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Vought FU-1

Shipboard Reconnaissance / Observation Floatplane

Some twenty Vought FU floatplane aircraft was ordered by the United States Navy in the late-1920s - these serving for only a short time.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 2/21/2018
During May of 1922, the Lewis and Vought Corporation was reformed to become the Chance Vought Corporation and its first product of note became the two-seat "OU-1" naval floatplane platform. In 1926, with development of new floatplanes emerging from Boeing and Curtiss, the United States Navy (USN) commissioned Vought to produce an interim floatplane as a stopgap measure. These would serve aboard American capital warships and be launched via catapult, provide over-the-horizon reconnaissance and artillery spotting, and be retrieved by shipboard crane. The aircraft would be of a single-engine biplane design with floats serving as its undercarriage. Unlike the two-seat observation aircraft being worked on by Boeing and Curtiss, the Vought design would be a single-seat form. Its designation became OU-3.

The OU-3 featured equal-span, twin-bay wing elements with parallel struts and its construction was a mix of steel tubing, wood and fabric. The engine was fitted in the front of the fuselage and drove a two-bladed propeller unit. The pilot sat under and aft of the upper wing structure in an open-air cockpit, the cockpit slightly ahead of midships. A raised dorsal spine served as a headrest for the pilot and views out-of-the-cockpit were generally adequate - the bulk of the aircraft ahead of the pilot blocked much of the forward viewing. The tail unit was traditional in its general arrangement - a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. Armament became 2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades - a standard of fighter aircraft of this period. Dimensions included a length of 28.4 feet, a height of 10.1 feet and a wingspan of 34.3 feet.

The floatplane arrangement constituted a large central float under the forward mass of the aircraft and smaller underwing floats held outboard.

Power would come from a Wright J-5 (R-790) "Whirlwind" series radial piston engine of 220 horsepower output which featured a supercharger for improved performance. Indeed specifications included a maximum speed of 122 miles per hour as well as a range out to 410 miles and a service ceiling up to 26,500 feet. Due to its reinforced understructure when compared to the earlier OU-1, the OU-3 fared better in aggressive maneuvers. The floatplane undercarriage was also made to be replaced by a more conventional wheeled arrangement for land-based operation if required.

Twenty of its kind were on order from June 1926 and, in October, the product had its designation revised to "FU-1". Deliveries were all fulfilled by April of the following year and, for June 1928, the line was serving aboard U.S. naval capital ships as part of squadron VF-2B. However, their time in service was short-lived for the product was quickly superseded by the more modern Boeing F3B-1 carrier-based fighter-bomber biplanes introduced in August of 1928 - this coincided with VF-2B's shift from capital battleship service to aircraft carriers.

Vought FU-1s ended their days as two-seat trainers following conversion which reintroduced the second cockpit of the OU-1. In this guise they were designated "FU-2".

The Peruvian Air Force and Navy services both operated several FU series aircraft for a time, becoming the only foreign operator of the type. The line was altogether retired in 1929.


Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 20 Units ] :
Chance Vought - USA
National flag of Peru National flag of United States Peru; United States
- Fighter
- Navy / Maritime
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
28.38 ft (8.65 m)
34.45 ft (10.5 m)
10.17 ft (3.1 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Vought FU-1 production model)
Empty Weight:
2,083 lb (945 kg)
2,778 lb (1,260 kg)
(Diff: +694lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Vought FU-1 production model)
1 x Wright J-5 (R-790) "Whirlwind" radial piston engine developing 220 horsepower.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Vought FU-1 production model)
Maximum Speed:
121 mph (195 kph; 105 kts)
Service Ceiling:
26,509 feet (8,080 m; 5.02 miles)
Maximum Range:
410 miles (660 km; 356 nm)
1,000 ft/min (305 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Vought FU-1 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Vought FU-1 production model)
FU - Series Designation
FU-1 - Original single-seat form of 1926
FU-2 - Two-seat conversion trainers rebuilt from existing FU-1 stock.

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