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Vought F4U Corsair Carrier-Based Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Night Fighter (1942)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/24/2014

The fast and powerful Vought F4U Corsair fighter was the first Allied aircraft capable of going toe-to-toe with the fabled Japanese Zero.

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One of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time, the American Vought F4U "Corsair" became the stuff of legend in its time aloft during World War 2 (1939-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953) and several French-related Cold War conflicts that followed. The design was attributed to Igor Sikorsky and Rex Beisel and went on to see production totals of 12,571 units with manufacturing ending in 1952 - not a bad total considering the aircraft was initially rejected by the United States Navy (USN). The F4U originally arrived as a USN carrier-based fighter design until difficulties in landing the aircraft on moving carrier decks led to its expanded use as a land-based fighter in the hands of US Marine aviators. While the United States Navy moved on to the equally-excellent Grumman F6F "Hellcat", the F4U continued to make a name for itself in the Pacific Theater - even earning the respect of its Japanese foes as one of the most feared combat aircraft in the region.

The Corsair was born from a 1938 USN requirement calling for a new high performance carrier fighter and Chance Vought of United Aircraft returned with their V-166 model. Vought engineers handed their design the then- largest possible engine the compact airframe could handle - the experimental Pratt & Whitney XR-2800 "Double Wasp" of 2,000 horsepower. To this was added an equally massive three-bladed propeller assembly and the inverted "gull wing" arrangement was chosen to help the spinning propeller blades clear the ground and full-length main landing gear legs to be used. The engine was conventionally fitted at the front with the single-seat cockpit at amidships. The main wing appendages were seated ahead of center while the fuselage was tubular in its general shape. The empennage consisted of a single, short (curved) vertical tail fin with low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage was of the traditional "tail dragger" arrangement and wholly retractable. Original armament included 4 x 0.50 Browning heavy machine guns. Despite the inherent strong points in the F4U design, the aircraft held an obstructed forward view (due to the wing's location and long nose) and reduced visibility to the rear due to the raised fuselage spine. Pilots commented on the difficulties of cockpit access because of the unique wing bend.

Vought produced two prototype aircraft - V-166A and V-166B to which V-166A received the Pratt & Whitney R1830 Twin Wasp engine while V-166B was given the Pratt & Whitney R2800-2 Double Wasp engine. The USN favored the B-model prototype and placed its contract within months of Vought's submission. In development, the aircraft would be known as "XF4U-1".

When first tested in 1940, V-166B exceeded 400 miles per hour (403mph) and became the first American fighter to reach such speeds. First flight was recorded May 29th, 1940 (as the XF4U-1). changes were soon ordered. New armament was the call and this forced a relocation of wing fuel tanks to the fuselage. In turn, the set back the cockpit some three feet from the nose which generated all sorts of dangers for a pilot. In1941, Vought was handed a serial production contract for 584 examples (F4U-1) by the USN. However, the initial production-quality airframe did not go airborne until June 25th, 1942. Carrier trials began in September and the aircraft was officially introduced into service on December 28th at a critical point in the Allied push to victory.

The inherent dangers of landing such a high-performance aircraft on a moving carrier deck prompted the U.S. Navy to delay shipboard use of the F4U. Instead, the aircraft was began operations as a land-based fighter with US Marine air group VMF-124 from land bases during February 1943 over Bougainville. In practice, the F4U made short work of the marauding Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighters - the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy air service - as Zeros proved poorly protected, lacking armor along critical components and self-sealing fuel tanks. Additionally, American fighter aircraft were much improved over the pre-war models available in the initial Japanese assaults throughout the Pacific. Improved training and a better stock of seasoned pilots coupled to a fast and powerful fighter eventually helped to turn the tide of the Pacific War over time. indeed, the F4U proved itself the first Allied fighter to be able to counter the threat of the A6M Zero in the war - she could out-turn and out-dive most any enemy when called upon.

In the following months, the US Marines took on even greater stocks of the new aircraft, such was their impression of the mount. Its versatility allowed it to be utilized to great effect as a ground attack fighter, outfitted with 8 x 5" aerial rockets or up to 4,000lbs of stores. Jettisonable fuel tanks served to increased overall combat ranges and bring the fight to the enemy wherever they would be found. Japanese Army forces grew so accustomed to Corsair strikes and their accompanying dive sound that they nicknamed the American aircraft "Whistling Death" (this sound was attributed to the rush of air at the cooler vents when in a dive).

Corsair pilots managed over 500 air kills by the end of 1943 and totaled some 2,140 enemy aircraft by the end of the war in August of 1945.The highest scoring ace of the U.S. Marine Corps alone became Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington who managed 28 total enemy kills. All of these totals were made possible by the 64,000 sorties recorded by F4U airmen in the whole of the war. Allied pilots eventually earned an astounding kill ratio of 11:1.


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Specifications for the
Vought F4U Corsair
Carrier-Based Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Night Fighter


Focus Model: Vought F4U-4 Corsair
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Vought - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1942
Production: 12,571


Crew: 1


Length: 33.14ft (10.1m)
Width: 41.01ft (12.50m)
Height: 16.08ft (4.90m)
Weight (Empty): 8,984lbs (4,075kg)
Weight (MTOW): 13,999lbs (6,350kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W 18-cylinder Double Wasp two-row air-cooled radial piston engine generating 2,325 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 416mph (670kmh; 362kts)
Maximum Range: 1,016miles (1,635km)
Service Ceiling: 36,909ft (11,250m; 7.0miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 3,000 feet per minute (914m/min)


Hardpoints: 2
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
6 x 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine guns (three to a wing).

ALTERNATIVE:
4 x 20mm M2 cannons (F4U-1C)

OPTIONAL:
Mission-specific armament added up to a maximum of 4,000lbs including air-to-surface rockets and bombs.


Variants:
V.166A - Prototype Model Designation; fitted with Pratt & Whitney 2,000hp XR-2800 Double Wasp radial engine.


V.166B - Second Prototype Development Model

XF4U-1 Designation of the V.166B prototype model for US Navy consideration.

F4U-1 - Production Model designation initially provided to Britain's Fleet Arm Arm (FAA); 758 aircraft constructed.

F4U-1A - Frameless canopy version of which 2,066 produced.

F4U-1C - Fitted with 4 x 20mm cannons in place of the 6 x 12.7mm machine guns; 200 produced.

F4U-1D - Fighter-Bomber Variant of which 1,375 were produced.

F4U-1P - Photographic Reconnaissance Conversion Model based on the F4U-1 model.

FG-1 - Goodyear-produced variant of which 1,704 were constructed.

FG-1D - Goodyear-produced variant.

FG-1E - Goodyear-produced Nightfighter variant.

F3A-1 - Brewster-produced sub-variant.

F3A-1D - Brewster-produced sub-variant.

F4U-4 - Fitted with R-2800-18W(C) 2,450hp engine of which 2,351 were produced of this model.

F25 - Goodyear-produced conversion model of the F4U-4 base model.

F4U-5

F4U-7

AU-1


Operators:
Argentina; El Salvador; Honduras; France; New Zealand; United Kingdom; United States