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Trumpeter 1/32 F-8E Crusader Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2008 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject F-8E Crusader Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2272 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Superdetailed and superbly engineered Cons Rivets on the wings, a few detail glitches, but nothing difficult
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $149.95

First Look


Vought was given the job of building the Navy's first supersonic carrier-based aircraft. The F8U incorporated many of the lessons learned from their previous carrier fighter, the F7U Cutlass. The F8U design beat out an upgraded F11F Tiger, a twin-engined F3H Demon (which would develop into the F4H Phantom II), and a navalized version of the first operational supersonic fighter, the North American F-100 Super Sabre.

The F8U was build around the same engine as the F-100, the Pratt & Whitney J57 afterburning turbojet engine. It also was armed with four 20mm cannons like the F-100, and the F8U would be the last 'Gunfighter' - the last Navy aircraft designed with guns as its primary armament. The F8U was redesignated as the F-8 in the early 1960s when the services standardized their designation systems.

To keep the landing gear simple yet robust, its length was kept to a minimum, resulting in the Crusader's long fuselage being close to the ground. The long and low fuselage meant that even with the flaps extended, it would either have to touch down too fast for safe carrier arresting (trap) or else the tail section strike the deck at touch-down. The solution was innovative - a variable incidence wing. Raising the wing at take-off and landing provides the additional lift at slow speed to allow for a safe trap aboard the carrier without the resulting nose-high (tail strike) attitude at touch-down.

Unlike the F-100, the F-8 was equipped with a radar to allow the hunt for enemy aircraft while in the clouds, and with the advent of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the Crusader had the ability to engage targets at longer ranges and still close for a gun shot if needed. Over Vietnam, the Crusader scored 19 MiGs before giving way to the F-4 Phantom II.

With over 1,200 examples built, the Crusader entered operational service in 1957 and left active duty service in 1976. The photo-reconnaissance variants of the Crusader would serve for another 11 years before phasing out of active duty squadrons. In addition to the US Navy and Marine Corps, the F-8 would also serve with the French Navy and Philippine Air Force.

Here is another impressive kit from Trumpeter. An F-8E Crusader in 1/32 scale! The kit has been anticipated for a while, though it was likely completed before it was even announced - more on this later.

The kit is molded in standard light gray styrene and presented on 11 parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts, separately provided styrene canopy and windscreen, and one fret of photo-etched parts.

Assembly starts with the Martin-Baker ejection seat, followed by the cockpit tub. While I'm sure there will be aftermarket cockpits coming for this kit, what comes out of the box looks nice and will look great on its own. If you add some Eduard color photo-etch in the cockpit, this front office will look fantastic!

Next up are the two gun bays, each with two Colt Mk.12 20mm cannons and ammo feeds. The access panels and doors to these bays can be positioned open or closed.

The wheel wells and dorsal fuselage bay (visible when the wing is up) are also nicely detailed.

One glitch in the kit is the J57 engine - it shares the same engine face as the F-100 kit. While most modelers won't care or really even see the engine face down the intake, it doesn't look like the J57 from the front. Here is what the part looks like versus the real thing:

J57 J57

Before you conclude that Trumpeter simply blew off the feedback from the F-100D kit that also used this same design, you'll want to know that according to the copyright date on the photo-etch fret, this kit design was completed and packaged sometime in 2007, too late to change. Chances are that the F-100F kit and the next Crusader will also have this same engine face, so it would be really nice if a resin guru out there would develop a new J57 face for these kits!

Among the features in this kit:

  • Positionable gun bay access doors/panels
  • Positionable ram-air-turbine (RAT)
  • Positionable air refueling probe
  • Positionable speed brake
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable wing
  • Positionable leading/trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable folding wingtips
  • Optional underwing pylons
  • Dual-rail fuselage pylons (looks like these can be altered to singe-rail configuration)

The weapons in this kit are a bit of an odd mix. As I mention above, the twin-rail pylons are provided in the kit, but only two AIM-9D Sidewinders are provided. For whatever reason, the instructions would have you mount the Sidewinder on one rail and a twin-Zuni rocket pod on the other. Only two twin-Zuni pods are provided.

Two sets of weapons trees are provided that contain the Shrike, Bullpup, Walleye, and HOBOS. The instructions would have you put any of these four weapons on the underwing pylons of the F-8E, but the only one of these that my references show was cleared for use on the F-8 was the AGM-12 Bullpup. The others should be put into your spares box for future projects. The weapons included in the kit are:

  • 2 x AIM-9D Sidewinder
  • 2 x Twin-tube Zuni rocket launcher
  • 2 x AGM-12 Bullpup
  • 2 x AGM-45 Shrike (spares box)
  • 2 x AGM-62 Walleye
  • 2 x GBU-8 HOBOS (identified in the instructions as the GBU-15, but neither used on the F-8 - spares box)

This kit has a very nice (and large) decal sheet to render one of two examples:

  • F-8E, BuNo 149203, VF-162, AH/200, USS Oriskany, CAG aircraft CVW-16, 1968
  • F-8E, BuNo 150909, VF-194, NM/400, USS Ticonderoga, CAG aircraft, CVW-17, 1968

The markings are well done though the bureau number for the VF-194 CAG bird is not provided for some reason.

Aside from the minor points raised above, the kit really looks nice and represents a time in Naval aviation when aircraft were decorated in high-visibility (colorful) markings. These two examples are really excellent choices out of the box and I expect that we'll be seeing many other options coming out from the aftermarket community soon!

Oh yes, and you can be sure that at least one more variant of the F-8 is planned - the F-8J. No date announced for release of that variant at present.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!