8J wings were installed on French Crusaders in 1969, and from 1979 onward their Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20A turbojets were fitted with new afterburners.
"Le Crouze" as the F-8 became known in the Aeronavale, had served the French for over 30 years, since the Crusader has been long out of production, the French Navy had to rely on the bone yards of AMARC at
Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona for spare parts, as well as having to manufacture a small number of spare parts itself.
In the late 90's the Crusader was to be replaced by the Dassault Rafale M, which occurred in 1999, several upgrades were needed to keep the Crusader as the only viable French carrier interceptor aircraft during that time frame, those upgraded were re-designating as the F-8P (P used for
Le Crouze ended 35 years of service during Operation PEAN 99, flying from Foch from October 4-28, 1999. The final landing aboard Foch occurred October 28th 1999 at 12:45pm, when Lt. Denis landed F-8P No.34; the final take-off came that evening when Squadron Commandant Guillot took off in F-8P No.11. After 140,000 hours of flight time, including 25,000 carrier landings and take-offs, the last operational Crusaders - No.7, 10, 11, 34, 39 - were retired just short of the turn of the Millennium on December 15, 1999, at NAS Landivisiau in Brittany. No other modern jet has served so long in first line service as the Crusader, which first entered service with the U.S. Navy in 1957, 42 years before her final retirement.
Le Crouze never saw combat during its Aeronavale service, though they did see service in war zones. In October 1974, based aboard
Clemenceau, and in May-June 1977 aboard Foch, Flotille 14.F participated in Operations SAPHIR I and II over Djibouti in what was then French Somalia. On May 7th 1977, two F-8s from 14.F were to engage in air combat maneuvering with F-100s of 4/11 Jura from the Djibouti air base. The leader intercepted two fighters and engaged, quickly calling his wingman for help when he realized he'd engaged two Yemeni MiG-21s! A tense standoff ensued before the MiGs broke off the engagement to cross the Red Sea back to their base. This would be the only combat interception by Le
On September 7th 1982, F-8s of Flotille 12F embarked on Foch for Operation OLIFANT IV, in response to the crisis in Lebanon; they returned for OLIFANT XVII on September 2, 1983 to cover the landing of French troops in Beirut, and again for OLIFANT XX on January 25th 1984, during which the F-8s flew top cover while Super Etendards attacked gun positions in retaliation for terrorist attacks on French targets in Beirut.
In October 1984, Foch participated in Operation MIRMILLON off Libya, in response to tension in the Gulf of
Sidra. In 1988, as a result of escalating conflict between Iraq and Iran in the Persian Gulf, Clemenceau took part in Operation PROMÉTHÉ to protect international shipping from attacks by Iranian speedboats from July to September. Iranian aircraft were intercepted on several occasions, though none escalated to actual combat.
The 12 F-8Ps would see considerable operational service in their final years. In 1993, both Foch and Clemenceau took part in Operation BALBUZARD over Yugoslavia. Le Crouze operated over the Balkans again in 1995 during the intervention in
Bosnia-Herzogivina. The final operational missions came in June 1999, during Operation TRIDENT over
Kosovo, F-8P No.35, the first F-8P being the last Crouze to be launched on a military mission. By then, the twelve remaining Crusaders were so old and fragile that they required 67 maintenance man hours (including major maintenance visits to
Cuers) for each flying hour.
I wanted to choose a different option for the Crusader and found interesting article's about the F-8E(FN). In my search I found decals from BERNA 48-39 that depicted two such aircraft, choosing the one specially decorated for the Crusaders retirement and its last military catapult from the carrier Clemenceau, No 35.
The Monogram model builds up fine for this purpose, and as noted sits lower in the tail than it actually is. After market products are available to fix this issue. Used Testors Blue / Grey rattle can, decals as noted from