The Vought F-8 Crusader (originally F8U) was a single-engine aircraft carrier-based air superiority fighter aircraft built by Vought for the United States Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps, replacing the Vought F7U Cutlass. The first F-8 prototype was ready for flight in February 1955, and was the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon, principally serving in the Vietnam War. The RF-8 Crusader was a photo-reconnaissance development and operated longer in U.S. service than any of the fighter versions. RF-8s played a crucial role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, providing essential low-level photographs impossible to acquire by other means. US Naval Reserve units continued to operate the RF-8 until 1987.
Prototype XF8U-1s were evaluated by VX-3 beginning in late 1956, with few problems noted. Weapons development was conducted at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and a China Lake F8U-1 set a U.S. National speed record in August 1956. Commander "Duke" Windsor set, broke, and set a new Level Flight Speed Record of 1,015.428 mph (1,634.173 km/h) on 21 August 1956 beating the previous record of 822 mph (1,323 km/h) set by a USAF F-100, however, the world speed record of 1,132 mph (1,822 km/h), set by the British Fairey Delta 2, on 10 March 1956, was not broken.
An early F8U-1 was modified as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft, becoming the first F8U-1P, subsequently the RF-8A equipped with cameras rather than guns and missiles.