RF-8G airplane model. The lifetime of the RF-8G proved to be much longer than even the most optimistic projections had predicted. In the late 1970s, there were substantial numbers of these planes still flying on active duty with the Navy. Beginning in February 1977, a second upgrade of reconnaissance Crusaders was carried out. Many of the J-57-P-22 engines of the RF-8Gs were replaced by more powerful J57-P-429 engines. New electrical wiring was provided and new electronic countermeasures equipment was added. These modified RF-8Gs could be identified by the presence of two large afterburner cooling air intakes mounted on their upper tailcones, a feature which had first appeared on the F8U-2 (F-8C). The modified RF-8Gs also featured a round protrusion sticking out of the rear of the upper vertical fin just above the rudder. This carried a radar warning receiver.
The RF-8G was ultimately to be the longest-serving US version of the Crusader, serving long after its fighter cousins had been withdrawn. The last active duty Navy unit to fly the RF-8G was VFP-63, which relinquished its planes in June of 1982. The RF-8G flew even longer with the Naval Air Reserve. The Naval Air Reserve units operating the RF-8G were VFP-206 and VFP-306 and were both based at NAF Washington DC, stationed at Andrews AFB. VFP-206 finally relinquished its RF-8Gs on March 29, 1987, becoming the last Navy unit to fly the Crusader. The last Crusader in Navy service, RF-8G BuNo 146860, was officially turned over to the Smithsonian Institution the next day.