The Vought F6U Pirate achieved limited production totals but was never introduced for formal frontline service into the U.S. Navy.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Image from the United States Navy; Public Domain.
The Chance Vought V-340 was part of the submissions made to the United States Navy (USN) intending to fulfill a requirement for the service's first-ever jet-powered carrier-based fighter. While the requirement led to the competing McDonnell FH "Phantom" product (detailed elsewhere on this site), the V-340 offering joined a few others in holding at least some interest with USN authorities. The V-340 eventually matured to become the limited-production "Pirate" platform but remains a largely overlooked entry into the USN fighter field.
The proposed aircraft utilized a low-wing monoplane form with single rudder fin and rudder-mounted horizontal tailplanes. A tricycle undercarriage was to be used and the cockpit placed at the extreme nose along with the armament (4 x 20mm M3 cannons proposed). Onboard fuel stores would be fitted aft of the pilot's position and the Westinghouse turbojet buried low in the deep fuselage - exhausting under, and ahead, of the tail unit. Unlike other early jet fighters of the day, which relied on a nose-mounted intake or underslung, wing-mounted engine nacelles, the V-340 was envisioned with wingroot-mounted intakes aspirating the sole engine installation.
The choice of engine was the compact and relatively lightweight Westinghouse 24C which produced 3,000 lb of thrust. Unlike prop-powered carrier fighters, which required engine mounting at the nose or at some other placement forward of the pilot (blocking key vision angles), the jet could be installed aft of the pilot and therefore provide better forward and all-around vision. Additionally, this opened the nose assembly to accept both cockpit and armament, the latter freeing the wings for structural supports, underwing hardpoints or fuel. Two large fuel stores would be set along the fuselage, their fuel type becoming another inherent benefit - it proved far less flammable than traditional prop-engine fuel. While generally reliable, early turbojet engines lacked longevity and therefore limited operational ranges. Additionally, they provided thrust lower than sought and were slower to respond for fighter types. Regardless, the future was in the making and jet-powered fighters for the Navy was in line with the global race to field jets as quickly as possible.
One of the key qualities of Chance Vought's new aircraft was its construction - a process called "Metalite". Vought marketing detailed it as "a revolutionary material consisting of two thin sheets of high-strength aluminum allow bonded to a core of balsa wood." Coupled with the lighter weight engine in play, this process allowed for additional weight savings while keeping all other facets of aerodynamics in check - low drag, structural strength, etc...
Vought engineers estimated a maximum speed of 553 miles per hour with a combat radius out to 300 nautical miles and a rate-of-climb reaching 4,880 feet-per-minute for their new jet. Additional range could be had through use of wingtip fuel tanks - a common physical trait of jets of the 1940s and 1950s.
The V-340 was a promising enough venture that the USN authorized three aircraft (as well as one to serve as a static test airframe) under the designation of "XF6U-1" with the eventual name of "Pirate" given. The unique aircraft was favored for its lightweight approach and estimated performance specifications which led to the formal contract given to Chance Vought on December 29th, 1944 - this as World War 2 (1939-1945) had yet to be decided on the world stage.
The prototype mimicked the proposed V-340 quite closely and recorded a first flight on October 2nd, 1946 (World War 2 drew to a close in August of 1945). Flight testing uncovered an underpowered fighter which led to the selection of the Westinghouse J34-WE-30 series engine. This powerplant brought with it an afterburning capability which increased thrust output to 4,225 lb and became the first time an afterburning engine would be fitted to a naval jet fighter. Tests also showcased some lateral instability which forced a slight rewrite of the tail unit. Because of the revised operation of the new engine, a jet pipe and associated fuselage extension were added to the lower section of the aircraft to protect the underside of the tail. The lateral instability issue was rectified by the inclusion of "finlets" added along the leading edges of the horizontal tailplanes which gave the modern aircraft a rather archaic appearance.
In 1947 came an official production order for thirty of the type. Following the aforementioned changes, the Vought company model number was revised to become "V-352" and a first flight was had on March 5th, 1949. However, the end of the line for the Pirate came swiftly as though prevailed that the aircraft would never advance beyond its current state - as such it was not adopted by the USN at least operationally - indeed the Navy thought little of it as a frontline jet fighter and preferred to follow other avenues instead. The F6U Pirate went on to see a low-key service career as an experimental jet for USN squadron VX-3 and nothing more. Only 30 production-quality machines were built under the F6U-1 designation while a sole F6U-1 was pulled aside for conversion to the "F6U-1P" photographic-reconnaissance platform. This model form was also not adopted for frontline use.
The Pirate program was formally ended in 1950. Finalized performance specifications included a maximum speed of 596 miles per hour, a range out to 1,020 nautical miles, a service ceiling of 46,260 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 8,060 feet-per-minute.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 33 Units ] : Chance Vought - USA
United States (limited)
- Navy / Maritime
- X-Plane / Developmental
37.57 ft (11.45 m)
32.81 ft (10 m)
11.15 ft (3.4 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Vought F6U Pirate production model)
7,319 lb (3,320 kg)
11,078 lb (5,025 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Vought F6U Pirate production model)
1 x Westinghouse J34-WE-30A turbojet engine developing 3,150lb dry thrust and 4,225lb with afterburner.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Vought F6U Pirate production model)
597 mph (960 kph; 518 kts)
46,260 feet (14,100 m; 8.76 miles)
1,168 miles (1,880 km; 1,015 nm)
8,060 ft/min (2,457 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Vought F6U Pirate production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
PROPOSED STANDARD, FIXED.
4 x 20mm M3 cannons under nose
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Vought F6U Pirate production model)
F6U "Pirate" - Base Series Designation
V-340 - Chance Vought model number
V-352 - Revised model number with J34-WE-30 engine and finlets installed.
XF6U-1 - Prototype designation; fitted with Westinghouse J34-WE-22 turbojet engine (prototype 33535 was fitted with a Westinghouse J34-WE-30 series engine); three examples produced.
F6U-1 - Production model; 30 total examples
F6U-1P - One-off F6U-1 converted into photographic-reconnaissance form; not adopted for service.
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