Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III ....better than the F-4 Phantom & the son of a Mig Killer!

Everyone loves the F-4 Phantom.  It was developed (after many years and a rather lackluster aerial combat debut) into a decent multi-role airplane.

So what's my problem with it?

My problem is that the Navy/Marine Corps could have had a better plane...the Vought F8U Crusader III.

This airplane was lining up to be an absolute beast!  Check this out via Wikipedia...
The Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III was an aircraft developed by Chance Vought as a successor to the successful Vought F-8 Crusader program and as a competitor to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.[1] Though based in spirit on the F8U-1 and F8U-2, and sharing the older aircraft's designation in the old Navy system, the two aircraft shared few parts.[1]
And then this...
In December 1955, the US Navy declared a competition for a Mach 2+ fleet defense interceptor. Fly-offs against the Crusader III's main competitor, the future McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, demonstrated that the Vought design had a definite advantage in maneuverability. John Konrad, Vought's chief test pilot, later stated that the Crusader III could fly circles around the Phantom II. Combat thrust-to-weight ratio (T/W ratio) was almost unity (0.97), while early F4H had only 0.87. However, the solitary pilot in the XF8U-3 was easily overwhelmed with the workload required to fly the intercept and fire Sparrows which required constant radar illumination from the firing aircraft, while the Phantom II had a dedicated radar intercept officer on board.[1]
In addition, with the perception that the age of the guns was over, the Phantom's considerably larger payload and the ability to perform air-to-ground as well as air-to-air missions, trumped Vought's fast but single-purposed fighter. For similar reasons, the Phantom would replace the Navy's F-8 Crusader as the primary daylight air superiority fighter in the Vietnam War, although it was originally introduced as a missile-armed interceptor to complement day fighters like the Crusader.[5]
I find it interesting that the Navy chose the F-4 over the Crusader.  In an age of single purpose airframes dotting the deck of its carriers....when a carrier air wing had over 100 plus aircraft compared to the 40-60 today (even though today's carriers are larger...and the aircraft carried then topped 70,000 pounds...the A-5 Vigilante)....to pick an inferior warplane based on the idea that air combat would only involve launching missiles beyond visual range seems silly, accepting unnecessary risk and being based on false assumptions....

Oh wait.  We're doing it again with the F-35!

The Crusader III was probably the last chance for the Navy to have an air superiority fighter on its deck instead of simply a fleet defense fighter!  I guess the old saying was true.... When you're out of F-8's you're out of fighters!

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