Chance Vought F4U Corsair statistics
Fleet Air Arm: 2,012
33 feet 4 inches
33 feet 4 inches
33 feet 4 inches
Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8
R-2800-18W then R-2800-24W
2,100 hp for -18W
Six .50 calibre machine guns
Six .50 calibre machine guns, rocket stubs
Four 20mm M-3 cannon, rocket stubs
417 mph at 19,900 feet
450 mph at 26,600 feet
Introduction - F4U-1 - F4U-2 - XF4U-3 - F4U-4 - F4U-5 - AU-1 - F4U-7 - American Service - British Service - Statistics
Vought F4U-5N Corsair
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Vought F4U-5N (NL) Corsair
Pilot používal k vyhledávání cílů radar AN/APS-19 umístěný v kapkovitém pouzdře na pravém křídle (na jeho náběžné hraně).
Model NL se od provedení N lišil tím, že na náběžných hranách křídel a ocasních ploch bylo umístěno odmrazovací zařízení. Tuto úpravu si vyžádalo mrazivé počasí v Koreji. Verze 5N (5NL) měla na rozdíl od verze 5 na hlavních kanónů umístěny tlumiče plamenů (vyskytovaly se i vyjímky bez tlumičů) a na krytu motoru stínící plošky proti oslnění plameny z výfukového potrubí.
Tato verze se kromě samotného nočního stíhání využívala také jako noční značkovač cílů. Pilot pomocí svého radaru nalezl cíl, který pak označil zápalnou municí. Takto označený cíl pak bombardovaly ostatní jednotky.
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Evidenční čísla (BuNo - Bureau Numbers) F4U-5N Corsair
121832 - 121833
121852 - 121853
121872 - 121874
121891 - 121893
121912 - 121915
121932 - 121935
121952 - 121955
121973 - 121976
121995 - 121998
122015 - 122018
122037 - 122040
122058 - 122061
123144 - 123203
124441 - 124503
124710 - 124724
Evidenční čísla (BuNo - Bureau Numbers) F4U-5NL Corsair
124504 - 124522
124524 - 124560
124666 - 124709
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In February 1938 the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. For the single-engined fighter the Navy requested the maximum obtainable speed, and a stalling speed not higher than 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). A range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) was specified.  The fighter had to carry four guns, or three with increased ammunition. Provision had to be made for anti-aircraft bombs to be carried in the wing. These small bombs would, according to thinking in the 1930s, be dropped on enemy aircraft formations.
In June 1938, the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Vought for a prototype bearing the factory designation V-166B,  the XF4U-1, BuNo 1443. The Corsair design team was headed up by Rex Beisel. After mock-up inspection in February 1939, construction of the XF4U-1 powered by an XR-2800-4 prototype of the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp twin-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, rated at 1,805 hp (1,346 kW) went ahead quickly, as the very first airframe ever designed from the start to have a Double Wasp engine fitted for flight.  When the prototype was completed it had the biggest and most powerful engine, largest propeller and probably the largest wing on any naval fighter to date.  The first flight of the XF4U-1 was made on 29 May 1940, with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter.  
On 1 October 1940, the XF4U-1 became the first single-engine U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph (640 km/h) by setting an average ground speed of 405 miles per hour (652 km/h) during a northeastwards flight from Stratford to Hartford.  The USAAC's twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning had flown over 400 mph in January–February 1939.  The XF4U-1 also had an excellent rate of climb but testing revealed that some requirements would have to be rewritten. In full-power dive tests, speeds of up to 550 miles per hour (890 km/h) were achieved but not without damage to the control surfaces and access panels and, in one case, an engine failure.  The spin recovery standards also had to be relaxed as recovery from the required two-turn spin proved impossible without resorting to an anti-spin chute.  The problems clearly meant delays in getting the design into production.
Reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two .30 in (7.62 mm) synchronized engine cowling-mount machine guns, and two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each outer wing panel) was insufficient. The U.S. Navy's November 1940 production proposals specified heavier armament.  The increased armament consisted of three .50 caliber machine guns mounted in each wing panel. This improvement greatly increased the ability of the Corsair to effectively shoot down enemy aircraft.
Formal U.S. Navy acceptance trials for the XF4U-1 began in February 1941. The Navy entered into a letter of intent on 3 March 1941, received Vought's production proposal on 2 April and awarded Vought a contract for 584 F4U-1 fighters, which were given the name "Corsair" — inherited from the firm's late-1920s Vought O2U naval biplane scout which first bore the name — on 30 June of the same year. The first production F4U-1 performed its initial flight a year later, on 24 June 1942.   It was a remarkable achievement for Vought compared to land-based counterparts, carrier aircraft are "overbuilt" and heavier, to withstand the extreme stress of deck landings.
F4U-1 "bouncing" on USS Bunker Hill in 1943
Vought F4U-1A Corsair, BuNo 17883, of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, the commander of VMF-214, Vella Lavella end of 1943
Corsair firing rockets on Okinawa
W.L. Hood on his Corsair, Okinawa, 1945
British F4U in formation flight, November 1944
Naval Ordnance Test Station's F4U-1D in 1945
FG-1A of Marine Air Base Group 2
A FG-1D during the Second World War
RNZAF FG-1D Goodyear built Corsair
P & W R-2800-8 engine of a FG-1
Underside view of a Corsair F4U-1
F4U-1D at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center
VBF-74 F4U-4s launching from USS Midway in 1945
Carrier Air Group 1 CAG-bird in 1947 on the USS Tarawa
F4U-4 of VF-1B on USS Midway, 1947/48
VMF-212 over Wright memorial, 1948
An F4U-4 going over the side of USS Sicily in 1948
Carrier landing of a VMF-312 F4U-4B in the late 1940s
Crash of the CAG's F4U-4 on the Coral Sea, 1950
F4U-4B of VF-113 over Inchon, 1950
VMF-214 on Sicily, 1950
F4U-4Bs launching from Valley Forge, 1950
F4U-4B just before launch from USS Sicily in Korea, 1950
VMF-323 on Badoeng Strait in 1950
VF-671 F4U-4s from the USS Tarawa in 1951
VMF-212 on USS Rendova in 1951
VMF-323 F4U-4s at Seoul, 1951
Crash of a VF-791 F4U-4 in 1951
CVG-11 F4U-4s on USS Philippine Sea, 1951/52
VF-871 F4U-4 on the USS Essex, 1952
VMF-312 on Bataan in 1952
F4U-4 after hitting the barrier on Leyte, 1952
F4U-4B just before launch from USS Boxer, Korea, July 1951
F4U-4 crash on USS Oriskany, 1953
F4Us on the Coral Sea, 1953
VMA-332 F4U-4 on USS Point Cruz in 1953
VMA-332 F4U-4 on USS Point Cruz in 1953
Corsair F4U-4-Navy seen from the top, France, July 2005
Corsair F4U-4-Navy seen from the right with apparent landing gear, in France, July 2005
United States Navy and Marine Corps
The performance of the Corsair was impressive. The F4U-1 was considerably faster than the F6F Hellcat and only 13 mph (21 km/h) slower than the P-47 Thunderbolt, [ 27 ] [ 28 ] [ 29 ] all three were powered by the R-2800. But while the P-47 achieved its highest speed at 30,020 feet (9,150 m) with the help of an intercooled turbosupercharger, [ 30 ] the F4U-1 reached its maximum speed at 19,900 ft (6,100 m), [ 31 ] and used a mechanically supercharged engine. [ 32 ]
The US Navy received its first production F4U-1 on 31 July 1942, but getting it into service proved difficult. The framed "birdcage" style canopy provided inadequate visibility for deck taxiing. Even more seriously, the machine had a nasty tendency to "bounce" on touchdown, which could cause it to miss the arresting hook and slam into the crash barrier, or even go out of control. The long "hose nose" visibility problem and the enormous torque of the Double Wasp engine also created operational problems.
Carrier qualification trials on the escort carrier USS Sangamon, on 25 September 1942, caused the U.S. Navy to release the type to the United States Marine Corps. [ 33 ] Early Navy pilots spoke disparagingly of the F4U as the "hog", "hosenose" or "bent wing widow-maker". [ 34 ] After all, the U.S. Navy still had the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which did not have the performance of the F4U but was a far better deck landing aircraft. The Marines needed a better fighter than the F4F Wildcat. For them it was not as important that the F4U could be recovered aboard a carrier, as they usually flew from land bases. Growing pains aside, Marine Corps squadrons readily took to the radical new fighter, the Corsair would always be more of a USMC fighter than a USN fighter. The type was declared "ready for combat" at the end of 1942, though only qualified to operate from land bases until carrier qualification issues were worked out. [ 35 ]
Despite the decision to issue the F4U to Marine Corps units, two Navy units, VF-12 (October 1942) and later VF-17 (April 1943) were equipped with the F4U. By April 1943, VF-12 had successfully completed deck landing qualification. [ 36 ] However, VF-12 soon abandoned its aircraft to the Marines. VF-17 kept its Corsairs, but was removed from its carrier, USS Bunker Hill, due to perceived difficulties in supplying parts at sea. [ 37 ] In November 1943, while operating as a shore-based unit in the Solomon Islands, VF-17 reinstalled the tail hooks so its F4Us could land and refuel while providing top cover over the task force participating in the carrier raid on Rabaul. The squadron's pilots landed, refueled, and took off from their former home, Bunker Hill and the USS Essex on 11 November 1943. [ 38 ]
Twelve USMC F4U-1s arrived at Henderson Field (Guadalcanal) on 12 February 1943. The U.S. Navy did not get into combat with the type until September 1943 and the Royal Navy's FAA would qualify the type for carrier operations first. The U.S. Navy finally accepted the F4U for shipboard operations in April 1944, after the longer oleo strut was fitted, which finally eliminated the tendency to bounce. [ 39 ] The first Corsair unit to be based effectively on a carrier was the pioneer USMC squadron, VMF-124, which joined Essex. They were accompanied by VMF-213. The increasing need for fighter protection against kamikaze attacks resulted in more Corsair units being moved to carriers. [ 40 ]
From February 1943 onward, the F4U operated from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. A dozen USMC F4U-1s of VMF-124, commanded by Major William E. Gise, arrived at Henderson Field (code name "Cactus") on 12 February. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 under Major Gise assisted P-40s and P-38s in escorting a formation of Consolidated B-24 Liberators on a raid against a Japanese aerodrome at Kahili. Japanese fighters contested the raid and the Americans got the worst of it, with four P-38s, two P-40s, two Corsairs and two Liberators lost. No more than four Japanese Zeros were destroyed. A Corsair was responsible for one of the kills, although this was due to a midair collision. The fiasco was referred to as the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre". [ 41 ] [ 42 ] Although the Corsair's combat debut was not impressive, the Marines quickly learned how to make better use of the aircraft and started demonstrating its superiority over Japanese fighters. By May the Corsair units were getting the upper hand, and VMF-124 had produced the first Corsair ace, Second Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, who would rack up a total of 21 kills during the war. [ 43 ]
VMF-113 was activated on 1 January 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as part of Marine Base Defense Air Group 41. They were shortly given their full complement of 24 F4U Corsairs. On 26 March 1944, while escorting four B-25 bombers on a raid over Ponape, they recorded their first enemy kills when they downed eight Japanese aircraft. In April of that year, VMF-113 was tasked with providing air support for the landings at Ujelang. Since the assault was unopposed the squadron quickly returned to striking Japanese targets in the Marshall Islands for the remainder of 1944.
Corsairs were flown by the famous "Black Sheep" Squadron (VMF-214, led by Marine Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington) in an area of the Solomon Islands called "The Slot". Boyington was credited with 22 kills in F4Us (of 28 total, including six in an AVG P-40, although his score with the AVG has been disputed). [ 45 ] Other noted Corsair pilots of the period included VMF-124's Kenneth Walsh, James E. Swett, and Archie Donohue, VMF-215's Robert M. Hanson and Don Aldrich, and VF-17's Tommy Blackburn, Roger Hedrick, and Ira Kepford. Nightfighter versions equipped Navy and Marine units afloat and ashore.
At war's end, Corsairs were ashore on Okinawa, combating the kamikaze, and also were flying from fleet and escort carriers. VMF-312, VMF-323, VMF-224, and a handful of others met with success in the Battle of Okinawa. [ 46 ]
Corsairs also served well as fighter bombers in the Central Pacific and the Philippines. By spring 1944, Marine pilots were beginning to exploit the type's considerable capabilities in the close-support role during amphibious landings. Charles Lindbergh flew Corsairs with the Marines as a civilian technical advisor for United Aircraft Corporation in order to determine how best to increase the Corsair's payload and range in the attack role and to help evaluate future viability of single- versus twin-engine fighter design for Vought. [ 47 ] Lindbergh managed to get the F4U into the air with 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) of bombs, with a 2,000 pounds (910 kg) bomb on the centerline and a 1,000 pounds (450 kg) bomb under each wing. [ 48 ] In the course of such experiments, he performed strikes on Japanese positions during the battle for the Marshall Islands. [ 47 ]
By the beginning of 1945, the Corsair was a full-blown "mudfighter", performing strikes with high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks, and HVARs. She proved surprisingly versatile, able to operate everything from Bat glide bombs (without sacrificing a load of 2.75 in/70 mm rockets) to 11.75 in (300 mm) Tiny Tim rockets. [ 49 ] The aircraft was a prominent participant in the fighting for the Palaus, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Statistics compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U and FG flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict (44% of total fighter sorties), with only 9,581 sorties (15%) flown from carrier decks. [ 50 ] F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1. [ 51 ] The aircraft performed well against the best Japanese opponents with a 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M and 6:1 against the Nakajima Ki-84, Kawanishi N1K-J and Mitsubishi J2M combined during the last year of the war. [ 52 ] The Corsair bore the brunt of fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 tons (14,171 tonnes) of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by fighters during the war). [ 51 ]
Corsair losses in World War II were as follows:
- By combat: 189
- By enemy anti-aircraft artillery: 349
- Accidents during combat missions: 230
- Accidents during non-combat flights: 692
- Destroyed aboard ships or on the ground: 164 [ 51 ]
One particularly interesting kill was scored by a Marine Lieutenant R. R. Klingman of VMF-312 Checkerboards, over Okinawa. Klingman was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") twin engine fighter at extremely high altitude when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold. He simply flew up and chopped off the Ki-45's tail with the big propeller of the Corsair. Despite missing five inches (127 mm) off the end of his propeller blades, he managed to land safely after this ramming attack. He was awarded the Navy Cross. [ 53 ]
The Japanese Navy captured two Corsairs from an unknown Allied unit for evaluations fairly late in the war one of examples originally marked YoD-150 was remarked with Yokosuka Ku air testing signs ED-150, but they never flew them. [ citation needed ]
During the Korean War, the Corsair was used mostly in the close-support role. The AU-1 Corsair was a ground-attack version produced for the Korean War its Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, while supercharged, was not as highly boosted as on the F4U. As the Corsair moved from its air superiority role in World War II into the close air support role in the Korean War, the gull wing proved to be a useful feature. A straight, low-wing design would have blocked most of the visibility from the cockpit toward the ground while in level flight, but a Corsair pilot could look through a "notch" and get a better ground reference without having to bank one way or the other to move the wing out of the way. [ citation needed ]
The AU-1, F4U-4B, -4C, -4P and -5N logged combat in Korea between 1950 and 1953. [ 54 ] There were dogfights between F4Us and Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters early in the war, but when the enemy introduced the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, the Corsair was outmatched, though one Marine pilot did get lucky. On 10 September 1952, a MiG-15 made the mistake of getting into a turning contest with a Corsair piloted by Captain Jesse G. Folmar, with Folmar shooting the MiG down with his four 20 millimetre (0.79 in) cannons. [ 55 ] The MiG's wingmen quickly had their revenge, shooting down Folmar, though he bailed out and was swiftly rescued with little injury.
Corsair night fighters were used to an extent. The enemy adopted the tactic of using low-and-slow Polikarpov Po-2 intruders to perform night harassment strikes on American forces, and jet-powered night fighters found catching these "Bedcheck Charlies" troublesome. U.S. Navy F4U-5Ns were posted to shore bases to hunt them down, with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Guy Pierre Bordelon, Jr. becoming the Navy's only ace in the war, as well as the only ace to not score any victories in a jet aircraft. [ 56 ] "Lucky Pierre" was credited with five kills (two Yakovlev Yak-18 and three Po-2). [ 55 ] Navy and Marine Corsairs were credited with a total of 12 enemy aircraft. [ 55 ]
More generally, Corsairs performed attacks with cannons, napalm tanks, various iron bombs and unguided rockets. The old HVAR was a reliable standby however sturdy Soviet-built armor proved resistant to the HVAR's punch. This led to a new 6.5 in (16.5 cm) shaped charge antitank warhead being developed. The result was called the "Anti-Tank Aircraft Rocket (ATAR)." Tiny Tim was also used in combat, with two under the belly. [ 57 ] There is also a story of a Corsair pilot who used his arresting hook to snag enemy communications lines from telephone poles. [ 58 ]
Lieutenant Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., flying with naval squadron VF-32 off the USS Leyte, was awarded the Medal of Honor for crash landing his Corsair in an attempt to rescue his squadron mate, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, whose aircraft had been forced down by antiaircraft fire near Changjin. Brown, who did not survive the incident, was the U.S. Navy's first African American naval aviator. [ 59 ] [ 60 ]
In the early days of the war, Royal Navy fighter requirements had been based on cumbersome two-seat designs, such as the Blackburn Skua (and its turreted derivative the Blackburn Roc) as well as the Fairey Fulmar, on the assumption they would only be fighting long range bombers or flying boats. The Royal Navy hurriedly adopted higher performance aircraft such as the Hawker Sea-Hurricane and the less robust Supermarine Seafire but neither of these aircraft had sufficient range to operate at a distance from a carrier task force. The Corsair was welcomed as a much more robust and versatile alternative. [ 61 ]
In November 1943, the Royal Navy received the first batch of 95 Vought F4U-1s, which were given the designation of "Corsair I". The first squadrons were assembled and trained in the US East costa and then shipped across the Atlantic. The Royal Navy put the Corsair into carrier operations immediately, they found its landing characteristics dangerous, suffering a number of fatal crashes, but condidered it as the best option they had.
In Royal Navy service, because of the limited hangar deck height in several classes of British carrier, many Corsairs had their outer wings "clipped" by 8 in (200 mm) to clear the deckhead. [ 62 ] The change in span brought about the added benefit of improving the sink rate, reducing the F4U's propensity of "floating" in the final stages of landing. [ 62 ] Despite the clipped wings and the shorter decks of British carriers, Royal Navy aviators found landing accidents less of a problem than they had been to U.S. Navy aviators due to the curved approach used. British units solved the landing visibility problem by approaching the carrier in a medium left-hand turn, which allowed the pilot to keep the carrier's deck in view over the dip in the port wing, allowing safe carrier operations, and would later be adopted by US Navy and Marines fliers themselves as well for carrier use of the Corsair. [ 63 ]
The Royal Navy developed a number of modifications to the Corsair that made carrier landings more practical. Among these are the bulged Malcolm Hood, raising the pilot's seat 7 in (180 mm) [ 64 ] and wiring shut the cowl flaps across the top of the engine compartment, diverting the oil and hydraulic fluid around the sides of the fuselage". [ 18 ]
The Royal Navy received 95 Corsair Mk Is and 510 Mk IIs, these being equivalent to the F4U-1 and -1A. Brewster-built aircraft were known as Mk IIIs (equivalent to F3A-1D), and Goodyear-built aircraft were known as Mk IVs (equivalent to FG-1D). The Mk IIs and Mk IVs were the only versions to be used in combat. [ 65 ] The Royal Navy cleared the F4U for carrier operations well before the U.S. Navy and showed that the Corsair Mk II could be operated with reasonable success even from escort carriers. It was not without problems, one being excessive wear of the arrester wires due to the weight of the Corsair and the understandable tendency of the pilots to stay well above the stalling speed. A total of 2,012 Corsairs were supplied to the United Kingdom. [ 33 ]
Fleet Air Arm (FAA) units were created and equipped in the United States, at Quonset Point or Brunswick and then shipped to war theaters aboard escort carriers. The first FAA Corsair unit was No. 1830, created on the first of June 1943, and soon operating from HMS Illustrious. At the end of the war, 18 FAA squadrons were operating the Corsair. British Corsairs served both in Europe and in the Pacific. The first, and also most important, European operations were the series of attacks (Operation Tungsten) in April, July and August 1944 on the German battleship Tirpitz, for which Corsairs from HMS Victorious and HMS Formidable provided fighter cover. [ 66 ] It appears the Corsairs did not encounter aerial opposition on these raids.
From April 1944, Corsairs from the British Pacific Fleet took part in a several major air raids in South East Asia beginning with Operation Cockpit, an attack on Japanese targets at Sabang island, in the Dutch East Indies.
In July and August 1945, Corsair squadrons Nos. 1834, 1836, 1841 and 1842 took part in a series of strikes on the Japanese mainland, near Tokyo. These squadrons operated from Victorious and Formidable. [ 67 ] On 9 August 1945, days before the end of the war, Corsairs from Formidable attacked Shiogama harbor on the northeast coast of Japan. Royal Canadian Navy pilot, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, of 1841 Squadron was hit by flak but pressed home his attack on a Japanese destroyer, sinking it with a 1,000 pounds (450 kg) bomb but crashing into the sea. He was posthumously awarded Canada's last Victoria Cross, becoming the second fighter pilot of the war to earn a Victoria Cross as well as the final Canadian casualty of World War II. [ 68 ] [ N 4 ]
FAA Corsairs originally fought in a camouflage scheme with a Dark Slate Grey/Extra Dark Sea Grey disruptive pattern on top and Sky undersides, but were later painted overall dark blue. Those operating in the Pacific theater acquired a specialized British insignia — a modified blue-white roundel with white "bars" to make it look more like a U.S. than a Japanese Hinomaru insignia to prevent friendly fire incidents.
In all, out of 18 carrier-based squadrons, eight saw combat, flying intensive ground attack/interdiction operations and claiming 47.5 aircraft shot down. [ 69 ]
At the end of World War II, under the terms of the Lend-Lease agreement, the aircraft had either to be paid for or to be returned to the U.S. As the UK did not have the means to pay for them, the Royal Navy Corsairs were pushed overboard into the sea in Moreton Bay off Brisbane, Australia. [ 70 ]
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Equipped with obsolescent Curtiss P-40s, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) squadrons in the South Pacific performed impressively compared to the American units they operated alongside, in particular in the air-to-air role. The American government accordingly decided to give New Zealand early access to the Corsair, especially as it was not initially being used from carriers. Some 424 Corsairs equipped 13 RNZAF squadrons, including No. 14 Squadron RNZAF and No. 15 Squadron RNZAF, replacing SBD Dauntless as well as P-40s. [ 71 ] The F4Us were allocated NZ prefixed serial numbers: F4U-1s [ N 5 ] NZ5201 to NZ5299 NZ5300 to NZ5399 NZ5400 to NZ5487, all of which were assembled by Unit 60 NZ5500 to NZ5577 were assembled and flown at RNZAF Hobsonville. In total there were 237 F4U-1s and 127 F4U-1Ds used by the RNZAF during the Second World War. 60 FG-1Ds which arrived post war were given serial numbers prefixed NZ5600 to NZ5660. [ 72 ]
The first deliveries of lend-lease Corsairs began in March 1944 with the arrival of 30 F4U-1s at the RNZAF Base Depot Workshops (Unit 60) at Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. From April, these workshops became responsible for assembling all Corsairs for the RNZAF units operating the aircraft in the South West Pacific and a Test and Despatch flight was set up to test the aircraft after assembly. By June 1944, 100 Corsairs had been assembled and test flown. [ 71 ] The first squadrons to use the Corsair were 20 and 21 Squadrons on Espiritu Santo island, operational in May 1944. The organization of the RNZAF in the Pacific and New Zealand meant that only the pilots and a small staff belonged to the Squadron (the maximum strength on a squadron was 27 pilots): Squadrons were assigned to several Servicing Units (SUs five-six officers, 57 NCOs, 212 airmen) which carried out aircraft maintenance and operated from fixed locations: [ 73 ] hence F4U-1 NZ5313 was first used by 20 Squadron/1 SU on Guadalcanal in May 1944 20 Squadron was then relocated to 2 SU on Bougainville in November. [ 74 ] In all there were 10 front line SUs plus another three based in New Zealand. Because each of the SUs painted its aircraft with distinctive markings [ 75 ] and the aircraft themselves could be repainted in several different colour schemes the RNZAF Corsairs were far less uniform in appearance compared with their American and FAA contemporaries. [ 76 ] By late 1944, the F4U had equipped all 10 Pacific-based fighter squadrons of the RNZAF. [ 72 ]
By the time the Corsairs arrived, there were virtually no Japanese aircraft left in New Zealand's allocated sectors of the Southern Pacific, and despite the RNZAF Squadrons extending their operations to more northern islands, they were primarily used for close support of American, Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting the Japanese. New Zealand pilots were aware of the Corsair's poor forward view and tendency to ground loop, but found these drawbacks could be solved by pilot training in curved approaches before use from rough forward airbases. [ citation needed ] At the end of 1945, all Corsair squadrons but one (No. 14) were disbanded. That last squadron was based in Japan, until the Corsair was retired from service in 1947. [ 77 ]
No. 14 Squadron was given new FG-1Ds and, in March 1946 transferred to Iwakuni, Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Only one airworthy example of the 424 aircraft procured survives: NZ5648/ZK-COR, owned by the Old Stick and Rudder Company at Masterton, NZ. One other mostly complete aircraft and the remains of two others were known to be held by a private collector at Ardmore, NZ, in 1996. Their current whereabouts are unknown. [ 78 ] [ 79 ]
After the war, the French Navy had an urgent requirement for a powerful carrier-born close-air support aircraft to operate from the French Navy’s four aircraft carriers that it acquired in the late 1940s ( Two former US Navy and two Royal Navy carriers were transferred). Ex-USN Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers of Flotille 3F and 4F were used to attack enemy targets and support ground forces in the north of Indo-China. Ex-USN Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats and Curtiss SB2C Helldivers replaced the Dauntless in attacking roads, bridges and providing close air support. A new and more capable aircraft was needed. [ citation needed ]
First Indochina War
The last production Corsair was the "F4U-7", which was built specifically for the French naval air arm, the Aeronavale. The XF4U-7 prototype did its test flight on 2 July 1952 with a total of 94 F4U-7s built for the French Navy's Aéronavale (79 in 1952, 15 in 1953), with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out on 31 January 1953. [ 80 ] The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the U.S. Navy and passed on to the Aéronavale through the U.S. Military Assistance Program (MAP). The French Navy used its F4U-7s during the second half of the First Indochina War in the 1950s (12.F, 14.F, 15.F Flotillas), [ 80 ] where they were supplemented by at least 25 ex-USMC AU-1s passed on to the French in 1954, after the end of the Korean War. [ 81 ]
On 15 January 1953, Flotille 14F, based at Karouba Air Base near Bizerte in Tunisia, became the first Aéronavale unit to receive the F4U-7 Corsair. Flotille 14F pilots arrived at Da Nang on 17 April 1954, but without their aircraft. The next day, the carrier USS Saipan delivered 25 war-weary ground attack Ex-USMC AU-1 Corsairs (flown by VMA-212 at the end of the Korean War). During two months operating over Dien Bien Phu the Corsairs flew 959 combat sorties totaling 1,335 flight hours. They dropped some 700 tons of bombs and fired more than 300 rockets and 70.000 20mm rounds. Six aircraft were damaged and two shot down by Viet Minh. [ citation needed ]
In September 1954, F4U-7 Corsairs were loaded aboard the Dixmude and brought back to France in November. The surviving Ex-USMC AU-1s were taken to the Philippines and returned to the US Navy. In 1956, Flotille 15F returned to South Vietnam, equipped with F4U-7 Corsairs. [ citation needed ]
The 14.F and 15.F Flotillas also took part in the Anglo-French-Israeli seizure of the Suez Canal in October 1956, codenamed Operation Musketeer. The Corsairs were painted with yellow and black recognition stripes for this operation. They were tasked with destroying Egyptian Navy ships at Alexandria but the presence of US Navy ships prevented the successful completion of the mission. On 3 November, 16 F4U-7s attacked airfields in the Delta, with one corsair shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Two more Corsairs were damaged when landing back on the carriers. The Corsairs engaged in Operation Musketeer dropped a total of 25 tons of bombs, fired more than 500 rockets and 16.000 20mm rounds. [ citation needed ]
As soon as they disembarked from the carriers that took part in Operation Musketeer, at the end of 1956, all three Corsair Flotillas, moved to Telergma and Oran airfields in Algeria from where they provided CAS and helicopter escort. They were joined by the new Flotille 17F, established at Hyères in April 1958. [ citation needed ]
French F4U-7 Corsairs (with some loaned AU-1s) of the 12F, 14F, 15F and 17F Flotillas conducted missions during the Algerian War between 1955 and 1961. Between February and March 1958, several strikes and CAS missions were launched from the Bois-Belleau, the only carrier involved in the Algeria War. [ 80 ]
France recognized Tunisian independence and sovereignty in 1956 but continued to station military forces at Bizerte and planned to extend the airbase. In 1961, Tunisia asked France to evacuate the base. Tunisia imposed a blockade on the base on 17 July, hoping to force its evacuation. This resulted in a battle between militiamen and the French military which lasted three days. French paratroopers, escorted by Corsairs of the 12F and 17F Flotillas, were dropped to reinforce the base and the Aéronavale launched air strikes on Tunisian troops and vehicles between 19–21 July, carrying out more than 150 sorties. Three Corsairs were damaged by ground fire. [ citation needed ]
In early 1959, the Aéronavale experimented with the Vietnam War-era SS.11 wire-guided anti-tank missile on F4U-7 Corsairs. [ 82 ] [ 83 ] The 12.F pilots trained for this experimental program were required to "fly" the missile at approximatively two kilometers from the target on low attitude with a joystick using the right hand while keeping track of a flare on its tail, and piloting the aircraft using the left hand [ 82 ] an exercise that could be very tricky in a single-seat aircraft under combat conditions. Despite reportedly effective results during the tests, this armament was not used with Corsairs during the ongoing Algerian War. [ 82 ]
The Aéronavale used 163 Corsairs (94 F4U-7s and 69 AU-1s), the last of them used by the Cuers-based 14.F Flotilla were out of service by September 1964, [ 80 ] with some surviving for museum display or as civilian warbirds. By the early 1960s, two new modern aircraft carriers, the Clemenceau and the Foch, had entered service with the French Navy and with them a new generation of jet-powered combat aircraft. [ 78 ]
Corsairs flew their final combat missions during the 1969 "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador, in service with both air forces. The conflict was famously triggered, though not really caused, by a disagreement over a football (soccer) match. Cap. Fernando Soto shot down three aircraft on 17 July 1969. In the morning he shot down a Cavalier Mustang killing the pilot. In the afternoon, he shot down two FG-1s, the pilot of the second aircraft may have bailed out, but the third exploded in the air killing the pilot. These combats were the last ones among driven-propeller aircraft in the world and also making Cap. Soto the only one credited with three kills in an American continental war. El Salvador did not shoot down any Honduran aircraft. [ 84 ] At the outset of the Football War, El Salvador enlisted the assistance of several American pilots with P-51 and F4U experience. Bob Love, a Korean war ace, Chuck Lyford, Ben Hall and Lynn Garrison are believed to have flown combat missions but it has never been confirmed. Lynn Garrison had purchased F4U-7 133693 from the French MAAG office when retired from French naval service in 1964. It was registered N693M and was later destroyed in a 1987 crash in San Diego, California. [ 85 ]
Luftwaffe and Japanese Corsairs
On 18 July 1944, a British Corsair F4U-1A, JT404 of FAA No. 1841 squadron, was involved in anti-submarine patrol from HMS Formidable enroute to Scapa after Operation Mascot (attack on German Battleship Tirpitz). It flew in company with a Fairey Barracuda flown by with Wing Leader Lieutenant Commander RS Baker-Falkner. Due to technical problems the Corsair made an emergency landing in a field near Bodø, Norway. The pilot, Lt Mattholie was taken prisoner and the aircraft captured with no damage. Luftwaffe interrogators failed into getting the pilot to explain how to fold the wings so as to transport the aircraft to Narvik. The Corsair was ferried by boat for further investigation. Later the Corsair was taken to Germany, it was listed at Rechlin for 1944 under repair. This was probably the only Corsair captured by the Germans. [ 86 ]
In 1945 a F4U Corsair was captured near the Kasumigaura flight school by US forces. The Japanese had repaired it, covering damaged parts on the wing with fabric and using spare parts from crashed F4Us. It seems Japan captured two force landed Corsairs fairly late in the war and may even had tested one in flight.
The Corsair entered service in 1942. Although designed as a carrier fighter, initial operation from carrier decks proved to be troublesome. Its low-speed handling was tricky due to the port wing stalling before the starboard wing. This factor, together with poor visibility over the long nose (leading to one of its nicknames, "The Hose Nose"), made landing a Corsair on a carrier a difficult task. For these reasons, most Corsairs initially went to Marine Corps squadrons who operated off land-based runways, with some early Goodyear built examples (designated FG-1A) being built with fixed, non-folding wings. [ 33 ] The USMC aviators welcomed the Corsair with open arms as its performance was far superior to the contemporary Brewster Buffalo and Grumman F4F-3 and -4 Wildcat.
Moreover, the Corsair was able to outperform the primary Japanese fighter, the A6M Zero. While the Zero could out-turn the F4U at low speed, the Corsair was faster and could out-climb and out-dive the A6M. [ 87 ] Tactics developed early in the war, such as the Thach Weave, took advantage of the Corsair's strengths.
This performance advantage, combined with the ability to take severe punishment, meant a pilot could place an enemy aircraft in the killing zone of the F4U's six .50 (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and keep him there long enough to inflict major damage. The 2,300 rounds carried by the Corsair gave just under 30 seconds of fire from each gun, which, fired in three to six-second bursts, made the F4U a devastating weapon against aircraft, ground targets, and even ships.
Beginning in 1943, the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) also received Corsairs and flew them successfully from Royal Navy carriers in combat with the British Pacific Fleet and in Norway. [ 88 ] These were clipped-wing Corsairs, the wingtips shortened 8 in (20 cm) to clear the lower overhead height of RN carriers. FAA also developed a curving landing approach to overcome the F4U's deficiencies. [ 89 ]
Infantrymen nicknamed the Corsair "The Sweetheart of the Marianas" and "The Angel of Okinawa" for its roles in these campaigns. Among Navy and Marine aviators, however, the aircraft was nicknamed "Ensign Eliminator" and "Bent-Wing Eliminator" because it required many more hours of flight training to master than other Navy carrier-borne aircraft. It was also called simply "U-bird" or "Bent Wing Bird". [ 1 ] The Japanese allegedly nicknamed it "Whistling Death", for the noise made by airflow through the wing root-mounted oil cooler air intakes. [ 4 ] [ 18 ]
The Corsair has been named the official aircraft of Connecticut, [ 90 ] due to its connection with Sikorsky Aircraft, in legislation sponsored by state senator George "Doc" Gunther Gunther had also organized a Corsair Celebration and Symposium at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Connecticut, on Memorial Day, 29 May 2006. [ 91 ]
During World War II, Corsair production expanded beyond Vought to include Brewster and Goodyear models. Allied forces flying the aircraft in World War II included FAA and RNZAF. Eventually, more than 12,500 F4Us would be built, comprising 16 separate variants. [ 6 ]
F4U-1 (Corsair Mk I Fleet Air Arm): The first production version of the Corsair with the original cockpit seat height and "bird cage" canopy. [ 91 ] The differences over the XF4U-1 were as follows:
- Six .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning AN/M2 machine guns were fitted in the outer wing panels, displacing fuel tanks.
- An enlarged 237 gal (897 l) fuel tank was fitted ahead of the cockpit, in place of the fuselage armament. The cockpit was moved back by 32 in (810 mm).
- The fuselage was lengthened from 31 feet 11 inches (9.7 m) to 33 feet 4 inches (10.2 m).
- The more powerful R-2800-8 Double Wasp was fitted.
- 150 pounds (68 kg) of armor plate was fitted to the cockpit and a 1.5 in (38 mm) bullet-resistant glass screen was fitted behind the curved windscreen.
- IFF transponder equipment was fitted.
- Curved transparent panels were incorporated into the fuselage behind the pilot's headrest.
- The flaps were changed from deflector type to NACA slotted.
- The span of the ailerons was increased while that of the flaps was decreased.
- One 62 gal(234 l) non-self-sealing auxiliary fuel cell was installed in each wing leading edge, just outboard of the guns.
A land-based version for the USMC, without the folding wing capability, was built by Goodyear under the designation FG-1. In Fleet Air Arm service the F4U-1 was given the name Corsair Mk I. [ 92 ] Vought also built a single F4U-1 two-seat trainer the Navy showed no interest. [ 93 ]
F4U-1A (Corsair Mk II): The designation F4U-1A does not appear in lists of Corsair Bureau Numbers and was not in official use, being applied post-war to differentiate mid to late production F4U-1s from the early production variant. [ 26 ] [ 94 ] Mid to late production Corsairs incorporated a new, taller and wider clear-view canopy with only two frames, along with a simplified clear view windscreen. The cockpit seat was raised 7 in (178 mm) which, with the wider canopy top section, allowed the pilot better visibility over the long nose. The Plexiglas rear-view windows as well as the one under the cockpit were omitted. The tailwheel strut was lengthened, which also aided the pilot's forward view. These Corsairs were the first "carrier capable" variant and introduced a 6 in (152 mm)-long stall strip just outboard of the gun ports on the starboard wing leading edge and improved undercarriage oleo struts which eliminated bouncing on landing. F4U-1s supplied to the USMC lacked arrester hooks and the tail wheels were changed to a smaller diameter solid rubber type. [ 95 ] Additionally, an experimental R-2800-8W engine with water injection was fitted on one of the late F4U-1As. After satisfactory results, many F4U-1As were fitted with the new powerplant. The aircraft carried 237 gal (897 l) in the main fuel tank, located in front of the cockpit, as well as an unarmored, non-self-sealing 62 gal (235 l) fuel tank in each wing. This version of the Corsair was the first to be able to carry a drop tank under the center-section. With drop tanks fitted, the fighter had a maximum ferry range of just over 1,500 mi (2,400 km).
A land-based version, without the folding wing capability, was built by Goodyear as the FG-1A. In British service, the aircraft type was modified with "clipped" wings (8 inches (200 mm) was cut off each wingtip) for use on British aircraft carriers, [ 92 ] under the designation Corsair Mk II.
F3A-1 (Corsair Mk. III):This was the designation for the Brewster built F4U-1. Just over 700 were built before Brewster was forced out of business. Poor production techniques and shabby quality control meant that these aircraft were red-lined for speed and prohibited from aerobatics after several lost their wings. This was later traced to poor quality wing fittings. None of the Brewster built Corsairs reached front-line units. [ 96 ]
F4U-1B: This was an unofficial post-war designation used to identify F4U-1s modified for FAA use. [ 26 ]
F4U-1C:The prototype F4U-1C, BuNo50277, appeared in August 1943 and was based on an F4U-1. 200 of this variant were built from July through to November 1944: all were based on the F4U-1D and were built in parallel with that variant. [ 72 ] Intended for ground-attack as well as fighter missions, the F4U-1C was similar to the F4U-1D but its armament was replaced by four 20 millimetres (0.79 in) AN/M2 cannons with 231 rpg [ 97 ] of ammunition. The F4U-1C was introduced to combat during 1945, most notably in the Okinawa campaign. Aviators preferred the standard armament of six .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns since they were already more than powerful enough to destroy most Japanese aircraft, and had more ammunition and a higher rate of fire. [ 98 ] The weight of the Hispano cannons and their ammunition affected the flight performance, especially its agility, but the aircraft was found to be especially potent in the ground attack role.
F4U-1D (Corsair Mk IV): Built in parallel with the F4U-1C, but was introduced in April 1944. It had the new -8W water-injection engine. This change gave the aircraft up to 250 hp (187 kW) more power, which, in turn, increased performance. Speed, for example, was boosted from 417 miles per hour (671 km/h) to 425 miles per hour (684 km/h). Because of the U.S. Navy's need for fighter-bombers, it had a payload of rockets double the -1A's, as well as twin-rack plumbing for an additional belly drop tank. Such modifications necessitated the need for rocket tabs (attached to fully metal-plated underwing surfaces) and bomb pylons to be bolted on the fighter, however, causing extra drag. Additionally, the new job of fighter-bombing was a new task for the Corsair and the wing fuel cells proved too vulnerable and were removed.  The extra fuel carried by the two drop tanks would still allow the aircraft to fly relatively long missions despite the heavy, un-aerodynamic load. The regular armament of six machine guns were implemented as well. The canopies of most -1Ds had their struts removed along with their metal caps, which were used — at one point — as a measure to prevent the canopies' glass from cracking as they moved along the fuselage spines of the fighters.  Also, the clear-view style "Malcolm Hood" canopy used initially on Supermarine Spitfire and P-51C Mustang aircraft was adopted as standard equipment for the -1D model, and all later F4U production aircraft. Additional production was carried out by Goodyear (FG-1D) and Brewster (F3A-1D). In Fleet Air Arm service, the latter was known as the Corsair III, and both had their wingtips clipped by 8" per wing to allow storage in the lower hangars of British carriers. [ 92 ]
F4U-1P: A rare photo reconnaissance variant. [ 99 ]
XF4U-2: Special night fighter variant, equipped with two auxiliary fuel tanks. [ 100 ]
F4U-2: Experimental conversion of the F4U-1 Corsair into a carrier-borne night fighter, armed with five .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (the outboard, starboard gun was deleted), and fitted with airborne Intercept (AI) radar set in a radome placed outboard on the starboard wing. Since Vought was preoccupied with more important projects, only 32 were converted from existing F4U-1s by the Naval Aircraft Factory and another two by front line units. [ 101 ] [ 102 ]
The type saw combat with VF(N)-101 aboard USS Enterprise and USS Intrepid in early 1944, VF(N)-75 in the Solomons and VMF(N)-532 on Tarawa.
XF4U-3: Experimental aircraft built to hold different engines in order to test the Corsair's performance with a variety of power plants. This variant never entered service. Goodyear also contributed a number of airframes, designated FG-3, to the project. A single sub-variant XF4U-3B with minor modifications was also produced. [ 103 ] XF4U-3B, planned procurement for the FAA. [ 100 ]
XF4U-4: New engine and cowling. [ 100 ]
F4U-4: The last variant to be produced during World War II, the F4U-4 began entering service near the end of 1944. It fully equipped naval squadrons four months before the end of hostilities. It had the 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) dual-stage-supercharged -18W engine. When the cylinders were injected with the water/alcohol mixture, power was boosted to 2,450 hp (1,827 kW). The aircraft required an air scoop under the nose and the unarmored wing fuel tanks of 62 gal (234 l) capacities were removed for better maneuverability at the expense of maximum range. The propeller had one additional blade, bringing the total to four. Maximum speed was increased to 448 miles per hour (721 km/h) and climb rate to over 3,800 ft/min (1,180 m/min) as opposed to the 2,900 ft/min (884 m/min) of the F4U-1A. The service ceiling also increased significantly from 37,000 feet (11,000 m) to 41,000 feet (12,000 m).  The "4-Hog" retained the original armament and had all the external loads (i.e., drop tanks, bombs) capabilities of the F4U-1D. The windscreen was now flat bullet-resistant glass to avoid optical warping, a change from the curved Plexiglas windscreens with the internal plate glass of the earlier Corsairs.  Vought also tested the two F4U-4Xs (BuNos 49763 and 50301, prototypes for the new R2800) with fixed tiptanks (the Navy showed no interest) and an Aeroproducts six-blade contraprop (not accepted for production). [ 104 ]
F4U-4B: Designation for F4U-4s to be delivered to the British Fleet Air Arm, but were retained by the U.S. for its own use. The Fleet Air Arm received no F4U-4s. [ 105 ]
F4U-4C: 300 F4U-4s ordered with alternate gun armament of four 20 millimetres (0.79 in) AN/M2 cannons. [ 105 ]
F4U-4E and F4U-4N: Developed late in the conflict, these night fighters featured radar radomes projecting from the starboard wingtip. The -4E was fitted with the APS-4 search radar, while the -4N was fitted with the APS-6 type. In addition, these aircraft were often refitted with four 20mm M2 cannons similar to the F4U-1C. The night fighter variants would see greater use during the Korean conflict. [ 106 ]
F4U-4K: Experimental drone. [ 100 ]
F4U-4P: As with the -1P, a rare photo reconnaissance variant. [ 99 ]
XF4U-5: New engine cowling, other extensive changes. [ 100 ]
F4U-5: A 1945 design modification of the F4U-4, first flown on December 21st of that year, was intended to increase the F4U-4 Corsair's overall performance and incorporate many Corsair pilots' suggestions. It featured a more powerful Pratt and Whitney R-2800-32(E) engine with a two stage supercharger, [ 107 ] rated at a maximum of 2,450 hp (1,830 kW). Other improvements included automatic blower controls, cowl flaps, intercooler doors and oil cooler for the engine, spring tabs for the elevators and rudder, a completely modernized cockpit, a completely retractable tail wheel, and heated cannon bays and pitot head. The cowling was lowered two degrees to help with forward visibility, but perhaps most striking as the first variant to feature all-metal wings (223 units produced). [ 108 ]
F4U-5N: Radar equipped version (214 units produced)
F4U-5NL: Winterized version (72 units produced, [ 109 ] 29 modified from F4U-5Ns (101 total). Fitted with rubber de-icing boots on the leading edge of the wings and tail. [ 110 ]
F4U-5P: Long-range photo-reconnaissance version (30 units produced)
F4U-6: Redesignated AU-1, this was a ground-attack version produced for the U.S. Marine Corps.
F4U-7 : AU-1 developed for the French Navy.
FG-1E: Goodyear FG-1 with radar equipment. [ 100 ]
FG-1K: Goodyear FG-1 as drone. [ 100 ]
FG-3: Turbosupercharger version converted from FG-1D.
FG-4:Goodyear F4U-4, never delivered. [ 100 ]
 Super Corsair variants
The F2G-1 and F2G-2 were significantly different aircraft, fitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major 4-row 28-cylinder "corncob" radial engine and teardrop (bubble) canopy, as a specialized interceptor against kamikaze attacks. The difference between the -1 and -2 variants was that the -1 featured a manual folding wing and 14 ft (4.3 m) Propellers, while the F2G-2 aircraft had hydraulic operated folding wings, 13 ft (4.0 m) propellers and carrier arresting hooks for carrier use. [ 111 ] As World War II was drawing to a close, development problems emerged that led to the abandonment of further work on the F2G series. [ 112 ] While only 10 were built, several F2Gs went on to racing success after the war, winning the Thompson trophy races in 1947 and 1949.
Chance Vought Corsair F4U-5NL HistoryChance Vought F4U 5N Corsair side view
Chance Vought F4U 5N structure complete
Corsair wing folding mechanism
Chance Vought F4U 5N Corsair under rebuild
The Corsair was delivered to U.S. Navy 1947 as Bu No 124493 Struck off active service with the United States Navy 1956 and then delivered to the Honduras Air Force (FAH) as FAH603 in March 1956. The aircraft served in Honduras for a number of years although its service there is not fully documented. It is believed the aircraft suffered a forced-landing accident at Toncontin Air Base in 1967 and was relegated to a scrapyard. FAH603 was recovered from Honduras in 1978 and then moved to George Heaven & Jim Nettle of Hollywood Wings, Long Beach, CA, 1978-1979 and stored and dismantled. She was then acquired by Peter W. Thelen, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 1987 and then to Walt Disney Studios, 1987 as a composite restoration project. In 1987, the aircraft was donated to the RNZAF Museum in return for allowing RNZAF A4 Skyhawks to participate in a Walt Disney Film. RNZAF Museum, Wigram AB, Christchurch, NZ 1987 to 1996. Apparently the plan was for the Museum to rebuild the aircraft as a F4U-1 as used by the RNZAF, however before this was attempted, in 1996 the aircraft was exchanged for a P40-F (Now restored as an RNZAF P40E at Wigram NZ) with Graham Hoskins of Tyabb, Victoria, Australia.
The Corsair has undergone a full restoration to airworthiness in Darwin, Northern Territory (NT) which was carried out by Nobby Bartsch and his crew. The restoration was meticulous, down to the last nut and bolt.
Great Planes: The Vought F4U Corsair
In the late 1930s Pratt & Whitney had been working on an 18 cylinder air-cooled engine of 28,000 cubic inches, which it called the Double Wasp. The new engine
had been putting out nearly 2,000 horse power in tests and Vought, which was working on a new fighter design for the U.S. Navy wanted to build their new plane around this powerful machine. Incorporating the Double Wasp, however, created a design problem for the Vought engineers in order to absorb the tremendous power output required the mounting of a huge propeller to the engine shaft. Even with
three blades, the diameter of the required propeller was 13 feet 4
inches using conventional methods, this could require a landing gear
strut some 6 feet
To solve the problem, Vought came up with a design that gave the new aircraft its distinctive appearance by canting the wing center section
downward, creating an
inverted-gull configuration, shorter gear struts were allowed for and, as an added benefit, the
tilted center section met the fuselage at just the right angle to create a
minimum of drag.
When the XF4U-1 prototype flew on May 29, 1940, it became the first American fighter to exceed 400 miles per hour. The U.S. Navy was impressed enough to be patient as the new fighter experienced teething problems, and the "bent-winged bird" would go on to destroy 2,140 enemy planes at a cost of just
540 combat losses during the Second World War. Five years after the end of that war, the Corsair was still in service as another war began on the Korean peninsula.
Aug 22, 2014 #2 2014-08-22T01:58
The Vought F4U Corsair
* Early in the Pacific War, US Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots found themselves outclassed by the agile and well-armed Japanese A6M Zero, but even then work was underway to provide them with better aircraft. One of those better aircraft was the Vought "F4U Corsair", a rugged, powerful, and somewhat unforgiving aircraft that featured a distinctive inverted gull wing. The Corsair proved more than a match for the Zero, and it would also prove to be an excellent fighter-bomber, serving in this role in the Korean War and in the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria. This document provides a history and description of the Corsair.
* On 1 February 1938, the US Navy issued a request for proposals for a new high-performance single-seat carrier-based fighter that would use the most powerful engine available at the time. At the Vought-Sikorsky (later Chance Vought) Division of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) group in Connecticut, a design team under Rex B. Beisel decided to build the aircraft around the new XR2800 Double Wasp 18-cylinder two-row air-cooled radial engine, with 1,500 kW (2,000 HP), built by Pratt & Whitney (P&W), another UAC division.
Such a large engine needed a big propeller to soak up the power, and so the design featured a 4.06 meter (13 foot 4 inch) three-blade variable-pitch constant-speed propeller designed by Hamilton Standard, yet another UAC division. The big propeller posed a problem for the design team. It dictated long landing gear so that it would clear the ground on takeoffs and landings, but long landing gear tended to be too weak to tolerate hard carrier landings. The designers came up with the notion of a low-mounted "inverted gull wing" or "cranked wing", in which the the wings bent down from the root and then back up to the tip, with the main landing gear at the lowest point of the wing. The wing arrangement also improved the pilot's field of view, and the right-angle connection between the wing and the fuselage improved aerodynamics.
The US Navy ordered a prototype of the Vought design as the "XF4U-1" in June 1938. Armament was planned as two 7.62 millimeter (0.30 caliber) Browning machine guns in the top of the nose, and a single 12.7 millimeter (0.50 caliber) Browning machine gun in each wing, for a total of four guns. The prototype also had little bombbays in the outer wings for fragmentation bombs that would be dumped on enemy bomber formations, with a window in the cockpit floor for sighting. The bombbays were a screwball idea that would be quickly abandoned.
Vought engineers completed a full-scale mockup of the XF4U-1 in early 1939 for wind tunnel tests and Navy inspection. The initial flight of the prototype XF4U-1 was on 29 May 1940, with Vought chief test pilot Lyman A. Bullard JR at the controls. The flight suffered from excessive vibration and Bullard was not happy when he got back to the ground. The prototype was badly damaged in July, when storms prevented test pilot Boone T. Guyton from reaching the Vought airfield at Stratford, Connecticut. He was running low on fuel and couldn't raise any other airfield on his radio, so he tried to put the machine down on a golf course at Norwich, Connecticut. He touched down properly, but the grass was slick with rain and he plowed into trees, flipping the aircraft over and around. One wing was torn off, the fuselage was bashed up, but Guyton was little more than shaken and bruised, thanks to the toughness of the design.
The prototype was rebuilt in a few months, and demonstrated the design's performance on 1 October 1940, clocking 650 KPH (404 MPH) and becoming the first operational-type American warplane to exceed 400 MPH. However, the promise of the type was balanced by continuing difficulties, including some clear handling problems, and the nasty tendency of the Double Wasp engine to catch on fire.
The problems clearly meant delays in getting the type into production. To compound the delays, reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two 7.62 millimeter and two 12.7 millimeter machine guns was too light, and so when the US Navy asked for production proposals in November 1940 heavier armament was specified. The twin 7.62 millimeter Brownings in the nose were eliminated and two 12.7 millimeter Brownings were fitted in each wing. The wing guns were staggered to avoid interference in their ammunition feed. The armament change required considerable design adjustments that piled up more delays.
There was another troublesome consequence: putting all the guns in the wings meant eliminating wing fuel tankage, and so the forward fuselage was stretched by 45 centimeters (18 inches) to include a new self-sealing tank in the center of the fuselage. The fuel tank also meant moving the cockpit back by about 91 centimeters (3 feet), which made it hard for a pilot to see over the nose when taxiing, taking off, or landing. There would never be any way around the long nose, one pilot later recollecting that he used to tell himself after he lined up for the approach: "God, I hope there's nobody on that runway!"
* Formal naval acceptance trials for the XF4U-1 began in February 1941, and the initial Navy production order for 584 "F4U-1s" was placed on 30 June 1941. The type was given the name "Corsair", which had been the name of several prewar Vought aircraft. The first production F4U-1 performed its initial flight on 24 June 1942, with Boone Guyton at the controls.
The type quickly underwent a few more improvements, with the number of 12.7 millimeter Brownings in each wing increased to three, for a total of six the addition of 70 kilograms (155 pounds) of armor around the cockpit and the oil tank, plus an armor glass windscreen and self-sealing fuel tanks fit of shorter flaps and wider ailerons and installation of an uprated R-2800-8 Double Wasp engine with a two-stage supercharger and 1,492 kW (2,000 HP) takeoff power to handle the aircraft's increased weight.
The US Navy received its first production F4U-1 on 31 July 1942, with carrier trials beginning on the USS SANGAMON on 25 September 1942. Getting the machine into service proved difficult. The framed "birdcage" style canopy provided inadequate visibility for deck handling, a serious concern given the kind of damage the oversize prop could do to anybody or anything that got in its way. Even more seriously, the machine had a nasty tendency to "bounce" on touchdown, which could cause it to miss the arresting hook and slam into the crash barrier, or even go out of control. The long "hose nose" visibility problem has already been mentioned, and there was the inevitable issue of the enormous torque of the Double Wasp. If a pilot was waved off a carrier landing, he would throttle up and bank off to the left for another pass, and the Corsair had a nasty tendency to flip over on its back if revved up incautiously. Yet another peculiarity was that, due to propwash effects, the left wing would stall before the right on the landing approach, which tended to make the aircraft roll to the left as well.
Production was going ahead anyway, with Vought building 178 Corsairs by the end of 1942. The company was working with the Marine Corps, which saw the potential of the type and characteristically was less intimidated than the Navy by its unpleasant features, to work out the bugs in parallel with production. Although the Navy would come to accept the F4U, the Corsair would always be more of a Marine than a Navy fighter. The type was declared "ready for combat" at the end of 1942, though it was originally only qualified to operate from land bases until carrier qualification issues were worked out.
A dozen F4U-1s arrived at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on 12 February 1943. The US Navy didn't get into combat with the type until September 1943, and in fact the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) would qualify the type for carrier operations first.
* It was an indication of the haste in which the US was putting new combat aircraft into production at the time that well before Vought began production of the F4U, other manufacturers were being enlisted to build the Corsair, with Goodyear signed up in November 1941 and Brewster following in December 1941. The Goodyear variant of the F4U-1 was designated the "FG-1" and featured fixed rather than folding wings it was intended to fly off land bases, not carriers. Initial flight of the first Goodyear FG-1 was on 25 February 1943, with deliveries beginning in April. The Brewster version was the "F3A-1", and was essentially identical to the F4U-1. Initial flight of the first Brewster F3A-1 was on 26 April 1943, with deliveries beginning in July.
* The F4U-1, as it emerged, was an aircraft that would be difficult to confuse with any other in widespread service at the time, or for that matter later. It was easily recognized by its gull wing and the big three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller, powered by a production-standard R-2800-8 engine. It was also a big machine by the standards of the time, and a set of handholds / footsteps were embedded in the right side of the fuselage beneath the cockpit to allow the pilot to get in and out without a ladder.
The F4U-1 was of basically conventional monocoque construction, made mostly of metal. The ailerons had wood frames and plywood skinning, while the rudder, elevators, and outer wings had metal frames and fabric skinning. The flaps were all metal. The tailfin was slightly offset from the centerline to help compensate for engine torque. There were trim tabs on the ailerons and the rudder.
The Corsair was exceptionally strong and carried respectable armor protection. The main landing gear was fitted into the inner wing section, just inside the "bend" where the wing fold was, and rotated 90 degrees to lie flat inside the wing. The tailwheel was semi-retractable. There was a stinger-type arresting hook just behind the tailwheel.
There were inlets in the leading edge of the wings near the wingroot for the supercharger and oil cooler system. Although the original internal wing tanks had been removed, the design team figured out how cram a small tank back into each outer wing. The wings hydraulically folded straight up toward the aircraft centerline. The three Browning machine guns in each wing were just outboard of the wing fold. The two inner guns had 400 rounds per gun each, while the outer gun had 375 rounds per gun, with the pilot using a reflector-type gunsight. The F4U-1 could carry a centerline external fuel tank with a capacity of 662 liters (175 US gallons).
The F4U-1, as mentioned, originally had a framed, backwards sliding canopy, with "cutouts" behind it like those used on the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, to improve rearward visibility. There was no cockpit flooring. Electronics included a multichannel radio and the new "identification friend or foe (IFF)" set, developed by the British. The cockpit was roomy by the standards of the time. A typical early color scheme was two-tone light and medium blue on top and light gray on the bottom.
Some F4U-1s were modified in the field for the photo-reconnaissance role and designated "F4U-1P". They were fitted with a vertically mounted K-21 camera in the belly, between the trailing edge of the wing and the tailwheel. The number of conversions is unclear.
* As mentioned, the Corsair's initial deficiencies were being worked out on a concurrent basis. The tendency to "bounce" on landings, which was due to the excessive stiffness of the shock absorber elements in the main landing gear struts, was greatly reduced after Vought engineers spent a lot of time tweaking with the stiffness to get the right value. The 689th production F4U-1 featured a number of significant changes. The most noticeable was that the cockpit was raised 18 centimeters (7 inches) to improve the pilot's forward view, and a bulged canopy, along the lines of the "Malcolm Hood" used on later model Spitfires, replaced the original "birdcage" framed canopy to provide better all-round field of view.
Other changes included a raised tailwheel leg, with a pneumatic instead of solid tire, to improve the pilot's forward view on the ground and an almost unnoticeable 15 centimeter (6 inch) fixed "stall strip" that was fitted to the leading edge of the right wing outboard of the guns to ensure that both wings stalled at the same time on landing approach. The 1,550th production F4U-1 introduced an R-2800-8W engine with water-methanol injection for boost power of 1,664 kW (2,230 HP).
F4U-1s with the new canopy were later retroactively designated "F4U-1A". Although sources vary widely on the number of F4U-1As built, 2,126 seems to be a reasonable value. The Goodyear equivalent was the "FG-1A", which like the FG-1 lacked wing fold. * The "F4U-1C" was introduced in August 1943, and featured four M2 20 millimeter cannon in place of the six 12.7 millimeter Brownings. The cannons had 120 rounds each. The F4U-1C was otherwise much like the F4U-1A. It had a single-piece canopy, though it is possible the same canopy was fitted to later production F4U-1As. The F4U-1C's four cannon proved particularly useful in the ground-attack role. The F4U-1C went into service in the spring of 1945, and 200 were built by Vought.
* The "F4U-1D" was introduced in April 1944, though the F4U-1C remained in production in parallel. The F4U-1D was much the same as the F4U-1A, retaining the six Browning machine guns, and differed mainly in being fitted for carriage of a 605 liter (160 US gallon) centerline drop tank and two 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs, one on each inner wing just outside the wingroot. The two wingroot pylons were also "wet" and could carry fuel drop tanks. The idea of using the Corsair to carry heavy munitions had been developed in the field, with operational squadrons improvising bomb racks for the carriage of such weapons. The F4U-1D made it "official". F4U-1Ds were all painted in the standard color scheme for Corsairs at the time, a dark overall sea blue.
Vought built a total of 1,685 F4U-1Ds. Goodyear built the F4U-1D as the "FG-1D", delivering a total of 1,997 (some sources claim 2,303) aircraft. Brewster also built it as the "F3A-1D", though Brewster was out of the Corsair business by July 1944. The company had only delivered a total of 735 Corsairs by that time, and the Navy terminated the contract with the company on the basis of bad management.
Late production F4U-1Ds and FG-1Ds featured four launch rails on each outer wing for 12.7 centimeter (5 inch) "High Velocity Air Rocket (HVAR)" projectiles. The rockets were sighted through the gunsight and proved accurate. Late in the war, Vought converted an F4U-1D into a tandem-seat trainer, but nobody was interested and it didn't go into production.
* The Corsair was in frontline service by early 1943. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of Marine Squadron VMF-124 under Major William E. Gise assisted P-40 Warhawks and P-38 Lightnings in escorting B-24 Liberators on raids against Japanese installations in the Solomons. Japanese fighters contested the raid and the Americans got the worst of it, with four P-38s, two P-40s, two Corsairs, and two Liberators lost. No more than four Japanese Zeroes were destroyed. A Corsair was responsible for one of the "kills", but it wasn't anything to boast about, since it was due to a midair collision. The fiasco was referred to as the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre".
Although the Corsair's combat debut was not impressive, the Marines quickly learned how to make better use of the machine and demonstrate its superiority over Japanese fighters. By April 1943, the Corsair was getting the upper hand. By May, VMF-124 had produced the first Corsair ace, 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, who would rack up a total of 21 kills during the war.
According to old stories, the Japanese learned to call the F4U "Whispering Death" because of the high-pitched sound it made, though such a melodramatic name sounds suspiciously like an invention of American propaganda. It was also known as the "Bent Wing Bird", though on the other side of the coin this name sounds more like something out of company press releases. Whatever the enemy or the aircrew actually called the F4U, it was still a machine to be reckoned with, one way or another. Many pilots became aces in the Corsair, but even its most passionate advocates admitted that it was a handful.
The most prominent gang of Marine Corsair pilots was squadron VMF-214, led by Major (later Colonel) Greg "Pappy" Boyington. Boyington was a rowdy, combatative, tough, hard drinking Marine who had flown Curtiss P-40s with Claire Chennault's American Volunteer Group (AVG) or "Flying Tigers" in China and scored two kills. Chennault had thrown him out after somebody broke into the liquor locker, concluding that Boyington was responsible because nobody else in the Flying Tigers was strong enough to have wrenched open the padlock with his bare hands.
VMF-214 "Boyington's Bastards" racked up large scores against the Japanese in the South Pacific, with Boyington claiming a total of 28 kills during his combat career, 22 of them in the F4U. He was shot down and captured by the Japanese on 3 January 1944 and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp. The Japanese did not announce his capture and Boyington was presumed killed in action. He would get the Medal of Honor after his release from captivity at the end of the war.
* After finally working out the worst bugs, the Navy finally embraced the Corsair as the most capable fighter and fighter-bomber in its inventory, superior to the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat. By early 1944, the Navy was making good use of the Corsair. The first Navy F4U squadron, VF-17 "Skull & Crossbones", produced 12 aces, the most prominent being Lieutenant Ira Kepford, with 19 kills.
By the spring of 1944, Marine pilots were beginning to exploit the type's considerable capabilities in the close-support role, supporting amphibious landings with 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs. The famed pilot Charles Lindbergh flew Corsairs with the Marines as a civilian technical advisor in order to determine how best to increase the Corsair's warload and effectiveness in the attack role. Lindbergh managed to get the F4U, into the air with 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of bombs, with a 900 kilogram (2,000 pound) bomb on the centerline and a 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bomb under each wing. In the course of such experiments, he performed strikes on Japanese positions during the battle for the Marshall Islands.
By the beginning of 1945, the Corsair was a full-blown "mudfighter", performing strikes with high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks, and HVARs. It was a prominent participant in the fighting for the Palaus, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, with the ground-pounders calling it the "Sweetheart" for its welcome services when things were getting nasty.
In the last months of the conflict, the F4U also carried the oversized 29.8 centimeter (11.75 inch) "Tiny Tim" unguided rocket on the wingroot pylons for cracking Japanese strongpoints. Experiments were performed in 1944 with an old F4U-1 with "jet assisted take-off (JATO)" gear, featuring a small solid-fuel rocket attached on the fuselage just behind each wingroot, to allow the Corsair to get off the ground more easily with heavy loads, but it appears that JATO was rarely, if ever, used in service with the Corsair.
Statistics compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U flew over 64,000 operational sorties for the US Marines and US Navy through the conflict, with fewer than 10,000 of these sorties from carrier decks. The total number of kills claimed was 2,139, against 189 combat losses of F4Us, for a kill ratio of over 11:1. Even if this was exaggerated by a factor of two, it was still an accomplishment. One particularly interesting kill was scored by a Marine Lieutenant R.R. Klingman over Okinawa. According to the story, he was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") twin engine fighter when his guns jammed, so he simply flew up and chopped off the Ki-45's tail with the big propeller of the Corsair.
* The Corsair has acquired a legendary status, with the result that its bad points have been somewhat glossed over. Those who insist that the Corsair was superior to the Hellcat in every respect should realize that the Hellcat was cheaper than the Corsair -- the Navy could buy five Hellcats for the price of three Corsairs -- and that the Hellcat was a perfectly effective and very rugged fighter and fighter-bomber. More importantly, the Hellcat was much easier to fly, with Corsair pilots freely admitting that the F4U was unforgiving and not a good choice for a green pilot. Over half the losses of Corsairs in the Pacific Theater were credited to accidents and not combat. To experienced pilots, the Corsair was a more exciting and challenging aircraft, but Hellcat's docility was admired as well. Official kill records give the Hellcat the majority of kills in the Pacific Theater.
After the war, there was a surplus of old combat aircraft and it was relatively easy for a civilian to buy a Corsair. The Corsair was a major player in air races for several years, until some serious accidents led to the effective suspension of air racing in the early 1950s.
* When the US Navy came up in November 1941 with an urgent requirement for a night-fighter based on the F4U-1, the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia took 32 (some sources claim 12) stock F4U-1s and converted them to a night-fighter configuration with the designation "F4U-2".
The F4U-2 was equipped with AN/APS-4 centimetric radar, fitted in a radome on the right wing. One of the three machine guns in the right wing was deleted to balance the radar. Although the radar pod apparently did not greatly interfere in the Corsair's maneuverability, the radar set was relatively fragile, and Corsair night fighter pilots were not inclined to jink their aircraft around unless absolutely necessary. The exhausts on the bottom of the cowling were extended to prevent the glow of the exhaust from being seen by potential victims, giving the F4U-2 something of a scruffy "beard" just before the leading edge of the wing. A number of F4U-2s saw combat in the South Pacific. Apparently there were two field conversions of F4U-1s to F4U-2 standard as well.
* Three F4U-1As were converted to use the P&W XR-2800-16C Double Wasp, which featured a two-stage turbocharger for high-altitude performance. A four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller was fitted to soak up the increased power. The engine installation featured a distinctive belly inlet, just behind the cowling. These three aircraft were designated "XF4U-3", "XF4U-3A", and "XF4U-3B", but the installation didn't work out well. The F4U-3 and its Goodyear equivalent, the "FG-3", did not enter production.
* The last major wartime production variant of the Corsair was the "F4U-4", which featured a P&W R-2800-18W Double Wasp with 1,567 kW (2,100 HP) takeoff power and water-methanol injection. The only visible differences from the F4U-1D were that an inlet was fitted in the lower lip of the cowling, giving the aircraft's nose a slightly different profile, and a four-bladed propeller was fitted. All following Corsair variants would retain the four-bladed propeller. The F4U-4's engine and propeller gave it a top speed of 718 KPH (446 MPH), about 48 KPH (30 MPH) faster than the F4U-1D. Armament was the same as for the F4U-1D, with six Brownings, stub pylons for eight HVARs, and the ability to carry two 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs and a centerline drop tank.
Five F4U-1s were modified as "XF4U-4" prototypes, with the first performing its initial flight on 19 April 1944. One of the prototypes was fitted with a prop spinner, but this item was not adopted for production. Initial flight of a production F4U-4 was in September 1944, with initial service deliveries in October. A dozen (some sources claim only two) F4U-4s were built by Goodyear with the designation of "FG-4", but the end of the war led to cancellation of further Corsair orders from Goodyear. However, the Navy was still appreciative enough of the F4U-4 to obtain about 400 more from Vought after the war up to 1947.
2,037 standard F4U-4s were built in all. Several subvariants of the F4U-4 were built as well:
An F4U-4 was experimentally fitted with wingtip fuel tanks and another was used for trials of a six-bladed contrarotating propeller, but neither of these items was ever incorporated into Corsair production.
* One of the more interesting wartime Corsair variants, even if it didn't go into production, was the Goodyear "F2G", which was to be designed around the monster P&W R-4360-4 air-cooled radial engine, with 2,238 kW (3,000 HP) takeoff power. In contrast to the R-2800 Double Wasp, which featured two rows of nine cylinders for a total of 18 cylinders, the R-4360 featured four rows of seven cylinders for a total of 28 cylinders. It was called a "corncob" because of the cylinder arrangement. The engine would see operational service on the big Convair B-36 Peacemaker after the war.
The F2G had a distinctive supercharger / oil system cooler intake on top of the lengthened nose, as well as a bubble-type canopy, a taller tailfin, and other changes. A bubble canopy had been fitted earlier to a Goodyear FG-1A on a trials basis. Armament was six 12.7 millimeter Brownings, plus the external stores of the F4U-1D. The engine installation was optimized for low-level flight, since the F2G was intended to destroy Japanese "Kamikaze" suicide intruders trying to attack US fleet vessels by coming in at low level under the radar.
An old F4U-1 with the birdcage canopy was fitted with the Wasp Major and a four-bladed prop in early 1944 to evaluate the fit. Goodyear received a production contract for the F2G in March 1944, with some have manually folding wings and intended for use from ground airstrips and designated "F2G-1" and others to have hydraulically folding wings and an arresting hook for carrier operations and have the designation of "F2G-2". Development, particularly of the engine, proved troublesome, and by the time the first F2G was rolled out in May 1945 the need for the type was evaporating.
Production contracts were cancelled at the end of the war, with only five production F2G-1s and five F2G-2s built. They had been preceded by a number of "XF2G" prototypes, the precise count being unclear, with most or all of these development machines apparently being conversions. At least one F2G flew in air races after the war.
* The British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) warmed to the Corsair much faster than the US Navy. In November 1943, the FAA received under Lend-Lease the first of 95 Vought F4U-1s, which were given the designation of "Corsair I". The first squadrons were assembled and trained in the US, either at Brunswick, Maine, or Quonset, Rhode Island, and then shipped across the Atlantic. The Royal Navy put the Corsair into carrier operations immediately, well ahead of the US Navy, but wasn't like the British worked miracles with the F4U: they found its landing characteristics just as beastly, suffering a number of fatal crashes, but bit the bullet and did it anyway.
This initial British batch was followed by 510 Vought F4U-1As under the designation of "Corsair II" 430 Brewster F3A-1Ds under the designation of "Corsair III" and finally 977 Goodyear FG-1Ds under the designation of "Corsair IV". It is unclear if the stateside squadron training scheme was retained for all British Corsair squadrons.
All but initial deliveries of FAA Corsairs had 20 centimeters (8 inches) clipped from the wingtips to permit storage in British carrier hangar decks, with the clipped wings also apparently improving the roll rate. Some sources suggest that at least some of the clipped-wing Corsairs supplied to Britain had the US designation of "F4U-1B". Many FAA Corsairs were fitted with rails for launching British unguided "Rocket Projectiles (RPs)". At its peak, the Corsair equipped 19 FAA squadrons. FAA Corsairs originally fought in a camouflage scheme, with a light-green / dark-green salamander patterning on top and a white belly, but were later painted overall blue. Those operating in the Pacific theater acquired a specialized British insignia, a modified blue-white roundel with white "bars" to make it look more like a US than a Japanese insignia to prevent friendly-fire incidents.
FAA Corsairs performed their first combat action on 3 April 1944, with Number 1834 Squadron flying from the HMS VICTORIOUS to help provide cover for a strike on the German super-battleship TIRPITZ in a Norwegian fjord. This was apparently the first combat operation of the Corsair off of an aircraft carrier. Further attacks on the TIRPITZ were performed in July and August 1944, with Corsairs from the HMS FORMIDABLE participating. It appears the Corsairs did not encounter aerial opposition on these raids. A confrontation between a Corsair and the tough German Focke-Wulf FW-190 would have made for an interesting fight.
Even as British Corsairs were fighting the Germans, they were going into combat in the Indian Ocean against the Japanese, with the first operational sorties on 19 April. Royal Navy carriers would be participants in the final battle for the Japanese home islands. On 9 August 1945, days before the end of the war, Corsairs from HMS FORMIDABLE were attacking Shiogama harbor on the northeast coast of Japan. A Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Robert H. Gray, was hit by flak but pressed home his attack on a Japanese destroyer, sinking it with a 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bomb but crashing into the sea. He was posthumously awarded the last Victoria Cross of World War II.
425 (some sources say 370) Corsairs were also provided to the Royal New Zealand Air Force, beginning in late 1943. By the time the New Zealanders had worked up to operational Corsair squadrons in 1944, there was little for them to shoot at in the South Pacific, and they saw little combat. Most of the New Zealander Corsairs were scrapped after the war, as were the British Corsairs.
* As mentioned, F4U-4s continued to be built by Vought in the postwar era, and in fact major new Corsair variants were built as well. Fit of the R-2800-3W engine with 1,716 kW (2,300 HP) takeoff power resulted in the "F4U-5", with the engine mounted on an angle two degrees below the centerline to improve the pilot's view, as well as to provide improved longitudinal stability. There were small distinctive "cheek" inlets along either side of the lower lip of the cowling. Top speed was 743 KPH (462 MPH).
Other features of the F4U-5 included an improved cockpit layout, with folding seat armrests, a power-actuated canopy that was raised slightly, and other niceties to improve pilot comfort and effectiveness a fully retractable tailwheel completely metal outer wing panels (finally!) refinements to control surfaces to improve handling and a flat armor glass windscreen, though this may have been fitted to late-production F4U-4s as well.
The F4U-5's armament consisted of four M3 (T-31) 20 millimeter cannon, with a total of 924 rounds of ammunition. Provision for eight HVARs, two 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bombs, and a centerline external fuel tank were retained. The launch stubs for the HVARs were rearranged in a staggered configuration for some reason. The cannon and pitot tube had an electrical heating system to allow them to operate properly in very cold conditions.
Vought built 223 F4U-5s. There was further production of subvariants:
The alcohol from the prop deicing system tended to damage the plastic canopy until a protective film was placed over the plastic. Alcohol fumes also tended to seep into the cockpit, posing both fire and alertness hazards for the pilot. Vought engineers mixed the alcohol with peppermint oil so they could trace down where the fumes were seeping into the cockpit, and fixed the problem with better sealing.
* During production of the F4U-5, Corsair manufacturing moved from the Vought plant in Connecticut to a facility in Dallas, Texas. Although by this time the Corsair was outmatched in air combat by the new jet fighters, it was still an excellent attack aircraft, and so Vought designed an optimized close-support variant of the Corsair, originally to be designated the "F4U-6" but going into service as the "AU-1", with the "A" emphasizing its attack role.
The AU-1 featured extensive armor protection, making it substantially heavier and significantly slower than the F4U-5. Some sources claim it was hard-pressed to reach 400 KPH (250 MPH), but that might have been with a full warload and wouldn't be surprising under such circumstances. It featured an R-2800-83W Double Wasp engine with 1,716 kW (2,300 HP) takeoff power but only a single-stage supercharger. As a "mudfighter", the AU-1 would operate at low altitudes and so a two-stage supercharger or turbocharger system was regarded as unnecessary. The engine was oriented at two degrees below the centerline, just like in the F4U-5, but the two cheek inlets were moved to under the belly, to ensure better armor protection.
One particularly noticeable change in the AU-1 was that the four stub pylons for HVARs under each wing were switched to five small stores pylons, either for HVARs or light bombs. Total warload of the AU-1 was a respectable 1,815 kilograms (4,000 pounds). Armament of four M3 cannon, with a total of 924 rounds of ammunition, was retained. Roughly 111 AU-1s were built in all, with the type going into service with the US Marine Corps in Korea in 1952.
* During the Korean War, the Corsair was used mostly in the close-support role. There were dogfights between F4Us and enemy Yak-9 fighters early in the conflict, but when the enemy introduced the fast MiG-15 jet fighter the Corsair was outmatched, though one Marine pilot did get lucky. On 9 September 1952 a MiG-15 made the mistake of getting into a turning contest with a Corsair piloted by Captain Jesse G. Folmar, with Folmar shooting the MiG down with his four 20 millimeter cannon. The MiG's wingmates quickly had their revenge, shooting down Folmar, though he bailed out and was quickly rescued with little injury.
Corsair night fighters were used to an extent, however. The enemy adopted the tactic of using low-and-slow intruders to perform night harassment strikes on American forces, and jet-powered night fighters found catching these "Bedcheck Charlies" troublesome. US Navy F4U-5Ns were posted to shore bases to hunt them down, with US Navy Lieutenant Guy Pierre Bordelon JR becoming an ace, apparently the Navy's only ace in the conflict. "Lucky Pierre" was credited with six kills, including five Yak-9s and one La-9.
More generally, Corsairs performed attacks with cannon, napalm tanks, various iron bombs, and unguided rockets. The old HVAR was a reliable standby, though as sturdy Soviet-built armor proved resistant to the HVAR's punch, a new 16.5 centimeter (6.5 inch) hollow-charge antitank warhead was developed. The result was called the "Anti-Tank Aircraft Rocket (ATAR)". The big Tiny Tim rocket was also used in combat. There is a story of a Corsair pilot who cut enemy communications lines by snagging them with his arresting hook.
* The very last production Corsair was the "F4U-7", which was built specifically for the French naval air arm, the "Aeronavale". It was something of an odd hybrid variant, with the R-2800-18W Double Wasp and inlets in the lower lip of the cowling of the F4U-4, the downward-sloping engine installation of the F4U-5, and the five small stores pylons under each wing of the AU-1. It lacked the heavy armor protection of the AU-1.
Initial flight of the F4U-7 was on 2 July 1952. A total of 94 F4U-7s was built for the Aeronavale in 1952, with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out in December 1952. The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the US Navy and passed on to the Aeronavale through the US Military Assistance Program (MAP). The French used their F4U-7s during their bitter little war in Indochina in the mid-1950s, where they were supplemented by at least 25 ex-USMC UA-1s passed on to the French in 1954, after the end of the Korean War.
French Corsairs also performed strikes in the Algerian conflict in 1955 and 1956, and assisted in the Anglo-French-Israeli seizure of the Suez Canal in October 1956, codenamed OPERATION MUSKETEER. The Corsairs were painted with yellow and black recognition stripes for this operation. In 1960, some French Corsairs were rigged to carry four SS-11 wire-guided missiles. This was a more or less experimental fit and it is hard to believe it worked well, since it required a pilot to "fly" the missile after launch with a joystick while keeping track of a flare on its tail. This might be very tricky in a single-seat aircraft under combat conditions. All French Corsairs were out of service by 1964, with some surviving for museum display or as civilian warbirds.
* The F4U was finally phased out of USMC and US Navy reserve service in the mid-1950s. The Corsair remained in military service in Latin America, with the type provided to the Argentine Navy, the air forces of Honduras and El Salvador, and possibly a few other Latin American air arms. This led to combat between the Corsairs during the short-lived "Soccer War" between Honduras and El Salvador in July 1969. The conflict was famously triggered, though not really caused, by a disagreement over a football match. Both sides claimed various numbers of kills, and predictably each side disputed the claims of the other.
The Corsair also went back to air racing with the revival of such events in the late 1960s, and significantly played a starring role in the popular TV series BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP, which ran from 1976 through 1978 and featured Robert Conrad, previously star of the popular 1960s WILD WILD WEST series, playing Pappy Boyington, as well as a number of very fine F4U warbirds. The show did do much to promote Boyington's legend. He had fallen on hard times after the war, the booze getting the better of him for a time, but had dried out and was used as a consultant on the TV series, though it was hardly noted for its authenticity.
When Boyington met Conrad, Boyington told the actor that he wished he, Boyington, were younger. When Conrad asked why, Boyington replied that he wanted to beat Conrad's cocky ass. It would have been another interesting match, neither man being a pushover by any means. Boyington died in 1988 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, having gone from hero to drunken bum and then back to hero again. The F4U survives in a large number of static displays and a few crowd-pleasing flying Corsair "warbirds" as a memorial to Boyington and other Corsair pilots.
* The following table summarizes Corsair variants and production. Figures tend to vary from source to source and, exasperatingly, don't always even add up within sources. Sources are particularly confused on the total numbers of F4U-1As and F4U-1Ds. However, overall the quantities given here can be regarded as being in the ballpark. This gives total Corsair production of 12,713. However, total Corsair production is given in most sources as 12,571 aircraft. It can be said in general that over 12,000 Corsairs were built.
* I always get a few surprises when I decide to write up an aircraft. The Corsair turned out to be surprisingly easy to document, which was a relief because writing a document on an aircraft more generally turns out to be more work than I expect.
Another surprise, a less pleasant one, were the sometimes wild discrepancies on Corsair production quantities and suchlike details between sources and sometimes even within sources. This writeup gave me another lesson in the truth that history is less about the past than it is about records of the past.
Since my research is basically sitting in front of a computer and paging through books and magazines, it can often be difficult to figure out the true facts. Sometimes it's straightforward, though. One source, which is not credited below, claimed that British Corsairs participated in the 1956 Suez operation, but this appears to have been a simple mental slip on the author's part -- the British had given up their last Corsairs a decade earlier. This source also gave the date of MUSKETEER as 1954, which suggests the author was having a really bad day.
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