The F8U-2 was the first true fleet Crusader fighter. The YF8U-2 prototype flew for the first time on August 20, 1957. It was powered by a new and more powerful engine, a J57-P-16 rated at 10,700 lb.s.t. dry and 16,900 lb.s.t. with afterburner. The increased thrust offered by the P-16 made it necessary to provide additional cooling for the afterburner. This was provided by the addition two air scoops mounted on the upper part of the tail cone just aft of the vertical tail. A pair of ventral strakes were added to the lower rear fuselage to improve directional stability at high altitudes, although the effect of these strakes was questionable, with several pilots reporting no change in handling with them fitted. A Y-shaped missile rack was added to each side of the fuselage, making it possible for the Crusader to carry four Sidewinders rather than just two. However, the four-missile armament was only very rarely carried in combat, since pilots felt that the extra weight and reduction in fuel load was not worth the two extra missiles.
A second prototype, more representative of the production model, flew in January of 1958. The first true production F8U-2 flew on August 20, 1958. A total of 187 F8U-2s were delivered to the Navy between January of 1959 and September of 1960. The first unit to use the F8U-2 was VF-84, entering service in January of 1959. It later joined VF-24, VF-103, VF-194, and VF-211, and served with the Marine Corps squadrons VMF-212, VMF-232, VMF-235, and VMF-333.
The performance of the F8U-2 was impressive, having an initial climb rate of more than 25,000 feet per minute and a maximum speed of Mach 1.7.
The F8U-2 was redesignated F-8C in September of 1962 in accordance with the new Tri-Service designation scheme.
145546/145603 Vought F8U-2 Crusader - redesignated F-8C in 1962 146906/146999 Vought F8U-2 Crusader - redesignated F-8C in 1962 147000/147034 Vought F8U-2 Crusader - redesignated F-8C in 1962.
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney J57-P-16 turbojet, 10,700 lb.st dry, 16,900 lb.s.t with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed: 1105 mph (Mach 1.67) at 35,000 feet, 733 mph at sea level. 1062 mph (Mach 1.60) at altitude with two Sidewinders. Cruising speed 570 mph. Stalling speed 157 mph. Service ceiling 41,700 feet. Combat celling 52,000 feet. Initial climb rate 21,700 feet per minute Combat radius 368 miles, maximum range 1490 miles (1375 miles with Sidewinders) . Internal fuel capacity 1273 US gallons. Dimensions: wingspan 35 feet 8 inches, length 54 feet 3 inches, height 15 feet 9 inches, wing area 375 square feet. Weights: 16,483 pounds empty, 24,347 pounds combat, 27,810 pounds gross, 27,938 pounds maximum takeoff. Armed with four 20-mm cannon in the fuselage. Two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles could be carried on rails attached to the side of the fuselage. 32 2.75-inch unguided rockets could be carried in a pack that was lowered from the airbrake, although this pack was rarely actually carried.