by Tommy H. Thomason

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Friday, December 8, 2023

Sword 1/72 F8U-1P/RF-8 Photo Crusader

22 March 2024: As noted in the original post, an early F8U-1P would require a Vought ejection seat and different wheel hubs than provided in the F8U-1P/RF-8A kit. Modification of the kit seat headrest would probably suffice for the former but exquisite 3D-printed replacement wheels are now available for the latter from Jonathan Smith.


Note that the openings in the nose wheel hub should line up.

Smith's main landing gear inboard main landing gear hubs do not include the disc-brake caliper assemblies that are located on the bottom of the landing gear strut but these are easily added.

They are provided on the kit wheels and correctly pictorially oriented if you're paying attention to the instructions:

22 January 2024: This is a work in progress. I'm still making additions and corrections. Please don't hesitate to inform me at tommythomason@sbcglobal of any you have.

This post has benefited significantly from input from Ed Barthelmes and Bill Spidle, who I consider to be Crusader subject-matter experts. For more on this iconic carrier-based airplane, I recommend you add Ed's F-8 Crusader Walk Around Number 38 from squadron/signal publications and Bill's Vought F-8 Crusader from Specialty Press to your library.

Finally, a 1/72 kit of the photo-reconnaissance F8U/F-8 Crusader! And the first impression before building it is excellent (Sword was also provided with pretty good Vought drawings of it). This is Sword's test assembly as an RF-8G"+":


To answer the two most frequently asked questions: there is no option to raise the wing and while some of the detail parts like the nose landing gear resemble that of the Academy F-8E/F-8E(FN), F-8J kit (Tom Weinel's preference: see, it is also clearly different in most particulars. One small flaw that Tom noted in most F8U kits (Heller got it right) that Sword also included: there is no fairing or bulge on the upper wing surface at the wing fold joint on any Crusader.

Pictures of the sprues and decals are here: Note that there is no difference in the kits with respect to the plastic, resin, or even instructions. The only difference is the decal sheet. Additional markings will be forthcoming from Caracal Models. Also, don't lose track of the small rectangular tan piece of paper in the box. Barely perceptible on it are the masks for the canopy, windscreen, camera ports, and the view-finder window.

You may wonder, as I did, about the raised rounded triangles on the top of the inboard leading edge slat;

Bill Spidle informed me that these were associated with the F-8L wing which added pylons, one on each side, to F-8B wings. They were located at the hinges of the leading edge flaps and increased the fatigue life of the wing. After the F-8Ls were retired, their wings still had life remaining to they were utilized for at least some RF-8G upgrades.   They are present on the RF-8G "+" BuNo 146882 on display at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas. His photo:

They are clearly not as prominent as the kit's and in any event, are not on the F8U-1P/RF-8A wings.

The F8U-1P prototype (a conversion of F8U-1 BuNo 141363) first flew on 15 December 1955. The last flight of one, an RF-8G"+", was to the National Air and Space Museum on 29 March 1987, over 30 years later. There were numerous detail changes to the configuration over that time. Sword provides most of them in this kit.

There were three basic versions, not counting details like DECM antenna fairings and camera ports:

F8U-1P/RF-8A: The most notable omissions from the kit are that the first F8U-1Ps were delivered with a Vought ejection seat, a nose-wheel hub with spokes, and a fuel vent mast under the left hand side of the aft fuselage. For the seat and nose wheel, see For more on the landing gear changes, see The kit only provides a Martin Baker seat that might be either a Mk 5 or a Mk 7. However, in 1/72 scale, these can be distinguished by painting the parachute housing accordingly (see For an introduction to the F8U-1P, click HERE.

RF-8G: 73 RF-8As of the original 144 were remanufactured to be RF-8Gs, including new wings that added a pylon on each side. These were delivered between 1965 and 1970. The most obvious external change was the addition of the ventral fins under the aft fuselage to increase supersonic directional stability (the left fin incorporated the RF-8A's fuel vent mast). For some reason, five USMC RF-8As got the ventral fins with no designation change. The G changes included a beef up the landing gear; the differences might not be readily apparent in 1/72 scale (see the landing gear link above). The tail hook shank went from squarish to round (the kit's looks squarish, i.e. RF-8A).

RF-8G"+": The + is a notation that Tom Weinel added to differentiate it from the G's that were modified to this configuration beginning in 1978. The major external difference was the addition of the cooling scoops on the top of the tail pipe and blocking off one of the small vents on the right side of the fuselage just ahead of the wing. For more on the afterburner differences, see

For more general background, see: One comment on it by OldGeezer should be noted when evaluating the usefulness of the following:

From 1975-1977, I was one of the tiny group of engineers responsible for the last 30 or so RF-8Gs at the Naval Air Rework Facility in Norfolk. A lot of things stick in my mind, probably of no interest to anyone these days. You mention the ECM antennas, from memory the last ones I personally saw were Air Frame Changes 598 and 599. I don't think any two of the aircraft that came into our shop ever had identical antenna configurations, and we'd incorporate everything they had missed along with the latest stuff, so theoretically they'd leave our line all with the same equipment. That didn't apply to the cameras though. There were different numbers and locations of windows on the various airplanes, and we couldn't do much about that.

Which DECM antenna configuration you use can only be established by reference to the RF-8 that you are representing.

 The first one on at least a few RF-8A/Gs as early as 1966 is the same as on the Crusader fighter of that era:

It uses part 30. The small circle is a tail light. This was accompanied by a pair of antennas on the bottom of the fuselage between the main landing gear doors that are not provided by the kit.

The second one looks like this:

It uses parts 27, 28, and 30. It appears on Gs in pictures dated 1967 through 1972.

The next one deleted the antenna on the leading edge beginning in 1969. The trailing edge fairing extended farther forward on the fin (the tail light was embedded in the fairing) and there appears to have been two different fairing and antenna configurations. One had multifaceted lumps and appears to have been retained for the remainder of the RF-8's service life:

It resembles kit parts 57/58. I'm not sure when the flare/chaff dispensers were added under the fuselage aft of the main landing gear (they are not provided in the kit, either):

The other was shaped like a bullet and the fairing extended the farthest forward. It may have actually preceded the one described immediately above.

This would be kit parts 65/66.

Finally, an antenna was eventually scabbed onto the right hand underside of the G inlet.

This is kit part 70.

The F8Us did not originally have red anti-collision lights on the top and bottom of the fuselage (they were not a requirement on U.S.civil airplanes before 1957; the military was not required to incorporate them but did). The upper one is provided as a separate clear part. The lower one is molded with the bottom of the camera bay, part CP2, and will have to be removed for the initial F8U-1P configuration.

The photoflash cartridge dispensers, one on each side of the upper fuselage aft of the cockpit, are usually covered by a panel that was removed when required for night missions (for illustrations of previous Navy photo flare dispensers, click HERE).

An F8U-1P with the small-diameter flare dispenser:

An RF-8G with the large-diameter flare dispenser:

Photo via  Ed Barthelmes

The F8U-1P/RF-8A camera system:

Above the light detector window was one of two sensors, either a light monitor for day photos or a flash detector for night photos. The scanner window provided a view for the image motion sensor.

The RF-8G camera system was initially identical to the RF-8A's but eventually diverged. Note the removal of the Station 2 windows from the side and bottom of the fuselage and the addition of a prism window (kit part CP9) at Station 2 on the right side of the bottom of the fuselage. A second prism window was sometimes substituted for the Station 4 window on the bottom of the fuselage. Note that this airplane did not have the Doppler antenna or the single large DECM antenna fairing (see next photo for both) between the main landing gear doors in place of the two in this photo.

This is the bottom of a late RF-8G"+", mainly distinguished by the addition of DECM antenna variations (kit parts 25 and 70) and a Doppler antenna (molded with the bottom of the camera bay, part CP2, so it will have to be removed when modeling earlier aircraft configurations):

I'm not sure why the scanner window appears to be missing in this photo.

The presence or absence of the left or right Station 2 windows on Gs and G"+"s is another mystery. The left window is often missing with or without the prism window present on the bottom of the fuselage. However, the right window is sometimes present even though the left window is not.

Build Notes

There are holes on the inside of the fuselage halves that would need to be drilled out if you are adding the ventral strakes, which are mounted at a 45° angle. The kit parts have different part numbers but I don't know yet if they are actually handed.

Note that the wings were mounted with anhedral of 5 degrees and the horizontal stabilizers, dihedral of 5.4 degrees (n.b. the left and right UHTs were not connected):

Because of the length of service of the photo Crusaders (the high-time one was retired with almost 7,500 hours after 28 years and 11 overhauls) and Sword's reliance on close examination of survivors, there are mid-life and late-life detail additions on the kit parts like reinforcing doublers around the main landing gear wells and a small bulge above and below the stabilizer at its attach point to the fuselage that aren't present on the initial F8U-1Ps.

More to come...