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Vought FU-1

Shipboard Reconnaissance / Observation Floatplane [ 1927 ]

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: 02/21/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

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.©MilitaryFactory.com
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.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Chance Vought - USA
Peru; United States
Operators National flag of Peru National flag of the United States
Service Year
United States
National Origin
Project Status

General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.

28.4 ft
(8.65 meters)
34.4 ft
(10.50 meters)
10.2 ft
(3.10 meters)
2,083 lb
(945 kilograms)
Empty Weight
2,778 lb
(1,260 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
+694 lb
(+315 kg)
Weight Difference

1 x Wright J-5 (R-790) "Whirlwind" radial piston engine developing 220 horsepower.
121 mph
(195 kph | 105 knots)
Max Speed
26,509 ft
(8,080 m | 5 miles)
410 miles
(660 km | 356 nm)
1,000 ft/min
(305 m/min)

MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.


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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Image of the Vought FU-1
Image from the Public Domain.

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