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Vought F4U Corsair light fighter


Written by Sakhal

"With the machine guns loaded and the gunsights sparkling, our Corsair fighters flutter like falcons over territory occupied by the enemy. Under us lies the jungle, which extends along the hills of New Ireland... We flight at an altitude of 2400 meters. Our base is a track of flattened coral in the Green Islands, 640 kilometers afar, east of New Guinea, four degrees south of the equator. It is the 22nd May 1944. This is my first war action."

Similar words as these were written by an American aviator who had made History when in May 1927 he effectuated for the first time the non-stop journey New York-Paris. He was Charles August Lindbergh. At the entry of United States in the war, the "Lone Eagle" - as he had been nicknamed -, despite of being accused of strong sympathy towards the Nazi Germany, had enlisted to serve his country like any other citizen, and now he was, together with other younger and less experienced pilots, flying over the Pacific against the Japanese. The aircraft that he was flying would be soon famous because of its excellent qualities: the F4U Corsair, built by Vought. In the period between the summer of 1942 and the end of the war, the American war industry produced 8645 fighters of this type, and production lasted for seven years more, reaching 12571 exemplars. The F4U Corsair entered service in land bases with the US Marine Corps in February 1943, equipping subsequently many squadrons in the US Navy and US Marine Corps. The first Corsair used in aircraft carriers were the ones of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, which attacked the battleship Tirpitz in April 1944 and equipped up to 19 squadrons, most of them serving in the Far East.

Vought F4U Corsair light fighter


Vought F4U Corsair light fighter


Intended as a carrier-borne fighter, the F4U Corsair, in the intention of its projectist, engineer T. Biesel, should be an aircraft of reduced size to facilitate its stowage, but at the same time it had to carry an engine capable of the maximum power acceptable for an aircraft of its weight. As powerplant it was chosen a radial engine Pratt and Whitney XR 2008 Double Wasp, of 18 cylinders and 2000 horsepower. The election was undoubtedly right, even if the engine was not perfectly tuned up, but a problem was created. For an engine of such power it was required to use a propeller of large diameter, risking so to have a small free margin between the circumference of the propeller and the landing plane, too small for an aircraft destined to operate in aircraft carriers. To compensate this, the landing gear was made somewhat longer than usual and the wings adopted a special shape known as "inverted seagull", like in the German Ju 87 "Stuka". With this solution, apart from achieving a good robustness, it was raised the nose of the aircraft in respect of the wing plane and hence the landing plane. So it was born the clean and fast line of this excellent fighter, which since the spring of 1944 to the summer of 1945 would shoot down up to 2140 enemy aircraft, while the number of Corsair downed would not reach 200.

Of entirely metallic construction, with low wing in inverted seagull, landing gear in rear tricycle and arresting hook, the Corsair was the first American aircraft that reached the speed of 650 kilometers/hour. This, together with its powerful armament of six 12.7-millimeter machine guns, gives sense to the nickname that the Japanese gave to the Corsair: "Whistling Death". It was larger and considerably heavier than its Japanese counterpart, the A6M Reisen, and despite of this, more successful in the long term. Albeit not generally accepted, the F4U Corsair has been considered as the best fighter used in the Second World War, where it achieved a win/loss ratio of 11/1. After the war, it was still widely used, participating in the Korean War and operating in Indochina.

Vought F4U Corsair light fighter

Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair from the VMF-214 "Blacksheep" Squadron of the US Navy, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gregory M. Boyington, in September 1943.

Development record

The prototype XF4U-1 was armed with one 12.7-millimeter machine gun and one 7.7-millimeter machine gun in the fuselage, and two 12.7-millimeter machine guns in the wings. The initial series model F4U-1 was armed with six 12.7-millimeter machine guns installed in the wings. The F4U-1A was a variant with non-foldable wings. The F4U-1B was a model used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. The F4U-1C was a variant armed with four 20-millimeter cannons installed in the wings instead of the machine guns. The F4U-1D was a fighter-bomber version prepared for carrying bombs and rockets under the wings. The F4U-1P was a variant fitted with photographic equipment; 4669 exemplars converted from the basic F4U-1. The FG-1, FG-1A and FG-1D were the respective versions of the F4U-1, F4U-1A and F4U-1D built by Goodyear (4014 exemplars). The F3A-1, F3A-1A and F3A-1D were the respective versions of the F4U-1, F4U-1A and F4U-1D built by Brewster (735 exemplars). The XF4U-2 was a prototype for a night fighter version fitted with autopilot and interception radar. The model F4U-2 was a conversion of twelve F4U-1 into night fighters made by the US Navy. The model XF4U-3 was fitted with a turbocharged engine Double Wasp; one exemplar converted and two built. The FG-3 was a version of the XF4U-3 built by Goodyear (13 exemplars).

The prototypes XF4U-4 were an improvement of the F4U-1 with more powerful engine, four-bladed propeller and redesigned engine cover; five exemplars built. The series model F4U-4 had 2197 exemplars produced. The F4U-4C, F4U-4E, F4U-4N, F4U-4P, F4U-5, F4U-5N, F4U-5NL, F4U-5P, F4U-7 and AU-1 were versions of the late and post war; 923 exemplars built. The F2G-1 and F2G-2 were low-altitude versions built by Goodyear (10 exemplars). The Corsair I was the equivalent of the F4U-1 in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm; 95 exemplars assigned by the Lend and Lease policy. The Corsair II was the equivalent of the F4U-1 (with taller cockpit canopy) in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm; 510 exemplars assigned by the Lend and Lease policy. The Corsair III was the equivalent of the F3A-1 in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm; 430 exemplars assigned by the Lend and Lease policy. The Corsair IV was the equivalent of the FG-1 in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm; 977 exemplars assigned by the Lend and Lease policy.

Vought F4U Corsair light fighter

Vought F4U-1A Corsair (NZ5339) from the 22nd Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, in Bougainville, late 1944. Note the badges with bars in American style, in the six positions, as well as the narrow tricolor flag in the tail, used only by the RNZAF, and being one of the few examples of usage of red color in the badges of the Allies in the Pacific, after 1942. The RNZAF employed the F4U Corsair mainly for ground support, role in which this aircraft was very versatile, performing strikes with high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks and rockets. The dotation of Corsair delivered to New Zealand by the Lend and Lease policy comprised 233 F4U-1A, 131 F4U-1D and 61 FG-1D, for a total of 425 aircraft.

Specifications for F4U-1

Type: Fighter based in carriers and land

First flight: 23rd May 1940

Wingspan: 12.48 meters

Wing area: 29.17 square meters

Length: 10.17 meters

Height: 4.59 meters

Weight (empty): 3944 kilograms

Weight (maximum): 6350 kilograms

Engine: Pratt and Whitney R-2008-8 Double Wasp of 2000 horsepower

Initial rate of climb: 950 meters/minute

Service ceiling: 11300 meters

Maximum speed at an altitude of 6000 meters: 670 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 295 kilometers/hour

Normal operational range: 1600 kilometers

Armament: Six Browning 12.7-millimeter machine guns installed in the wings

Bombs load: Up to 907 kilograms (F4U-1D only)





Article updated: 2015-07-06

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-09-17


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