The F8U-1T was a two-seat trainer version of the Crusader. It was built by modifying the 77th production F8U-1 (BuNo 143710). This plane had also served as the prototype for the F8U-2NE.
It retained the ventral fins and the afterburner airscoops of the F8U-2NE. The aircraft was fitted with a new forward cockpit that had two seats installed in tandem underneath a single clamshell-type canopy. A deliberate attempt was made to keep the overall length of the aircraft the same as that of the basic F8U. This required that the rear seat be raised by some fifteen inches to provide adequate forward visibility, giving the F8U-1T a distinctive, hump-backed appearance. To make room for the second cockpit, equipment formerly located behind the pilot's cockpit had to be moved to an area inside the fuselage. The upper cannon on each side of the aircraft, their associated ammunition boxes, and the ventral rocket pack also had to be deleted to make room for the second crew member. However, the Sidewinder missile capability was retained. A wind-blast protection shield was installed behind the front ejector seat to protect the rear-seat occupant in the case of an emergency ejection at high speed. Both seats were fitted with a full set of flight controls and instruments.
In order to make it possible to operate the aircraft from small auxiliary airfields, a parabrake was fitted in the tail cone, the F8U-1T being the only Crusader version ever to have this feature. Low-pressure tires were fitted to make the two-seat Crusader capable of soft-field landings.
The powerplant was the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-20, derated so that it matched the performance of the F8U-1.
The first flight took place on February 6, 1962. On September 18, 1962, the F8U-1T was redesignated TF-8A under the new Tri-Service designation system.
Although developed under a Navy contract, the two-seat Crusader was not ordered into production because of a cutback in the fiscal 1964 budget. After being evaluated by the Navy in the USA, the TF-8A underwent a European tour in the hopes of attracting customers. For a while, the British were interested in the two-seat Crusader. If ordered, the British Crusader would have been powered with the Rolls-Royce Spey engine. However, the British decided instead to order the McDonnell F-4 Phantom, and the idea of a Spey-powered Crusader never achieved fruition.
Following the completion of company flight tests, Vought gave the trainer to the Navy's Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. After several years at Patuxent River, the TF-8A went to NASA at Langly, Virginia, then to Edwards AFB.
In 1977, Vought got a contract to provide refurbished F-8Hs to the Philippines. As part of the contract, the TF-8A trainer was regained from NASA in order to provide transition training for the Philippine Air Force pilots that were going to be using the Crusader. However, on July 28, 1978, while on a routine training flight, a Vought pilot and his Filipino trainee encountered engine trouble near Dallas and were forced to eject. The TF-8A crashed in a farmer's field and was destroyed.