The US Navy and Marine Corps F-8 Crusader (Jun 1964)

The Navy’s most numerous air superiority fighter of the late 1950s and early 1960s was the F-8 Crusader which saw extensive use in Southeast Asia during the war. The very first Navy aircraft lost during the war was an RF-8A reconnaissance aircraft from VFP-63 which was shot down over Laos on 6 June 1964. By coincidence the last Crusader to be lost during the war, on 13 December 1972, was also from VFP-63.  Nine Navy F-8 fighter squadrons were deployed to Southeast Asia during the war. The Navy F-8s flew MiGCAP and escort duties but also participated in strike missions. The aircraft’s agility and four 20mm cannons gave it an advantage over the Phantom in dogfights against the MiGs although only three of the Crusader’s 19 MiG kills were achieved by cannons as they were not always reliable. From 1966 the makers, LTV, started a remanufacturing programme upgrading the F-8B, F-8C, F-8D, and F-8E models which were redesignated the F-8L, F-8K, F-8H, and F-8J respectively. A total of 116 fighter and 31 reconnaissance Navy Crusaders were lost during the war.

The US Marine Corps deployed five squadrons of its Crusaders to Southeast Asia; four were based at Da Nang (one of them was VMCJ-1 with RF-8 reconnaissance aircraft) and one, VMF(AW)-212, flew from the USS Oriskany from April to December 1965. The carrier-based squadron lost four aircraft; VMCJ-1 lost one aircraft; while the other three squadrons lost 18 aircraft making 23 in all. The Marine Corps Crusaders flew close air support missions in South Vietnam and strike missions in North Vietnam and Laos.