Authored By Dan Alex (Updated: 5/26/2015):
In December of 1945, the United States Navy put forth Specification OS-105 which called for a new jet-powered carrier-borne day fighter to add to its post-World War 2 ranks. The requirement specified a maximum speed of 600 miles per hour (with afterburner adding some 50mph more), a 6,500 feet-per-second rate-of-climb as well as a combat radius of 345 miles, and an operating service ceiling of 40,000 feet. Design proposals emerged from Curtiss, Douglas, Martin, McDonnell, North American, and Vought to which Vought's twin-engine, tailless offering was selected on June 25th, 1946 (as "Model V-346A"). Reportedly, Vought engineers utilized captured wartime data obtained from the German concern of Arado - famous makers of the jet-powered Ar 234 "Blitz" bomber. The Vought proposal then emerged in three prototypes under the "XF7U-1" designation and the line as a whole went on to receive the name of "Cutlass" in due time.
The Vought design was a wholly unique fighter approach for the period, lacking any true horizontal tail surfaces, instead utilizing a wide-area main wing planform with sweepback. A pair of vertical tail fins with rudder controls were fitted as normal while all other control surfaces resided on the mainplanes. The cockpit was held forward in the usual way with the pilot given good views from the elevated position - a key consideration for carrier-based aircraft on landing approaches. The twin side-by-side engine installation was aspirated by half-circle intakes to either side of the fuselage. The undercarriage was of a tricycle arrangement and fully retractable, giving the aircraft a pronounced "nose up" appearance when at rest. Indeed, the XF7U-1 stood as one of the more advanced aerodynamic design approaches to any post-war, jet-powered carrier fighter to this point in military aviation history.
Power was served through 2 x Westinghouse J46-WE-8B turbojet engines (F7U-3) developing 4,600lbs thrust (each) on dry and 6,000lbs thrust (each) with reheat (afterburner). Maximum speed reached nearly 700 miles per hour with a cruising speed closer to 565 miles per hour. Range was out to 660 miles with a service ceiling of 40,600 feet and rate-of-climb (a key carrier-based fighter consideration) of 14,420 feet-per-second. No doubt the aircraft was very fast for the intended role - superseding the USN requirements on paper .
As introduced, the F7U was an all-cannon armed aircraft fitting 4 x 20mm M3 cannons mounted just above the inlet ducts with 180 rounds afforded to a gun. It was only a later model - the F7U-3M - that introduced support for 4 x Sparrow beam-riding, medium-range air-to-air missiles under the wings. The aircraft was cleared for up to 5,500lbs of external ordnance.