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  • Vought F7U Cutlass Carrier-Borne Fighter Aircraft

    Engine issues and an unenviable accident record eventually doomed the interesting Vought F7U Cutlass carrier-based fighter of the United States Navy.

     Updated: 4/21/2017; Authored By Dan Alex; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Vought F7U "Cutlass" was an American Cold War-era naval fighter and the first swept-wing USN fighter to be adopted into service as well as the first "tailless" American fighter aircraft. The type led a troubled developmental existence and an even more troubled service life to the point that only a few hundred aircraft were procured and multiple fatalities occurring during its short time in service. Its design made it as unforgettable as its track record made it forgettable - such became the legacy of the Cutlass fighter program. The aircraft inevitably received the nicknames of the "Praying Mantis", the "Ensign Eliminator" and the "Gutless Cutlass" - such was its lasting impression to pilots.

    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.

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    Vought F7U-3 Cutlass Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1949
    Type: Carrier-Borne Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Chance Vought - USA
    Production Total: 320

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 41.27 feet (12.58 meters)
    Width: 39.70 feet (12.10 meters)
    Height: 14.01 feet (4.27 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 18,210 lb (8,260 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 31,636 lb (14,350 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Westinghouse J46-WE-8B turbojet engines developing 6,000lb of thrust with afterburner.

    Maximum Speed: 696 mph (1,120 kph; 605 knots)
    Maximum Range: 621 miles (1,000 km)
    Service Ceiling: 40,600 feet (12,375 meters; 7.69 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 14,400 feet-per-minute (4,389 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    4 x 20mm internal cannons

    OPTIONAL (F7U-3M):
    4 x Sparrow medium-range, air-to-air missiles

    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    F7U "Cutlass" - Base Series Designation

    XF7U-1 - Three prototype airframes; all three lost to crashes.

    F7U-1 - Initial production model; fitted with Westinghouse J34-WE-32 series turbojet engines; fourteen examples delivered.

    F7U-2 - Proposed improved form with afterburning Westinghouse J34-WE-42 engines; order of 88 aircraft canceled.

    XF7U-3 - F7U-3 prototype; single example

    F7U-3 - Definitive Cutlass; fitted with 2 x Westinghouse J46-WE-8B engines; 192 examples completed.

    F7U-3P - Photo-reconnaissance variant; lengthened nose section; 12 examples.

    F7U-3P - Missile-armed variant; 48 upgraded from F7U-3 standard and 98 examples built.

    A2U-1 - Proposed ground attack aircraft; cancelled.