The legendary F-8 Crusader served with the Aeronavale from 1964 (trails starting aboard Clemenceau in 1962) to 2000.
The Aeronavale used the F-8E(FN) initially. The FN had the fire control system modified to carry the Matra R.530 missile (in addition to the Sidewinder). In addition the wing incidence angle was increased from 3 to 5 degrees to accommodate operations from the decidedly smaller aircraft carriers.
Later in service 1979, the FN was upgraded to the standard F-8J with a modified afterburner and J model standard wing. The R.550 missile was also added. Later again in 1989 17 F-8E(FN) were modified to the F-8P (P for prolonge) with rewired electrical and hydraulic systems and the addition of a radar warning receiver.
Deliveries of the FN to the Aeronavale began in October 1964 til February 1965 to the Aeronavale’s first fighter squadron Flotille 12F and Flotille 14F.
The Crusader served in many French military operations in the Mid East and Africa. One of the more unusual incidents took place over Djibouti in 1977 (from Wikipedia):
On 7 May 1977, two Crusaders went separately on patrol against supposedly French Air Force (4/11 Jura squadron) F-100 Super Sabres stationed at Djibouti. The leader intercepted two fighters and engaged a dogfight (supposed to be a training exercise) but quickly called his wingman for help as he had actually engaged two Yemeni Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s. The two French fighters switched their master armament to “on” but, ultimately, everyone returned to their bases. This was the only combat interception by French Crusaders.
Here are some early pictures of the F-8 in Aeronavale service:
The Aeronavale Crusader also took part in the NATO’S air war over Kosovo in 1999. Here are some pictures of the F-8 from that cruise:
In 2000, the F-8P was replaced with the Rafale M.
A long period of service for a great airplane.