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

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2009 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject F-8J Crusader Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2273 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Superdetailed and superbly engineered Cons A few minor detail glitches, no external tanks
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $159.95

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.

The F-8J Crusader improved the low-speed handling through engineering improvements that were applied to the French Navy's F-8E Crusaders for operations on their smaller aircraft carriers. These improvements included greater flap and slat deflection as well as the addition of boundary layer control - engine air blown over sections of the wing to reduce stall speed. The external pylons were also plumbed to carry external fuel tanks to extend the operating range. The F-8J was not a production aircraft, they were some 130+ F-8Es that were updated into the J configuration.

Here is the second installment in Trumpeter's huge Crusader family - the F-8J 1/32 scale! As with the previous F-8E kit (reviewed here), 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. There have been some impressive aftermarket sets produced for the F-8E kit that will also apply to this kit as well, though I'm sure that any cockpit layout differences that resulted from the upgrade to the J-model will be addressed appropriately.

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 still 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

What's different about this release is one new tree of parts that replace the set in the E-model kit. This is the sprue a few image below that have the enlarged horizontal stabiliators and the revised leading edge slats.

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)

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-8J, 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)

Even though the J-model was plumbed for external fuel tanks, none are included here so we'll have to look to the aftermarket folks for some tanks.

Speaking of aftermarket, some folks were unhappy with the windscreen in the kit. Fisher Models produced a beautiful clear resin windscreen as part of another conversion set, but it is my understanding that you can acquire the windscreen separately as well. Also AMS Resin has a really nice Martin Baker Mk.5 seat with the details nicely cast into place which will also enhance the look of this kit's 'front office'.

This kit has a very nice decal sheet to render one of two examples:

  • F-8J, BuNo 150898, VF-24, NP/200, USS Hancock, CAG aircraft, 1974
  • F-8E, BuNo 150674, VF-194, NM/200, USS Oriskany, CAG aircraft, CVW-17, 1976, 'Spirit of 76'

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

This kit still 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!

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!