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Vought F7U Cutlass Carrier-Borne Fighter (1949)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/30/2013

A poor accident record eventually did in the F7U Cutlass in a short two years of frontline service with the USN.

The Chance Vought F7U Cutlass was an interesting aircraft in many ways. For one, the aircraft was the direct result of American research into the jet designs and technologies of the Arado company - the German aircraft firm that was responsible for various jet-powered aircraft just before the fall of the Third Reich. With its unique design, the F7U Cutlass was to become the US Navy's premiere carrier-based fighter. But in the end, the designed failed to live up to expectations and suffered a short, if unspectacular, existence in American aviation lore.

Born out of a Navy need for a carrier-based fighter aircraft, the Chance Vought (later to be known as just "Vought") firm proceeded with a design based on Arado engineering practices which often times delved into tail-less swept-wing aircraft designs. Though the Cutlass featured tail fins for stabilization, there were no traditional tail surfaces per se in the design.

Fourteen original F7U-1 models were built for further testing and flight training of aircrews. Drawbacks in the unique design became apparent when stability issues arose, leading several to be lost to accidents developing while in-flight. When the aircraft worked by concept, the Cutlass was an extremely nimble and maneuverable machine, capable of pulling 16G turns with ease. Often times, however, design flaws in the tailless construction would show through - with disastrous results.

The F7U-3 proved to be a refined and redesigned model, featuring strengthened landing gear assemblies more consistent with carrier operations. The entire airframe was strengthened as a result, and additional access panels were provided to keep maintenance times low.

The Cutlass would go on to become the United States Navy first supersonic production aircraft. In the end, however, the Cutlass' shortcomings would hinder any future variants. It was reported that upwards of 25 percent of all Cutlass' were lost to accidents alone - a terrible and unacceptable ratio in the world of military aviation. As soon as the unique F7U Cutlass arrived on the scene (the F7U-3 would appear in 1954), it quickly gave way to more new and stable aircraft. The Cutlass would be removed from frontline service as early as 1956.

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Specifications for the
Vought F7U Cutlass
Carrier-Borne Fighter

Focus Model: Vought F7U-3 Cutlass
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Chance Vought - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1949
Production: 320

Crew: 1

Length: 42.98ft (13.1m)
Width: 39.67ft (12.09m)
Height: 14.63ft (4.46m)
Weight (Empty): 18,210lbs (8,260kg)
Weight (MTOW): 31,643lbs (14,353kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Westinghouse J46-WE-8A turbojet engines with afterburn generating 6,100lbs of thrust.

Maximum Speed: 680mph (1,094kmh; 591kts)
Maximum Range: 660miles (1,062km)
Service Ceiling: 39,993ft (12,190m; 7.6miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 13,000 feet per minute (3,962m/min)

Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
4 x 20mm internal cannons

2 x Sparrow medium-ranged air-to-air missiles
Aerial Rockets

F7U-1 - First Production Version in service of which fourteen were produced.

F7U-3 - Redesigned nose array, improved and strengthened airframe and landing gears.

F7U-3M - Provisions for 4 Sparrow air-to-air missiles.

United States