KIT:

Hasegawa 1/48 F-8E Crusader

KIT #

7225

PRICE:

3200 at HobbyLink Japan

DECALS:

See Review

REVIEWER:

Tom Cleaver

NOTES:

CEC48419 - F-8/A/B/C/D/H/K/L conversion: US$16.99
CEC48418 - F-8D/E/E(FN) Super Detailed Cockpit: US$17.99
CEC48434 - F-8 Speed brake detailing set: US$11.99

HISTORY

     There's an old saying that "it's better to be lucky than good."  The Chance Vought F-8 Crusader series was not only lucky, but good to boot. As the last all-gun U.S. Navy fighter to achieve production, the Crusader ranks as one of the "greats."

      The airplane was lucky from the beginning.  In 1952, as a result of U.S. government legal action, United Aircraft - of which Vought Aircraft was a component company - was broken up, with Vought left to fend for itself right after making an expensive move (at government request) from its original Connecticut factory to Dallas, Texas.  Vought had always been on the cutting edge as regarded the development and production of naval aircraft, going back to the VE-7, the first U.S. Navy carrier-based airplane.  The F4U Corsair was considered a contender for the title of "best piston-engine fighter ever built," and was in fact still in production, though the end was in sight.  In any case, the Corsair was "yesterday's technology," and Vought had not been able to create a successful follow-on design; the F6U "Pirate" being underpowered and the F7U "Cutlass" being both underpowered and "difficult" to mate to a carrier.  Vought was in need of success if the company was to remain a viable organization.

      By 1952, the U.S. Navy was well aware that their current jet fighters were outclassed by the opposition; they were so desperate to get an airplane that could match the MiG-15 that they went and bought a navalized version of the MiG-killing F-86 Sabre, which they called the "Fury."  The first generation of what were supposed to be supersonic fighters - the Douglas F4D "Skyray" and the McDonnell F3H "Demon" - were saddled with the awful Westinghouse J-40 engine, which didn't deliver the promised power, and for which Westinghouse seemed unable to find a fix. The Navy needed their next design to be a "winner," to put the service back in the leading position it had held with the Grumman Hellcat and Vought Corsair during the Second World War.

      Vought's submission, which would become known as the F-8 "Crusader," was lucky from the beginning.  Freed of the requirement to use the dreadful J-40, Vought was able to use the wonderful J-57 - a jet engine that provided high power and great fuel economy. The J-57 had saved the Skyray, and with a new afterburner was set to power the Air Force's first fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight, the F-100 Super Sabre.  Though Vought's design team was creating their airplane prior to Dr. Richard Whitcomb's publication of The Area Rule, it turned out they had managed to get "the area rule" so right that the F-8 became the first fully-supersonic fighter that didn't "look funny" with a "coke-bottle fuselage" or a "wasp waist," design excrescences which were forced on other designers once the aerodynamic rules for supersonic flight became known. The result of this would be that the Crusader, powered by the exact same engine as the F-100, would end up with greater speed and greater range than its Air Force competitor. The entire wing other than the folding outer section and the control surfaces, was a gas tank, while other tanks were provided throughout the long fuselage; it was also the first supersonic wing to have the needed "dog-tooth" in the design from the beginning.  The wing-body shape of the Crusader was so right that the airplane ended up a generation ahead of all of the competition, world-wide.

      Mating a high-performance fighter like the Crusader to a carrier deck was the big problem, and Vought's solution was truly elegant: the first variable-incidence wing, which - coupled with full-span leading edge slats and drooping ailerons - allowed the fuselage to remain at an angle that provided the pilot with sufficient visibility for a carrier landing, while not forcing such loads onto the landing gear that would result in the usual weight escalation for naval aircraft in this area.  The mechanism for operating the wing weighed in at 500 pounds, while the gear was 500 pounds lighter than would have been the case with any other airframe configuration, which meant the wing was "free." Of the eight designs submitted to the Navy, the Crusader was the only one which could provide such performance while still exhibiting the docile flying qualities the Navy needed.

      The first XF8U-1 flew on March 25, 1955, powered by the Air Force version of the J-57, the P-11, which provided less power than the definitive Navy version, the P-12.  Even thus "underpowered," Vought Chief Test Pilot John Konrad easily took the Crusader supersonic in level flight - out to Mach 1.2 - on its first flight. Further tests demonstrated that in comparison with the F-100, the Crusader had longer range, faster climb, more rapid rate of roll,, a smaller turning circle at all speeds and heights, as well as lower and shorter landing.  De-navalizing the Crusader would have resulted in a world-beating land-based fighter. So few changes were found necessary that the third Crusader delivered was the first full-production aircraft - the only visible change being the addition of a flight refuelling probe on the left side of the forward fuselage, resulting in a "bulge" that actually added to aerodynamic smoothness; other than that, the other major change was putting in the wiring to allow the Crusader to use the Sidewinder missile from the outset.

      On August 31, 1956, CDR R.W. "Duke" Windsor took one of the first production F8U-1s up to 36,000 feet over China Lake, California, pushed the throttle forward as he entered a 15-kilometer course, and set a national speed record of 1,015 m.p.h. - the first time a non-experimental airplane had flown this fast - for which he was awarded the 1956 Thompson Trophy.  In April 1956, the Crusader made its first carrier landing aboard the U.S.S. "Forrestal," followed within six month by successful operation from a 27-C conversion of the World War II-era "Oriskany" carrier.

      On July 16, 1957, the Crusader burst onto the front pages of the newspapers when an F8U-1P was flown from Los Angeles to New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds, for an average transcontinental speed of 726 m.p.h., or Mach 1.1.  In fact, the Crusader, which had to come down from 35,000 feet to 25,000 feet and slow down to 320 m.p.h. to refuel three times from AJ-2 Savage tankers, was actually flying in full afterburner at Mach 1.7 for the majority of the mission.  The Marine aviator who won the Distinguished Flying Cross for this feat would become far better known four and a half years later when LCOL John H. Glenn Jr. became the first American to fly in orbit in February 1962.  Like almost everyone who ever flew a Crusader, former Senator Glenn has been quoted over the years as saying the Crusader was the best airplane he ever flew.  In December 1957, Vought won the Collier Trophy for having designed the Crusader. 

     318 F8U-1s and 144 F8U-1Ps were followed by 130 F8U-1Es, which had full all-weather capability with addition of the APS-67 radar.  The 187 F8U-2s received the more powerful J57-P-16 engine, which required the addition to the two ram air intakes in the extreme rear fuselage to cool the hot afterburner, as well as ventral fins for supersonic stability.  The fastest of all Crusaders were the 152 F8U-2Ns, which appeared in 1960 with a new APQ-83 radar and the J57-P-20 engine, which provided a level speed of 1,230 m.p.h.  The 296 F8U-2NEs, which were equipped with a new APQ-94 radar, which required a slightly-large nose, and an IR-seeker, took Crusader production over 1,000 aircraft.  Introduced as the F-8E following the 1962 change in aircraft designations, its heavier weight gave it a speed of only 987 m.p.h., but it also had ground-attack capability built in, the first Crusader to become a "mud-mover."

      Vought also built 42 F-8E(FN) Crusaders for the French Navy, the last new-build Crusaders.  Already though in 1962, Vought had been involved in remanufacturing the original F8U-1 (F-8A) aircraft, and this updating process would provide the F-8H (rebuilt F8U-2N/F-8D), F-8J (rebuilt F-8E), F-8K (F8U-1N/F-8B) and F-8L (F8U-2/F-8C), the latter two of which were used as advanced trainers (and by a number of  USN/USMC Reserve squadrons as well as by several Composite squadrons. Ed).  The F-8H - only slightly slower in its rebuilt version than the F8U-2N - was the first re-built Crusader to go to war in 1967, and was the leading MiG-killer in Vietnam, with more than twice as many kills as the F-4 Phantom. 

     Among the F-8 pilots to score MiG-kills was LCDR Bob Lockwood of VF-24 "Red Checkertails," flying off the U.S.S. "Hancock," the first squadron to take the F-8H into combat.  On June 21, 1967, he proved the power of the Crusader when he shot down a MiG-17 at low altitude just south of Hanoi, after a long tail chase and a "down in the weeds" gunfight between the two aircraft.  Lockwood's victory would be the last all-gun kill by any U.S. fighter. 

     The F-8 Crusader remained in first-line U.S. Navy service until 1976, when the last of the 27-C "Oriskany" class carriers was decommissioned.  Yours truly first saw a Crusader parked on the ramp at North Island in 1962, looking like it was going a thousand miles an hour just sitting there. It's the last jet fighter that gets my adrenaline pumping just to look at it.

 

THE KIT

 - And Aftermarket Sets:

      There have been three other Crusaders produced in 1/48, a very early model of an F8U-1 by Lindberg in the late 1950s, which is dimensionally accurate and could still form the basis of an accurate model of the first Crusader with a lot of "modeling skill" applied.  ESCI released a 1/48 F-8E in the mid-1970s which I have not seen re-released since the 1980s,  Monogram released an F-8E in the mid-1980s, which is still available. All of these kits have some major accuracy issues. 

      This new kit by Hasegawa is the first Crusader model to come with the ability to build the model in the landed configuration (i.e., wing raised, slats, ailerons and flaps lowered) "out of the box".  According to several leading "rivet-counters," this kit has the most accurate overall shape of any Crusader kit, as well as having an accurate landing gear, which the neither ESCI or Monogram got right. (For a look at what is in the box, please visit the preview).

      To me, the two bad things about the kit are both involved with the cockpit.  For starters, as designed, it is impossible to fit the canopy in the open position, due to an inaccuracy regarding the size, shape and position of the canopy "ears" and their related well on the fuselage aft of the cockpit.  The other bad thing is that the cockpit is very basic; if one is going to do the kit cockpit it is almost a requirement that the pilot figure be used to cover up the lack of detail in the seat.  Fortunately, both of these problems are easily solved. The canopy needs to have the "ear well" enlarged with its upper line raised about 1/16"; one can even leave the "small" ears on the canopy and position it correctly, though making larger ears from sheet plastic is not difficult.  As for the lack of a detailed cockpit, Cutting Edge has already brought out a very well-detailed resin replacement, with a Martin-Baker Mk.5 seat that is one of the best-looking resin castings I have ever seen.

      A glance inside the fuselage halves reveals where the molds break, providing reassurance that Hasegawa will indeed maintain their policy of doing every version possible of any airplane they release a model of.  Thus the earlier "narrow nose" Crusaders and the photo-recon F8U-1P/RF-8G are likely to appear at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Modelers who can't wait (like yours truly), can obtain a very good "narrow nose" conversion set from Cutting Edge, which also includes a new upper wing center section without the "Bullpup bulge" of the F-8E (and remanufactured F-8s).  For those who want as accurate a "look" to their model as possible, Cutting Edge has also released a separate speed brake and associated well, which is an easy conversion from the kit.

      The kit decals provide two colorful F-8E aircraft operated from USS "Ticonderoga" which are of usual Hasegawa quality.  There are many aftermarket sheets in existence for the F-8, being fitted for the ESCI and Monogram kits.  While these can be used on the new Hasegawa kit, there may be associated "fit" problems in such areas as vertical fin insignias, markings on the ventral fins, etc., due to differences between the kits.  Cutting Edge has released five sheets for the Crusader (including a wild one for the F-8E(FN) that I am holding for use when Hasegawa releases that version later this year)(Perhaps the one with the D-Day stripes on it. Ed, who hasn't seen the sheets but can guess); these decals are properly sized to fit the Hasegawa kit, and include both USN and USMC aircraft, with several MiG-killers represented.

 

CONSTRUCTION

      Fortunately, I resisted the urge to assemble the wing and set it aside while I worked on the fuselage.  As it turns out, there is one area of real difficulty in assembling this kit, and that involves attaching the wing in the raised position.  More on that below.  Trust me, do not start with the wing, or the air will become a deep purple over your workbench when you get to the point of assembling the wing and fuselage.

      Since I was going to modify my kit from an F-8E to an F-8H, and use the resin cockpit and speed brake, my work on the fuselage began with my Dremel and razor saw.

      Following the Cutting Edge instructions, I sawed off the nose on the panel line just ahead of the guns.  I also cut out the speed brake on the lower fuselage.  I then dremeled the molded-in interior detail out of the cockpit area.

      The resin nose replacement parts needed some sanding of the solid radome area, to ensure a smooth surface and good fit.  The parts fit perfectly to the fuselage when I attached them with cyanoacrylate glue.  Holding the nose parts, as well as the resin cockpit and speed brake well - all of which attach to the model ahead of the main gear - I had a suspicion these would provide sufficient weight to guarantee a "nose sit," and I was right.  You will not need to put any extra weight in the fuselage if you do this version.  However, if all you use is the resin cockpit for an F-8E, then I would definitely put in some weights in the area immediately behind the cockpit above the intake trunking.

      Continuing, I painted the cockpit Dark Gull Grey, and detail-painted the instrument panel and the side consoles.  While that dried, I removed the speed brake well from its molding block, and cleaned it up.  I assembled the main gear wells and glued them into the right-side fuselage half.  I then attached the speed brake well just ahead of the main gear well.  I assembled and positioned the intake trunking.  The cockpit tub slotted into position with no problem. I then glued the fuselage halves together. 

     Seen in retrospect, I wonder if some of the problems involved with the later wing/fuselage assembly would have been less troublesome if I had made completely certain that not only were the fuselage halves glued together, but that the internal parts were firmly glued to the left fuselage side and the fuselage was pressed tightly together.  I don't know for a fact that this would entirely solve the later assembly problem, but it couldn't hurt to be sure, since having the fuselage as narrow as it should be will have an effect on the problem, so I advise you to do so here, regardless of which version you are making.

      Once the fuselage was together, I assembled the wing.  By this point, I had read a post at HyperScale that there was some fit difficulty with the wing in the raised position, so I temporarily fitted the wing to the fuselage before I attached the slats, flaps and ailerons, and then test-fitted them as I proceeded with assembly.  This was very important, since it turns out that the wing is most easily-assembled in the "in flight" position, with slats, flaps and ailerons in the raised position.  One will have to do some re-shaping of the inner edge of the inner leading edge slats and the inner edge of the flaps, to get both to fit without scraping against the fuselage, while in close enough to allow the outer wing slats and the ailerons to fit properly.  While this re-shaping will change things, it does not look apparent when the wing is finally attached to the fuselage.  However, I had to sand off the inner flap considerably, and also cut off some of the area of the fuselage where the flap fits to the fuselage when in the raised position, so that everything could eventually fit in the slats/flaps-lowered position. This was about as much trouble as fitting a limited-run kit, which is one reason why I think I did not have the fuselage pressed together as much as it should have been, since I have never experienced such a bad fit on any modern Hasegawa kit.

      Once I had the wing assembly done and could remove it from the fuselage, it was time to head for the paint shop.

 

CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS

Painting:

      I pre-shaded the two sub-assemblies of fuselage and wing, as well as the still-unattached slab elevators, with flat black. When that was done, I painted the aft fuselage, and the leading edges of the flying surfaces, with SnJ Aluminum, and airbrushed the canopy windscreen and the area immediately nearby with Tamiya "NATO Black" for the anti-glare area.  When all this was dry, I masked off these areas. 

      The lower surfaces and the entire slab elevators were painted with Gunze-Sangyo H-316 Gloss White FS17875.  When that was dry, I sprayed the wheel wells, speed brake well, landing gear parts and interior of the gear doors with Testors Model-Master "Sealer", so that I could spray some Tamiya Smoke heavily thinned with rubbing alcohol, to obtain the "used" look of these areas (you need the lacquer coat in between to keep the heavily-thinned acrylic "Smoke" from ruining the acrylic white).

      The upper surface was painted with Gunze-Sangyo H-51 Light Gull Grey.  I went back over the upper areas three times, each time lightening the Light Gull Grey with a bit of white, to get the "multi-shade grey" look that comes from salt water and sunlight on the paint.  I went for "subtlety" with this effect; the result is visible on the model when seen in person, but when Scott Van Aken first saw a photo of the model he commented to me that it was "far too monochromatic" for a fleet fighter's finish (Course, there are also some that are pristine. See below for a couple of  reference images of 'as new' and 'slightly used'. Both are early aircraft without the Bullpup mod and the more pointy radome, though they both have the afterburner cooling scoops. Just FYI, the majority of the F-8 slides I have show the planes with the flaps/slats raised and the wing down, though they all show the speed brake drooped to some extent. Ed). All I can tell you is, it's there in person, and it looks like what I remembered myself, seeing Navy aircraft from this period while on operations. I have seen other modelers do this more obviously, and to me it becomes "affected" at that stage and begins to become "hyper-stylized," but to each their own. When this was dry I unmasked the model and gave it a coat of Future.


 

 

 Decals:

      I used the Cutting Edge sheet "F-8 Crusader Pat 5," 48-214, to do Bob Kirkwood's F-8H with which he scored the last all-gun kill, on June 21, 1967 (not March 1968, as the sheet says incorrectly).  Cutting Edge decals are thin and go down with no problem under a light coat of Micro-Sol.  When these had set up, I used to kit decals for the stenciling.

 

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

      Thanks to all the pre-fitting done on the wing, making the final attachment of wing to fuselage was not a problem.  As you can see from the photos, the surgery required to accomplish this is not readily apparent.

      I then attached the elevators and the landing gear. The speed brake was a bit "fiddly," but presented no real problems; photos of F-8s show every position from slightly open to speed brake resting on the ground - I chose a "middle" position, enough to see it, not enough to be in the way.

      Hasegawa provides both types of Sidewinder launch rails used by Crusaders. However, they do not supply the Sidewinders, instructing you to buy the correct "U.S. Weapons" set.  Since there was an "ordnance shortage" aboard the USS "Thomas M. Cleaver" at the time (just like there was in the USN in 1966-67), I used the two single rails, though the F-8H normally carried the double-rail launchers.  The rails and missiles were attached without difficulty.       

      I placed the ejection seat in the cockpit and attached the canopy in the open position.  I chose not to enlarge the "ears."  It's not that apparent to the casual viewer (unless their name is Steve "Snake" Mesner, but then nothing ever gets past him), and not having separate "ears" means there is one less thing likely to be broken whenever the model gets moved.

CONCLUSIONS

      This new Crusader kit makes up into a very good-looking model.  Even with all the modifications, there was nothing that was particularly frustrating about the project (even the wing problem wasn't that big a deal).  However, if you want a really good-looking model in your collection, this kit cries out for the Cutting Edge cockpit at a minimum.  I will definitely look forward to the coming release of the F-8E(FN), and hope to see the photo-recon Crusader in the future.

      Highly recommended for those US Navy aircraft fans.  

Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kit and Meteor Productions for the aftermarket sets and decals

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