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Chance Vought Corsairs of the Fleet Air Arm
Three Corsairs of the Fleet Air Arm seen on the deck of a British aircraft carrier. This picture shows the folded wings of the Corsair, and the amount of people involved in moving the aircraft shows how heavy it was.
Chance Vought Corsairs of the Fleet Air Arm - History
The name Corsair has been applied to a succession of United States Navy aircraft through many decades, but none has been more effective than the F4U Corsair, a distinctive 'cranked wing' monoplane fighter.
If you&rsquove never seen a Corsair before, your first glance at the outsized propeller and wings might leave you with the feeling that either this warbird was assembled from parts that didn&rsquot match or it has met with some sort of disaster. But from all these outsized and mismatched parts came one of WWII&rsquos greatest fighter planes. It could outfight, outclimb and outrun any prop driven enemy.
The Corsair's most unique feature was the "bent" wing, the result of a marriage between the most powerful engine ever installed in a piston-engined fighter at that time, and one of the biggest propellers in the world. The inverted gull wing permitted the short, sturdy undercarriage required for carrier operations, gave the pilot better visibility over the wing and lowered the height of the folded wing. An added asset of the gull wing was a planing action during emergency water landings.
Depending on which Air Squadron you were in, the F4U had many nicknames: "Hose Nose", "Bent Wing Bird", "Hog" , "The Sweetheart of Okinawa", "Super Stuka", "U-Bird", "Horseshoe", "Ensign Eliminator", it was in April 1945 the sweetest sound in the world for the soldiers , in the shadow of the F4U they found a brief respite from the danger that threatened them in Okinawa and "Ensign Eliminator" , the latter due to it&rsquos stall and landing characteristics. Under the right circumstances, the wing mounted air intakes caused a pronounced whistling sound that was caused by the wing-root inlets for engine air. Inside of these inlets were placed the oil coolers which ejected hot air through adjustable doors under the wings just ahead of the spar. For that reason, Japanese ground troops called it "Whistling Death".
The US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics had a long tradition of issuing proposals for aircraft which pushed the limits of available technology. This stimulated the manufacturers ability to respond with new technology to meet the challenge. When "BuAer" sent its proposal for a high performance, carrier based fighter to United Aircraft Corporation (parent company of Vought-Sikorsky) on February 1, 1938, it seemed the Navy might have pushed technology to the limit. C. J. McCarthy, who was Vought&rsquos General Manager, called in the company&rsquos chief engineer, Rex Beisel. An elite team was selected for the development of Vought Design #V-166, Frank Albright as project engineer, Paul Baker as aerodynamics engineer, James Shoemaker as propulsion engineer. Each had an assistant. These engineers submitted their work to Beisel who then integrated it all into a final design.
Early on, Shoemaker chose the Pratt-Whitney R-1830 Wasp air-cooled radial engine because of it&rsquos long history of reliability and the V-166-A was designed around this engine. But, in 1940, the BuAer&rsquos quest for speed resulted in a switch to the experimental XR-2800-4 version of the Pratt-Whitney Double Wasp, with a two-stage supercharger for the prototype XF4U-1 Corsair. The R-2800 engine was the most powerful engine in the world in 1940, exceeding 100 hp (74.6 kW) per cylinder for each of its 18 cylinders. The change in engines resulted in the design number being changed to Vought Design #V-166-B. The V-166-A was never built.
With the awesome 2804 cubic inch (46 liter) Double Wasp air-cooled radial engine developing 1850 hp (1380.6 kW), the only way to convert that kind of horsepower efficiently into thrust was with a huge Hamilton Standard Hydromatic, 3 blade prop which measured 13 feet 4 inches (4,06 meters) in diameter. And that created a problem of deck clearance for the prop. It seemed either the main landing gear had to be lengthened, or the prop had to be shortened.
Since the landing gear had to be very strong to withstand the pounding of a carrier deck landing, a short, stout leg was required. Also, there wouldn&rsquot be enough room in the wing to properly stow a longer gear. And, if the prop were shortened, much of the horsepower of the Double Wasp would be wasted. So, Vought engineers came up with the distinctive inverted gull-wing design which forever characterized the F4U Corsair. This "bent wing" design allowed the huge prop to clear the deck while providing for a short, stout landing gear. As a byproduct, the wing also improved the aerodynamics of the intersection where the wing attaches to the fuselage, boosting the top speed.
It was a very "slick" looking plane using flush riveting and a new technique developed jointly by Vought and the Naval Aircraft Factory called "spot-welding". In order to make the Corsair as aerodynamically clean as possible, there was nothing protruding into the air stream. The intake for the turbo-supercharger intercooler and the oil cooler were located in slots in the inboard leading edges of the wings. Vought designed the fuselage with a circular cross-section which fit snugly over the Pratt-Whitney engine. The F4U was the first Navy craft to have landing gear which retracted flush into the bottom of the wing, though it took some effort. Other craft had retracting gear, but there was always some bulge or part of the wheel exposed. Vought engineers designed the Corsairs wheels to swivel 90º and retract straight back to fit flat inside the bottom of the wing. Two panels then closed over the gear making a perfectly smooth fairing. The idea was to mate the most powerful engine with the smallest, cleanest possible airframe.
Several stumbling blocks developed when carrier trials were held aboard the USS Sangamon and other carriers in late 1941. The biggest problem was the long nose. It stuck out 14 feet (4,27 m) in front of the pilot, and when the Corsair was sitting in take-off position, the nose pointed up at an angle sufficient to block forward vision to about 12º above the horizon. In carrier landings it was practically impossible to see the Landing Signals Officer once the Corsair was lined up with the carrier deck on final approach. Adding to this problem were oil and hydraulic leaks from the engine compartment which seeped past the cowl flaps and smeared the windshield, further restricting visibility.
Landing on a carrier deck required the pilot to have the plane at stall speed just as the tail-hook snagged the deck wire, but this was made very difficult by the wicked stall characteristics of the F4U. Just as stall speed was reached, the left wing tended to drop like a rock. In a deck landing this could cause the landing gear to collapse resulting in injuries to the pilot and severe damage to the aircraft. Assuming luck was with the pilot and he landed intact, the Corsair normally "bottomed out" the shock absorbers as it slammed down on the deck. The resulting recoil caused the plane to bounce high in the air. The tailhook itself sometimes failed to "trap" the plane by engaging an arrestor wire. If this happened on a straight deck carrier it usually meant the aircraft plowed into the planes parked forward. It was said on a straight deck carrier there were only two kinds of landings a "trap" and a catastrophe!
As the Corsair was thought by the Navy to be unsuitable for carrier duty, it was given to the U.S. Marines for land-based operations where it earned an outstanding combat record. Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia also received the F4U during WWII.
It was the British (?) who finally worked out a method of landing the Corsair on their carriers in spite of the visibility problems caused by the long nose. Instead of the normal downwind-crosswind-final approach method, the British simply turned downwind, then made a slow, continuous curve which aligned the Corsair with the deck only at the last second before the aircraft touched down and trapped. This method allowed the pilot to keep the Landing Signals Officer in view right up to the moment the plane was over the fan-tail where the LSO gave the sign to either "cut" or make another attempt.
There is a misunderstanding on what role the Royal Navy had in carrier training of United States Navy pilots flying the F4U Corsair. It is clear from the accounts of Lieutenant Commander (A) Norman S. Hanson , RNVR that the Royal Navy had not established the preferred landing procedure of the F4U Corsair until December 1943. This was nearly a year, November 1942, after the training of U.S. Navy pilots at NAS San Diego, CA noted a "curving approach" by Boone Guyton and Blackburn. Although the "curving approach" was not specifically mentioned in carrier qualification of squadrons VF-12 and VF-17 it is assumed the "curving approach" was used not only for the F4U Corsair but other aircraft with similar forward visibility issues (* note by Roy T. Lindberg).
To alleviate the problem of oil and hydraulic fluid smearing the windshield, the Brits simply wired shut the cowl flaps across the top of the engine compartment, diverting the oil and hydraulic fluid around the sides of the fuselage. Numerous other simple, effective alterations were devised to alleviate the dreadful stall characteristics, landing bounce and tailhook problems (among others), and these modifications were incorporated into the production line. In 1944 the US Navy decided to again try landing the F4U on carriers, and this time succeeded. It turned out to be an extremely wise decision.
As the nature of the war changed, the Corsair also changed. There were seven different dash numbers, some built exclusively for foreign countries (the F4U-7 for the French Aeronavale) and one was never built at all (the F4U-6). Some dash numbers had letter suffixes designating different changes in the airframe, weapons or engine. In addition to Vought, the Corsair was built by the Goodyear Aircraft Company, with a lesser production run by Brewster Aeronautical Corporation.
There were also night fighter versions (designated by the suffix letter "N"), and photo versions (with the suffix "P"). The Corsair underwent over 950 major engineering changes over is lifetime though none changed the distinctive profile of the F4U. Most often, production aircraft were simply pulled off the assembly line and used as test beds. Some of these were designated prototypes with the prefix "X" (such as the "XF4U-3"). By the end of Corsair production 1952, there were 16 separate models on the books.
Several varieties of the Pratt-Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine were used in the Corsair. Some used a water-methanol injection to increase the power for short sprints. This was called "War Emergency" power and had a suffix "W" after the dash number of the engine. During the Korean War, there were modifications to cope with the extreme cold encountered in that theater. These were designated with the suffix "L" (for "Low" [temp]).
In production longer than any other U.S. fighter in World War II (1942-1952) with 12582 built, the Vought F4U "Corsair" had several claims to fame. It was credited with an 11:1 ratio of kills to losses in action against Japanese aircraft and was the last piston-engine fighter in production for any of the U.S. services. Built around a powerful 2000 hp, double-bank radial engine, the distinctive feature of the F4U was the inverted gull-wing that provided less drag in flight, allowed for shorter landing gear to accommodate an oversized propeller and enabled the wings to be folded directly over the canopy with room to spare on the hangar deck. The shorter landing gear permitted rearward retraction which in turn allowed for greater wing-fuel capacity.
Due to inadequate cockpit visibility, adverse stall characteristics at slow approach speeds and a tendency for the tail-hook to not engage due to aircraft bounce when it hit the carrier deck, the F4U was restricted from carrier operations until late 1944. In the interim, Marine Corps and some Navy squadrons were actively engaged in Pacific combat operations beginning in early 1943 from land-based island locations. One Marine Corps squadron was credited with downing 135 aircraft over an eighteen month period and produced ten aces. One Marine pilot went so far as to down an enemy aircraft with his propellor.
The famous Marine Corps "Black Sheep" squadron led by Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington accumulated ninety-seven aerial victories over a twelve week period with "Pappy" accounting for twenty-two of them including five on one mission. These WW II kills by Boyington were in addition to six others accumulated earlier while serving with the Flying Tigers in China.
One Navy fighter squadron (VF-17) known as the "Jolly Rogers" shot down 154 Japanese aircraft over a seventy-six day period including sixty in one five-day period.
The "Corsair" which was also produced by Goodyear as the FG and Brewster as the F3A-1D ended the war with 2140 enemy aircraft destroyed with a loss of only 538 to enemy fire. The "Corsair" also saw combat service during the Korean War in support operations.
The prototype XF4U-1 first flew with Lyman A. Bullard at the controls and had a speed of 405 m.p.h. During its fifth test flight, on May 20, 1940, the XF4U-1 prototype crashed and flipped over on a golf course in Norwich Connecticut. Had the crash been much more severe or had the Corsair's airframe not been so rugged, this event could have ended the development and production of two of aviation history's most successful fighter designs.
At that time, the U. S. Army Air Corps had decided that all of its future fighters would be powered by inline engines that afforded a more sleek aerodynamic design. It became the first fighter to exceed 400 miles-per-hour in level flight. This could hardly be ignored by the Army.
But as the first production F4U-1's entered service, there were more problems to overcome and success was not immediate. The Corsair had been designed as a carrier-based fighter, but initial carrier qualifications had revealed a number of problems that were severe enough that the Navy restricted the aircraft from carrier operations until they could be solved. The port wing tended to stall before the right when flying a carrier approach, and the stift landing gear caused a bounce that often flipped the plane over the barriers on the flight deck.
As a result, the Corsair was initially assigned to land based Marine and Navy squadrons, although the British modified landing procedures enough to begin using their Corsairs on carriers right away. The desperate situation in the islands of the southwest Pacific demanded a fighter that could meet the Japanese on better terms.
By early 1943, Corsairs were being received by the eager pilots in squadrons that were being shipped to the Pacific theater. At Guadalcanal and elsewhere, these pilots began to achieve huge successes. VF-17 became the most successtul Navy fighter squadron of all time. In the hands of these Navy and Marine pilots, the Corsair racked up an impressive 11.3 to 1 air-to-air kill ratio. The Corsair excelled in its intended mission as an air-to-air fighter.
But as the war progressed, the Corsair's capabilities as a fighter-bomber were continually improved. With the F4U-1 A, a centerline bomb rack was fitted that could carry a single bomb weighing up to 1,000 pounds. Two additional pylons were added under the center wing section on the F4U-1 C and F4U-1 D. During production of these two variants, the capability to carry eight 5-inch rockets under the outer wing sections was also added.
The change in role trom fighter to fighter-bomber happened tor two reasons. First, there was a need tor more aircraft to attack the enemy on the ground, and the large powerful Corsair had the capability for being a very successful fighter-bomber. Second, as the war continued, there was less and less air opposition from the Japanese. So the tactical situation dictated that the Corsair, as weIl as other fighters, would be increasingly used to attack targets on the ground rather than those in the air. While the Corsair continued to be a very successful air-to-air fighter throughout World War II, a greater percentage of missions were flown against ground targets during the final year of the war .
By the second half of 1944, the problems associated with carrier landings had been solved and Corsairs were being assigned to fleet carriers in ever increasing numbers.
The final Corsair variant to see action in World War II was the F4U-4. It was powered by an R-2800-18W engine, although the R-2800-42W was later instalIed. The F4U-4 also had a completely redesigned cockpit interior which had a floor and tuIl consoles on each side. In today's terminology, the cockpit design was more ergonomic than found in the floorless cockpits of the "dash 1 " Corsairs. Otherwise, the F4U-4 was essentially the same as the F4U-1 D. F4U-4's reached the combat areas during the final months of World War II and they served with both Navy and Marine squadrons.
In September 1945 the war ended and the United States cancelled many military contracts. Those that survived were slashed. Brewster had failed the year before and was no longer involved in the production Corsairs, but Goodyear had just begun producing their equivalent of the F4U-4 which was designated the FG-4. Production was halted and the dozen or so aircraft that had been completed by Goodyear were scrapped. Vought was allowed to proceed with the F4U-4, but the number of aircraft on order was significantly reduced.
In the years immediately following World War II, the development of jet engines continued at a tast pace and this meant that the days of propeller-driven fighters were coming to a close. The Navy realized that for some time to come, aircraft with piston engines would remain very effective tor ground attack work.The capability of the Corsair to serve in ground attack roles is what allowed it to remain in production until 1953 and in service for several years.
The first Corsair variant to be developed and produced in the post-war years was the F4U-5. The changes and improvements on this version we re more radical and significant than between any two successive variants that had come before. A much more powerful engine was instalIed. Machine gun armament was deleted once and for all and four 20-mm cannons became the standard for this and all subsequent Corsair variants. Cowl fiaps, the oil cooler doors and the intercooler dump flap were all automatically controlled. The trim tabs were electrically operated. The fabric covering on the wings was replaced with a metal skin, and this reduced drag. The canopy was changed to a blown design that afforded better visibility, particularly to the rear .
When the "dash 5" series of Corsairs were produced, there was still some belief and intention that they would serve in the conventional air-to-air role to some extent. In fact, most of the Corsairs in the 5- series were F4U-5N and F4U-5NL night fighters, and while they would be used to some degree in this role during the Korean War, even these would actually fly more missions attacking targets on the ground along with standard F4U-4, F4U-4B, and F4U-5 fighter-bombers. F4U-5P photo reconnaissance Corsairs were also produced.
When the Korean War began, the Corsair was the most numerous fighter-bomber in the Navy, Naval Reserve and Marine inventories. Within a few days after the commu nists invaded, Corsairs were flying missions from aircraft carriers flying off the Korean coast. Corsairs operated from Japan were also deployed to bases in Korean. They would continue to serve in combat until the hostilities ceased in July 1953.
Lt. Guy Bordelon became the Navy's only ace during the Korean War, and he did so flying F4U-5Ns at night. Marine Captain Jesse Folmar shot down a MiG-15 while flying an F4U-4B.
LTJG Thomas Hudner, also flying an F4U, was awarded the Medal of Honor for landing under hostile fire, in enemy terrain, to attempt a valiant but unsuccessful effort to rescue the pilot who could not be extricated from his damaged cockpit following a forced landing.
The overwhelming majority of missions were flown against ground targets. The days when the Corsair would rack up impressive kill ratios over enemy aircraft were now only a part of history, its service in another role was just as significant and valuable in a different war in a different place at a later time.
The final variant produced for U.S. forces exemplifies the end of the progression from air superiority fighter to attack aircraft that the Corsar experienced over its operational service. Originally called the XF4U-6, the designation was changed to AU-1 to indicate the dedicated ground attack role for the aircraft. Fitted with additional armor plating to protect its undersides from ground fire, and equipped with an engine optimized for low level operations, there was no longer any pretense that this Corsair was a fighter in the contemporary sense of the word. Extra hardpoints were added under its wings so that every ounce of ordnance the aircraft was capable of lifting could be delivered to the enemy.
The final ninety-four Corsairs to roll off the assembly line were produced exclusively for the French Navy (Aeronavale). These were supplied under the Military Assistance Program (MAP), and deliveries were made in the second half of 1952 and early 1953. On January 31, 1953, F4U- 7, BuNo. 133832, became the last Corsair to be completed, thus ending production almost thirteen years after the crash of the XF4U-1 prototype which almost ended the program before it began.
After being phased out of service with the U. S. Navy and Marines, F4U- 7 and a few AU-1 remained operational with the French until 1964. Several F4U-4 , F4U- 5N, and F4U-5NL were acquired by Honduras, and Argentina received F4U-5, F4U-5N, and F4U- 5NL Corsairs. In 1969, Corsairs flown by EI Salvador and Honduras engaged each other in aerial combat, and the last aerial victory scored by a Corsair was against another Corsair. This marked an interesting end to the military service of the aircraft. EI Salvador flew the last known Corsair mission by a foreign nation in 1971.
For many vears after their military service, Corsairs were among the most popular racing plane. Some were little changed from their military configurations except for the often colorful paint schemes that were applied to them. Others received physical modifications to lessen weight, enhance streamlining, and improve speed and performance in unlimited air racing. Most popular of these were the F2Gs.
Today, a few Corsairs still exist. A few are not much more than hulks that are being rebuilt. Some are very accurately restored in museums, and still others are privately owned and flown at air shows and demonstrations. While the majority of remaining Corsairs are later aircraft that were built af ter World War II, aviation enthusiasts can rejoice in the knowledge that a few World War II Corsairs still exist and are being preserved for future generations.
STORY OF CORSAIR OPERATIONS
Designed in 1938 and flown in 1940, Corsairs first tasted combat at Guadalcanal. It was at the &ldquoCanal&rdquo that Corsairs definitely established their aerial superiority over the vaunted Japanese Zero a highly maneuverable aircraft that had previously outperformed all U.S. fighters. The Corsairs were the first American fighters to top 400 miles per hour, and the first to house a 2000 horsepower engine, making the gull-wing Corsairs the toughest foe faced by enemy pilots. Interrogation of high Japanese brass at the end of the war disclosed the fact that they considered the Corsair the top fighter in use by any service in the Pacific.After spending most of 1944 in clean-up actions in the South and Central Pacific (during which time the Corsair came into its own as a dive bomber, attack plane and night fighter), the F4U&rsquos now were with Task Force 38, and destined to become the world&rsquos No. 1 carrier-based fighter.
On March 4, 1944, the Corsair performed its first mission as a dive bomber in an attack on Mille island, Mille Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.
During the 7 weeks following this baptism as a fighter-bomber, Corsairs dumped more than 200000 pounds of bombs on Japanese installations in the Marshalls.
British pilots used their Corsairs as bombers in the attacks on Java in April 1944. Scarcity of enemy air operation was the main reason for the F4U&rsquos use as a bomber in 1944.
On May 16, 1944, a Navy evaluation board, after a series of comprehensive comparisons between the F6F-3 Hellcat and F4U-1D, opined: &ldquoIt is the opinion of the board that generally the F4U is a better fighter, a better bomber and equally suitable carrier airplane as compared with the F6F and it is strongly recommended that the carrier fighter and/or bomber complements be shifted to the F4U type.&rdquo
The Corsairs closed out 1944 by going aboard the fast carriers with both Navy and Marine pilots assigned to fly them. Assignment to shipboard duty was the year&rsquos supreme accomplishment for the F4U&rsquos. It came none too soon as the Japanese were threatening the entire U.S. Fleet with kamikaze attacks, and their fighters were getting better and faster.
As a result of the growing kamikaze tide, VMF-124, the first Marine squadron to take Corsairs into combat, also became the first to operate from a carrier.
The Pacific Fleet high command, in a conference at Pearl Harbor on November 24-26, 1944, expressed much alarm at the kamikaze peril. A decision was made to increase the number of fighters aboard carriers to meet the menace. To accomplish this as an interim measure, the Navy called upon the Marines and their Corsairs. The final year of the war, 1945, was to see shipboard Corsairs venture into the China Sea, performing combat sorties over Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines, Formosa, and Tokyo.
From Guadalcanal, spearheading the drive toward Tokyo, Corsairs took part in nearly every major campaign in the Pacific. Operating from island bases and Navy flattops, Corsairs in the Pacific fought in the skies over the Solomons, Rabaul, the Carolines, Peleliu, the Marshalls, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japan.
Known to the Japanese as &ldquowhistling death&rdquo, and to its Marine pilots as the &ldquoSweetheart of Okinawa,&rdquo the Corsair also made aerial history in areas other than the Pacific, among them, the Indian Ocean and North Sea.
Corsairs were flown in combat by the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Royal Navy and New Zealand Air Force.
The name &ldquoCorsair&rdquo became synonymous with the names of Marine and Navy aces including Lt. Col. Gregory (Pappy) Boyington, Lt. Ken Walsh, Lt. Bob Hansen, CDR. Tommy Blackburn, Lt. Ira (Ike) Kepford, and a host of others.
The most famous pilot to take the Corsair into action was Col. Charles A. Lindbergh. In one attack on Wotje Atoll, he took off in a Corsair with a bomb load of 4000 pounds, the heaviest load ever carried up to that time by a single-engine fighter.
In the course of shooting down 2140 enemy aircraft, only 189 Corsairs were lost in combat, a ratio of better than 11 to one.
From February 13, 1942, when a handful of Corsairs first engaged the Japanese at Guadalcanal, until V-J Day, Corsairs carried out a total of 64,051 action sorties. Of this total, 54470 were flown from land bases and 9,581 from the decks of aircraft carriers.
Marine Pilots led the Corsair onslaught. Operating from island airstrips, they shot down 1400 enemy planes. Of that number, 1100 were fighters and 300 bombers. Marine air losses were 141 Corsairs shot down.
A small number of U.S. Navy Corsairs accounted for 162 enemy planes with a loss of 14 of their own, giving a final tally of 1562 enemy planes destroyed by land-based Corsairs.
Later, after being assigned to aircraft carriers, Corsairs shot down 578 enemy planes with a loss of only 34 F4U&rsquos in air combat. Although the first landing of a Corsair aboard a carrier took place September 25, 1942, the Navy did not begin carrier operations with the planes until late 1944. The first Marine Air Group, MASG-48, was assigned its first carrier, USS Block Island on February 4, 1945. A Marine Squadron, VMF 124, however, began operating from the USS Essex December 28, 1944.
One Corsair was the only airplane ever to receive an official citation. Corsair 122, operating with the Marine Devildogs squadron, was cited as follows , by the end of the Okinawa campaign, nearly every carrier the Navy had was equipped with Corsairs, and the way was indicated for the years that lay ahead.
In the final year of the war, 3575 Corsairs were produced, 2046 by Chance Vought Aircraft, 1529 by Goodyear.
After the war, F4U Corsairs continued flying with several air forces, and became the final piston engine fighters built in the United States . When the Korean War started in 1950, Corsairs were again used by the US Marines for ground attack. April 1954 : The LAST active F4U "Corsair", leaves the Miami Opa-locka Marine Corps base. Col. Richard A. Beard Jr., Commanding Officer of Marine Air Group 31, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and other officers turned out to see pilot Lieutenant David Teichmann depart.
The last of the Marine Corps active Corsairs was flown from Miami to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, for service in a reserve squadron. The Navy Department announced in January, 1953, that it was accepting delivery of the last of the propeller-driven fighters, and the old planes now have been replaced by jets.
Other F4U were supplied to the French Navy, in Indochina , remained in service until 1964. F4U continued to serve in Honduras , El Salvador and Argentina . Not until the mid-seventies did the last South American country finally withdraw the type from service.
For 13 years (1940 through 1952), F4U Corsairs were produced for the U.S. Navy. The last of the Corsairs (the F4U-7) was delivered to the French Navy early in 1952, making it the last piston-engined fighter to be built in the United States. When the last Corsair rolled off the production line it had the number 12571. Never before had a fighter enjoyed such a long production life. Nor was the Corsair&rsquos glory all of battle origin. Commander Cook Cleland, USNR, flying the Vought-designed airplane as a civilian, captured the Thompson Trophy event in 1947 and again in 1949 with average speeds of 396 and 397 miles an hour over closed courses.The Corsair thus completed the cycle: from fighter to dive-bomber, to fighter-bomber, to attack plane, and back to fighter.
French Corsairs F4U - History
The 25 Juin 1950 began the Korean war . At 4 o'clock in the morning, the north-Korean infantry, supported by tanks of Soviet origin, crossed the 38 parallel to invade the Republic of Korea . The Security Council of the O.N.U. invited all the nations members at once to link itself to push back the attack, men of all nationalities were committed in a hard combat on the Korean ground.
The Corsair was put again at contribution and more particularly employed in missions of support. It constituted an excellent gun platform and its capacities of carrying were very significant. It is during this conflict that appeared the corsair version AU-1 (ex F4U-6) specialized in the attack on the ground. Armed with four guns of 20 mm Hispano m2, the AU-1 could carry bombs, 127 mm or 298mm "Tiny Tim" rockets or napalm.
During the first ten months of the Korean conflict, Corsairs ensured 82% of the missions of support. Their role decreased with the appearance of new types of materials. However, they remained incomparable for the night hunting until the appearance of the "Tigercat" and the "Skynight".
The air operations engaged by US Navy in Korea at the time of this major conflict concerned eleven assault carriers : U.S.S. " Valley Forges ", " Lake Champlain ", " Philippine Sea ", " Oriskaky ", " Leyte ", " Kearsage ", " Boxer ", " Antietam ", " Princeton ", " Essex ", " Good Richard man ", three escort carriers : U.S.S. " Sicily ", " Bairoko " and " Badoeng Strait ", and a light aircraft carrier : U.S.S. " Bataan ".
The United Kingdom had sent aircraft carriers HMS " Glory ", (sistership of the " Colossus " acquired by the National Navy in 1946 and renamed " Arromanches ") and HMS" Triumph "(which was the first and only in Korean water as of June 1950)," Theseus "and" Ocean "accompanied by Unicorn (workshop and transport of aviation)
Australia had sent the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. " Sydney "..
France, in war in Indo-China, had engaged one building in the armada of UNO from July to December 1950: the escort ship " Grandière ", a colonial sloop of 2.900 tons, which took part in the fleet of the UNO with the decisive operation decided by the Douglas General Mc Arthur in Inchon , then in Wonsan.
Chance Vought Corsairs of the Fleet Air Arm - History
Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsair
Single-engine Single-seat Gull-wing Night Fighter, USA
Archive Photos 1
[Vought F4U-5NL &ldquoCorsair&rdquo (BuNo 124486) c.1989 on display during the Northrop 50 'N Flying Family Day and Airshow, Palmdale, California (10/1/1989) (photo © 1989 John Shupek)]
Chance Vought F4U Series Overview 2
- Chance Vought F4U-5N Corsair
- Role: Carrier-based fighter-bomber
- National origin: United States
- Manufacturer: Chance Vought
- First flight: 29 May 1940
- Introduction: 28 December 1942
- Retired: 1953 (United States) 1979 (Honduras)
- Primary users: United States Navy United States Marine Corps Royal Navy Royal New Zealand Air Force
- Produced: 1942-53
- Number built: 12,571
Variants &mdash Brewster and Goodyear Corsairs 2
The Vought F4U Corsair is an American fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942-53). The Corsair was designed as a carrier-based aircraft, but it came to and retained prominence in its area of greatest deployment: land based use by the U.S. Marines. Due to logistics issues and initial problems with carrier landings, the role of the dominant U.S. carrier based fighter aircraft was thus filled by the Grumman F6F Hellcat, powered by the same Double Wasp engine first flown on the Corsair's first prototype in 1940. The Corsair also served in the U.S. Navy. In addition to its use by the U.S. and British, the Corsair was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, French Naval Aviation, and other air forces until the 1960s. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair. When the Corsair entered service in large numbers with the U.S. Navy in late 1944 and early 1945, it quickly became one of the most capable carrier-based fighter-bombers of World War II. The Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.
In February 1938 the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. For the single-engined fighter the Navy requested the maximum obtainable speed, and a stalling speed not higher than 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). A range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) was specified. The fighter had to carry four guns, or three with increased ammunition. Provision had to be made for anti-aircraft bombs to be carried in the wing. These small bombs would, according to thinking in the 1930s, be dropped on enemy aircraft formations.
In June 1938, the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Vought for a prototype bearing the factory designation V-166B, the XF4U-1, BuNo 1443. The Corsair design team was led by Rex Beisel. After mock-up inspection in February 1939, construction of the XF4U-1 powered by an XR-2800-4 prototype of the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp twin-row, 18-cylinder radial engine, rated at 1,805 hp (1,346 kW) went ahead quickly, as the very first airframe ever designed from the start to have a Double Wasp engine fitted for flight. When the prototype was completed it had the biggest and most powerful engine, largest propeller and probably the largest wing on any naval fighter to date. The first flight of the XF4U-1 was made on 29 May 1940, with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter.
On 1 October 1940, the XF4U-1 became the first single-engine U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph (640 km/h) by flying at an average ground speed of 405 miles per hour (652 km/h) from Stratford to Hartford. The USAAC's twin engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning had flown over 400 mph in January-February 1939. The XF4U-1 also had an excellent rate of climb but testing revealed that some requirements would have to be rewritten. In full-power dive tests, speeds of up to 550 miles per hour (890 km/h) were achieved, but not without damage to the control surfaces and access panels and, in one case, an engine failure. The spin recovery standards also had to be relaxed as recovery from the required two-turn spin proved impossible without resorting to an anti-spin chute. The problems clearly meant delays in getting the design into production.
Reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two .30 in (7.62 mm) synchronized engine cowling-mount machine guns, and two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each outer wing panel) was insufficient. The U.S. Navy's November 1940 production proposals specified heavier armament. The increased armament comprised three .50 caliber machine guns mounted in each wing panel. This improvement greatly increased the ability of the Corsair to shoot down enemy aircraft.
Formal U.S. Navy acceptance trials for the XF4U-1 began in February 1941. The Navy entered into a letter of intent on 3 March 1941, received Vought's production proposal on 2 April and awarded Vought a contract for 584 F4U-1 fighters, which were given the name "Corsair" &mdash inherited from the firm's late-1920s Vought O2U naval biplane scout which first bore the name &mdash on 30 June of the same year. The first production F4U-1 performed its initial flight a year later, on 24 June 1942. It was a remarkable achievement for Vought compared to land-based counterparts, carrier aircraft are "overbuilt" and heavier, to withstand the extreme stress of deck landings.
The F4U incorporated the largest engine available at the time, the 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. To extract as much power as possible, a relatively large Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three-blade propeller of 13 feet 4 inches (4.06 m) was used.
Landing Gear and Wings
To accommodate a folding wing the designers considered retracting the main landing gear rearward but, for the chord of wing that was chosen, it was difficult to make the landing gear struts long enough to provide ground clearance for the large propeller. Their solution was an inverted gull wing, which considerably shortened the required length of the struts. The anhedral of the wing's center-section also permitted the wing and fuselage to meet at the optimum angle for minimizing drag, without using wing root fairings. The bent wing, however, was heavier and more difficult to construct, offsetting these benefits.
The Corsair's aerodynamics were an advance over those of contemporary naval fighters. The F4U was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to feature landing gear that retracted into a fully enclosed wheel well. The landing gear oleo struts &mdash each with its own strut door enclosing it when retracted &mdash rotated through 90° during retraction, with the wheel atop the lower end of the strut when retracted. A pair of rectangular doors enclosed each wheel well, leaving a streamlined wing. This swiveling, aft-retracting landing gear design was common to the Curtiss P-40 (and its predecessor, the Curtiss P-36), as adopted for the F4U Corsair's main gear and its erstwhile Pacific War counterpart, the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The oil coolers were mounted in the heavily anhedraled center-section of the wings, alongside the supercharger air intakes, and used openings in the leading edges of the wings, rather than protruding scoops. The large fuselage panels were made of aluminum and were attached to the frames with the newly developed technique of spot welding, thus mostly eliminating the use of rivets. While employing this new technology, the Corsair was also the last American-produced fighter aircraft to feature fabric as the skinning for the top and bottom of each outer wing, aft of the main spar and armament bays, and for the ailerons, elevators and rudder. The elevators were also constructed from plywood. The Corsair, even with its streamlining and high speed abilities, could fly slowly enough for carrier landings with full flap deployment of 60°.
In part because of its advances in technology and a top speed greater than existing Navy aircraft, numerous technical problems had to be solved before the Corsair entered service. Carrier suitability was a major development issue, prompting changes to the main landing gear, tail wheel and tailhook. Early F4U-1s had difficulty recovering from developed spins, since the inverted gull wing's shape interfered with elevator authority. It was also found that the Corsair's right wing could stall and drop rapidly and without warning during slow carrier landings. In addition, if the throttle were suddenly advanced (for example, during an aborted landing) the left wing could stall and drop so quickly that the fighter could flip over with the rapid increase in power. These potentially lethal characteristics were later solved through the addition of a small, 6 in (150 mm)-long stall strip to the leading edge of the outer right wing, just outboard of the gun ports. This allowed the right wing to stall at the same time as the left.
Other problems were encountered during early carrier trials. The combination of an aft cockpit and the Corsair's long nose made landings hazardous for newly trained pilots. During landing approaches, it was found that oil from the opened hydraulically-powered cowl flaps could spatter onto the windscreen, severely reducing visibility, and the undercarriage oleo struts had bad rebound characteristics on landing, allowing the aircraft to bounce down the carrier deck. The first problem was solved by locking the top cowl flaps in front of the windscreen down permanently, then replacing them with a fixed panel. The undercarriage bounce took more time to solve, but eventually a "bleed valve" incorporated in the legs allowed the hydraulic pressure to be released gradually as the aircraft landed. The Corsair was not considered fit for carrier use until the wing stall problems and the deck bounce could be solved.
Meanwhile, the more docile and simpler-to-build F6F Hellcat had begun entering service in its intended carrier-based use. The Navy wanted to standardize on one type of carrier fighter, and the Hellcat, while slower than the Corsair, was considered simpler to land on a carrier by an inexperienced pilot and proved to be successful almost immediately after introduction. The Navy's decision to choose the Hellcat meant that the Corsair was released to the U.S. Marine Corps. With no initial requirement for carrier landings, the Marine Corps deployed the Corsair to devastating effect from land bases. Corsair deployment aboard U.S. carriers was delayed until late 1944, by which time the last of the carrier landing problems, relating to the Corsair's long nose, had been tackled by the British.
Production F4U-1s featured several major modifications from the XF4U-1. A change of armament to six wing-mounted .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns (three in each outer wing panel) and their ammunition (400 rounds for the inner pair, 375 rounds for the outer) meant that the location of the wing fuel tanks had to be changed. In order to keep the fuel tank close to the center of gravity, the only available position was in the forward fuselage, ahead of the cockpit. Accordingly, as a 237 gal (897 L) self-sealing fuel tank replaced the fuselage mounted armament, the cockpit had to be moved back by 32 in (810 mm) and the fuselage lengthened. In addition, 150 lb of armor plate was installed, along with a 1.5 in (38 mm) bullet-proof windscreen which was set internally, behind the curved Plexiglas windscreen. The canopy could be jettisoned in an emergency, and half-elliptical planform transparent panels, much like those of certain models of the Curtiss P-40, were inset into the sides of the fuselage's turtledeck structure behind the pilot's headrest, providing the pilot with a limited rear view over his shoulders. A rectangular Plexiglas panel was inset into the lower center section to allow the pilot to see directly beneath the aircraft and assist with deck landings. The engine used was the more powerful R-2800-8 (B series) Double Wasp which produced 2,000 hp (1,491 kW). On the wings the flaps were changed to a NACA slotted type and the ailerons were increased in span to increase the roll rate, with a consequent reduction in flap span. IFF transponder equipment was fitted in the rear fuselage. These changes increased the Corsair's weight by several hundred pounds.
The performance of the Corsair was superior to most of its contemporaries. The F4U-1 was considerably faster than the Grumman F6F Hellcat and only 13 mph (21 km/h) slower than the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt all three were powered by the R-2800. But while the P-47 achieved its highest speed at 30,020 feet (9,150 m) with the help of an inter-cooled turbocharger, the F4U-1 reached its maximum speed at 19,900 ft (6,100 m), and used a mechanically supercharged engine.
Operational History 2
World War II
Navy testing and release to the U.S. Marine Corps
The U.S. Navy received its first production F4U-1 on 31 July 1942, but getting it into service proved difficult. The framed "birdcage" style canopy provided inadequate visibility for deck taxiing, and the long "hose nose" and nose-up attitude of the Corsair made it difficult to see straight ahead. The enormous torque of the Double Wasp engine also made it a handful for inexperienced pilots if they were forced to bolter. Early Navy pilots called the F4U the "hog", "hosenose" or "bent-wing widow maker".
Carrier qualification trials on the training carrier USS Wolverine and escort carriers USS Core and USS Charger in 1942 found that, despite visibility issues and control sensitivity, the Corsair was "&hellip an excellent carrier type and very easy to land aboard. It is no different than any other airplane." Two Navy units, VF-12 (October 1942) and later VF-17 (April 1943) were equipped with the F4U. By April 1943, VF-12 had successfully completed deck landing qualification.
At the time, the U.S. Navy also had the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which did not have the performance of the F4U, but was a better deck landing aircraft. The Corsair was declared "ready for combat" at the end of 1942, though qualified to operate only from land bases until the last of the carrier qualification issues were worked out. VF-17 went aboard the USS Bunker Hill in late 1943, and the Chief of Naval Operations wanted to equip four air groups with Corsairs by the end of 1943. The Commander, Air Forces, Pacific had a different opinion, stating that "In order to simplify spares problems and also to insure flexibility in carrier operations present practice in the Pacific is to assign all Corsairs to Marines and to equip FightRons [fighter squadrons] on medium and light carriers with Hellcats." VF-12 soon abandoned its aircraft to the Marines. VF-17 kept its Corsairs, but was removed from its carrier, USS Bunker Hill, due to perceived difficulties in supplying parts at sea.
Marine Corps Combat
The Marines needed a better fighter than the F4F Wildcat. For them, it was not as important that the F4U could be recovered aboard a carrier, as they usually flew from land bases. Growing pains aside, Marine Corps squadrons readily took to the radical new fighter.
From February 1943 onward, the F4U operated from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. A dozen USMC F4U-1s of VMF-124, commanded by Major William E. Gise, arrived at Henderson Field (code name "Cactus") on 12 February. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 under Major Gise assisted P-40s and P-38s in escorting a formation of Consolidated B-24 Liberators on a raid against a Japanese aerodrome at Kahili. Japanese fighters contested the raid and the Americans got the worst of it, with four P-38s, two P-40s, two Corsairs and two Liberators lost. No more than four Japanese Zeros were destroyed. A Corsair was responsible for one of the kills, albeit due to a midair collision. The fiasco was referred to as the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre". Despite the debut, the Marines quickly learned how to make better use of the aircraft and started demonstrating its superiority over Japanese fighters. By May, the Corsair units were getting the upper hand, and VMF-124 had produced the first Corsair ace, Second Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, who would rack up a total of 21 kills during the war. He remembered:
&ldquoI learned quickly that altitude was paramount. Whoever had altitude dictated the terms of the battle, and there was nothing a Zero pilot could do to change that &mdash we had him. The F4U could outperform a Zero in every aspect except slow speed maneuverability and slow speed rate of climb. Therefore you avoided getting slow when combating a Zero. It took time but eventually we developed tactics and deployed them very effectively &hellip There were times, however, that I tangled with a Zero at slow speed, one on one. In these instances I considered myself fortunate to survive a battle. Of my 21 victories, 17 were against Zeros, and I lost five aircraft in combat. I was shot down three times and I crashed one that ploughed into the line back at base and wiped out another F4U.&rdquo
VMF-113 was activated on 1 January 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as part of Marine Base Defense Air Group 41. They were soon given their full complement of 24 F4U Corsairs. On 26 March 1944, while escorting four B-25 bombers on a raid over Ponape, they recorded their first enemy kills, downing eight Japanese aircraft. In April of that year, VMF-113 was tasked with providing air support for the landings at Ujelang. Since the assault was unopposed, the squadron quickly returned to striking Japanese targets in the Marshall Islands for the remainder of 1944.
Corsairs were flown by the "Black Sheep" Squadron (VMF-214, led by Marine Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington) in an area of the Solomon Islands called "The Slot". Boyington was credited with 22 kills in F4Us (of 28 total, including six in an AVG P-40, although his score with the AVG has been disputed). Other noted Corsair pilots of the period included VMF-124's Kenneth Walsh, James E. Swett, and Archie Donahue, VMF-215's Robert M. Hanson and Don Aldrich, and VF-17's Tommy Blackburn, Roger Hedrick, and Ira Kepford. Nightfighter versions equipped Navy and Marine units afloat and ashore.
One particularly unusual kill was scored by Marine Lieutenant R. R. Klingman of VMF-312 (the "Checkerboards") over Okinawa. Klingman was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") twin-engine fighter at high altitude when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold. He flew up and chopped off the Ki-45's tail with the big propeller of the Corsair. Despite missing five inches (127 mm) off the end of his propeller blades, he managed to land safely after this aerial ramming attack. He was awarded the Navy Cross.
At war's end, Corsairs were ashore on Okinawa, combating the kamikaze, and also were flying from fleet and escort carriers. VMF-312, VMF-323, VMF-224, and a handful of others met with success in the Battle of Okinawa.
Field modifications for USMC Corsairs
Since Corsairs were being operated from shore bases, while still awaiting approval for U.S. carrier operations, 965 Goodyear FG-1As were built as "land planes" without their hydraulic wing folding mechanisms, hoping to improve performance by reducing aircraft weight, with the added benefit of minimizing complexity. (These Corsairs' wings could still be manually folded.
A second option was to remove the folding mechanism in the field using a kit, which could be done for Vought and Brewster Corsairs as well. On 6 December 1943, the Bureau of Aeronautics issued guidance on weight-reduction measures for the F4U-1, Goodyear FG-1, and Brewster F3A. Corsair squadrons operating from land bases were authorized to remove catapult hooks, arresting hooks, and associated equipment, which eliminated 48 pounds of unnecessary weight. While there are no data to indicate to what extent these modifications where incorporated, there are numerous photos in evidence of USMC Corsairs, of various manufacturers and models, on islands in the Pacific without tailhooks installed.
Corsairs also served well as fighter-bombers in the Central Pacific and the Philippines. By early 1944, Marine pilots were beginning to exploit the type's considerable capabilities in the close-support role in amphibious landings. Charles Lindbergh flew Corsairs with the Marines as a civilian technical advisor for United Aircraft Corporation in order to determine how best to increase the Corsair's payload and range in the attack role and to help evaluate future viability of single-engine versus twin-engine fighter design for Vought. Lindbergh managed to get the F4U into the air with 4,000 pounds (1,800 kg) of bombs, with a 2,000 pounds (910 kg) bomb on the centerline and a 1,000 pounds (450 kg) bomb under each wing. In the course of such experiments, he performed strikes on Japanese positions during the battle for the Marshall Islands.
By the beginning of 1945, the Corsair was a full-blown "mudfighter", performing strikes with high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks, and HVARs. It proved versatile, able to operate everything from Bat glide bombs to 11.75 in (300 mm) Tiny Tim rockets. The aircraft was a prominent participant in the fighting for the Palaus, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In November 1943, while operating as a shore-based unit in the Solomon Islands, VF-17 reinstalled the tail hooks so its F4Us could land and refuel while providing top cover over the task force participating in the carrier raid on Rabaul. The squadron's pilots landed, refueled, and took off from their former home, USS Bunker Hill and USS Essex on 11 November 1943.
Twelve USMC F4U-1s arrived at Henderson Field (Guadalcanal) on 12 February 1943. The U.S. Navy did not get into combat with the type until September 1943. The work done by the Royal Navy's FAA meant those models qualified the type for U.S. carrier operations first. The U.S. Navy finally accepted the F4U for shipboard operations in April 1944, after the longer oleo strut was fitted, which eliminated the tendency to bounce. The first US Corsair unit to be based effectively on a carrier was the pioneer USMC squadron VMF-124, which joined the USS Essex in December 1944. They were accompanied by VMF-213. The increasing need for fighter protection against kamikaze attacks resulted in more Corsair units being moved to carriers.
Sortie, Kill and Loss Figures
U.S. figures compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4Us and Goodyear FGs flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict (44% of total fighter sorties), with only 9,581 sorties (15%) flown from carrier decks. F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1. Against the best Japanese opponents, the aircraft claimed a 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M and 6:1 against the Nakajima Ki-84, Kawanishi N1K-J and Mitsubishi J2M combined during the last year of the war. The Corsair bore the brunt of U.S. fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 short tons (14,171 metric tons) of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by U.S. fighters during the war).
Corsair losses in World War II were as follows
- By aerial combat: 189
- By enemy ground and shipboard anti-aircraft fire: 349
- Operational losses during combat missions: 230
- Operational losses during non-combat flights: 692
- Destroyed aboard ships or on the ground: 164
Enhancement for Carrier Suitability
In the early days of World War II, Royal Navy fighter requirements had been based on cumbersome two-seat designs, such as the Blackburn Skua (and its turreted derivative the Blackburn Roc) and the Fairey Fulmar, since it was expected that they would encounter only long-range bombers or flying boats and that navigation over featureless seas required the assistance of a radio operator/navigator. The Royal Navy hurriedly adopted higher-performance single-seat aircraft such as the Hawker Sea Hurricane and the less robust Supermarine Seafire, but neither aircraft had sufficient range to operate at a distance from a carrier task force. The Corsair was welcomed as a more robust and versatile alternative.
In November 1943, the Royal Navy received its first batch of 95 Vought F4U-1s, which were given the designation of "Corsair I". The first squadrons were assembled and trained on the U.S. East Coast and then shipped across the Atlantic. The Royal Navy put the Corsair into carrier operations immediately. They found its landing characteristics dangerous, suffering a number of fatal crashes, but considered the Corsair to be the best option they had.
In Royal Navy service, because of the limited hangar deck height in several classes of British carrier, many Corsairs had their outer wings "clipped" by 8 in (200 mm) to clear the deckhead. The change in span brought about the added benefit of improving the sink rate, reducing the F4U's propensity to "float" in the final stages of landing. Despite the clipped wings and the shorter decks of British carriers, Royal Navy aviators found landing accidents less of a problem than they had been to U.S. Navy aviators, thanks to the curved approach they used: British units solved the landing visibility problem by approaching the carrier in a medium left-hand turn, which allowed the pilot to keep the carrier's deck in view over the anhedral in the left wing root. This technique was later adopted by U.S. Navy and Marine fliers for carrier use of the Corsair.
The Royal Navy developed a number of modifications to the Corsair that made carrier landings more practical. Among these are a bulged canopy (similar to the Malcolm Hood), raising the pilot's seat 7 in (180 mm) and wiring shut the cowl flaps across the top of the engine compartment, diverting oil and hydraulic fluid spray around the sides of the fuselage.
The Royal Navy initially received 95 "birdcage" F4U-1s from Vought which were designated Corsair Mk.I in Fleet Air Arm service. Next from Vought came 510 "blown-canopy" F4U-1A/-1Ds, which were designated Corsair Mk.II (the final 150 equivalent to the F4U-1D, but not separately designated in British use). 430 Brewster Corsairs (334 F3A-1 and 96 F3A-1D), more than half of Brewster's total production, were delivered to Britain as the Corsair Mk.III. 857 Goodyear Corsairs (400 FG-1/-1A and 457 FG-1D) were delivered and designated Corsair Mk.IV. The Mk.IIs and Mk.IVs were the only versions to be used in combat.
The Royal Navy cleared the F4U for carrier operations well before the U.S. Navy and showed that the Corsair Mk.II could be operated with reasonable success even from escort carriers. It was not without problems one was excessive wear of the arrester wires, due both to the weight of the Corsair and the understandable tendency of the pilots to stay well above the stalling speed. A total of 2,012 Corsairs were supplied to the United Kingdom.
Fleet Air Arm (FAA) units were created and equipped in the United States, at Quonset Point or Brunswick and then shipped to war theaters aboard escort carriers. The first FAA Corsair unit was 1830 NAS, created on the first of June 1943, and soon operating from HMS Illustrious. At the end of the war, 18 FAA squadrons were operating the Corsair. British Corsairs served both in Europe and in the Pacific. The first, and also most important, European operations were the series of attacks (Operation Tungsten) in April, July and August 1944 on the German battleship Tirpitz, for which Corsairs from HMS Victorious and HMS Formidable provided fighter cover. It appears the Corsairs did not encounter aerial opposition on these raids.
From April 1944, Corsairs from the British Pacific Fleet took part in a several major air raids in South East Asia beginning with Operation Cockpit, an attack on Japanese targets at Sabang island, in the Dutch East Indies.
In July and August 1945, Corsair naval squadrons 1834, 1836, 1841 and 1842 took part in a series of strikes on the Japanese mainland, near Tokyo. These squadrons operated from HMS Victorious and HMS Formidable. On 9 August 1945, days before the end of the war, Corsairs from HMS Formidable attacked Shiogama harbor on the northeast coast of Japan. Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve pilot, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, of 1841 Squadron was hit by flak but pressed home his attack on a Japanese destroyer, sinking it with a 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb but crashing into the sea. He was posthumously awarded Canada's last Victoria Cross, becoming the second fighter pilot of the war to earn a Victoria Cross as well as the final Canadian casualty of World War II.
FAA Corsairs originally fought in a camouflage scheme with a Dark Slate Grey/Extra Dark Sea Grey disruptive pattern on top and Sky undersides, but were later painted overall dark blue. As it had become imperative for all Allied aircraft in the Pacific Theater of World War II to abandon all use of any "red devices" in their national insignia &mdash to prevent any chance of misidentification with Japanese military aircraft, all of which bore the circular, all-red Hinomaru insignia (nicknamed a "meatball" by Allied aircrew) that is still in use to this day, the United States removed all areas of red color (specifically removing the red center to the roundel) and removed any sort of national fin/rudder markings, which at that time had seven horizontal red stripes, from the American national aircraft insignia scheme by May 6, 1942. The British did likewise, starting with a simple paintover with white paint, of their "Type C" roundel's red center, at about the time the U.S. Navy removed the red-center from their roundel. Later, a shade of slate gray center color replaced the white color on the earlier roundel. When the Americans starting using the added white bars to either side of their blue/white star roundel on June 28, 1943 SEAC British Corsairs, most all of which still used the earlier blue/white Type C roundel with the red center removed, added similar white bars to either side of their blue-white roundels to emulate the Americans.
In all, out of 18 carrier-based squadrons, eight saw combat, flying intensive ground attack/interdiction operations and claiming 47.5 aircraft shot down.
At the end of World War II, under the terms of the Lend-Lease agreement, the aircraft had to be paid for or to be returned to the U.S. As the UK did not have the means to pay for them, the Royal Navy Corsairs were pushed overboard into the sea in Moreton Bay off Brisbane, Australia.
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Equipped with obsolete Curtiss P-40s, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) squadrons in the South Pacific performed impressively, in particular in the air-to-air role. The American government accordingly decided to give New Zealand early access to the Corsair, especially as it was not initially being used from carriers. Some 424 Corsairs equipped 13 RNZAF squadrons, including No. 14 Squadron RNZAF and No. 15 Squadron RNZAF, replacing Douglas SBD Dauntlesses as well as Curtiss P-40s. Most of the F4U-1 Corsairs were assembled by Unit 60 with a further batch assembled and flown at RNZAF Hobsonville. In total there were 336 F4U-1s and 41 F4U-1Ds used by the RNZAF during the Second World War. Sixty FG-1Ds arrived late in the war.
The first deliveries of lend-lease Corsairs began in March 1944 with the arrival of 30 F4U-1s at the RNZAF Base Depot Workshops (Unit 60) on the island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. From April, these workshops became responsible for assembling all Corsairs for the RNZAF units operating the aircraft in the South West Pacific and a Test and Despatch flight was set up to test the aircraft after assembly. By June 1944, 100 Corsairs had been assembled and test flown. The first squadrons to use the Corsair were 20 and 21 Squadrons on Espiritu Santo, operational in May 1944. The organization of the RNZAF in the Pacific and New Zealand meant that only the pilots and a small staff belonged to each squadron (the maximum strength on a squadron was 27 pilots): squadrons were assigned to several Servicing Units (SUs, composed of 5-6 officers, 57 NCOs, 212 airmen) which carried out aircraft maintenance and operated from fixed locations: hence F4U-1 NZ5313 was first used by 20 Squadron/1 SU on Guadalcanal in May 1944 20 Squadron was then relocated to 2 SU on Bougainville in November. In all there were ten front line SUs plus another three based in New Zealand. Because each of the SUs painted its aircraft with distinctive markings and the aircraft themselves could be repainted in several different color schemes, the RNZAF Corsairs were far less uniform in appearance than their American and FAA contemporaries. By late 1944, the F4U had equipped all ten Pacific-based fighter squadrons of the RNZAF.
By the time the Corsairs arrived, there were very few Japanese aircraft left in New Zealand's allocated sectors of the Southern Pacific, and despite the RNZAF squadrons extending their operations to more northern islands, they were primarily used for close support of American, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers fighting the Japanese. At the end of 1945, all Corsair squadrons but one (No. 14) were disbanded. That last squadron was based in Japan, until the Corsair was retired from service in 1947.
No. 14 Squadron was given new Goodyear FG-1Ds and in March 1946 transferred to Iwakuni, Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Only one airworthy example of the 437 aircraft procured survives: Goodyear FG-1D NZ5648/ZK-COR, owned by the Old Stick and Rudder Company at Masterton, NZ.
On 18 July 1944, a British Corsair F4U-1A, JT404 of 1841 Naval Air Squadron, was involved in anti-submarine patrol from HMS Formidable en route to Scapa Flow after the Operation Mascot attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. It flew in company with a Fairey Barracuda. Due to technical problems the Corsair made an emergency landing in a field on Hamarøy north of Bodø, Norway. The pilot, Lt. Mattholie, was taken prisoner and the aircraft captured undamaged. Luftwaffe interrogators failed to get the pilot to explain how to fold the wings so as to transport the aircraft to Narvik. The Corsair was ferried by boat for further investigation. Later the Corsair was taken to Germany and listed as one of the captured enemy aircraft (Beuteflugzeug) based at Erprobungsstelle Rechlin, the central German military aviation test facility and the equivalent of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, for 1944 under repair. This was probably the only Corsair captured by the Germans.
In 1945, U.S. forces captured an F4U Corsair near the Kasumigaura flight school. The Japanese had repaired it, covering damaged parts on the wing with fabric and using spare parts from crashed F4Us. It seems Japan captured two force-landed Corsairs fairly late in the war and may have even tested one in flight.
During the Korean War, the Corsair was used mostly in the close-support role. The AU-1 Corsair was developed from the F4U-5 and was a ground-attack version which normally operated at low altitudes: as a consequence the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83W engine used a single-stage, manually controlled supercharger, rather than the two-stage automatic supercharger of the F4U-5. The versions of the Corsair used in Korea from 1950 to 1953 were the AU-1, F4U-4B, F4U-4P and F4U-5N and F4U-5NL. There were dogfights between F4Us and Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters early in the war, but when the enemy introduced the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, the Corsair was out matched. On 10 September 1952, a MiG-15 made the mistake of getting into a turning contest with a Corsair piloted by Marine pilot Captain Jesse G. Folmar, with Folmar shooting the MiG-15 down with his four 20 mm cannon. In turn, four MiG-15s shot down Folmar minutes later Folmar bailed out and was quickly rescued with little injury.
F4U-5N and F4U-5NL Corsair night fighters were used to attack enemy supply lines, including truck convoys and trains, as well as interdicting night attack aircraft such as the Polikarpov Po-2 "Bedcheck Charlies", which were used to harass United Nations forces at night. The F4Us often operated with the help of C-47 'flare ships' which dropped hundreds of 1,000,000 candlepower magnesium flares to illuminate the targets. For many operations detachments of U.S. Navy F4U-5Ns were posted to shore bases. The leader of one such unit, Lieutenant Guy Bordelon of VC-3 Det D (Detachment D), off USS Princeton, become the Navy's only ace in the war, in addition to being the only American ace in Korea that used a piston engined aircraft. Bordelon, nicknamed "Lucky Pierre", was credited with three Lavochkin La-9s or La-11s and two Yakovlev Yak-18s between 29 June and 16/17 July 1952. Navy and Marine Corsairs were credited with a total of 12 enemy aircraft.
More generally, Corsairs performed attacks with cannons, napalm tanks, various iron bombs and unguided rockets. The 5 inch HVAR was a reliable standby sturdy Soviet-built armor proved resistant to the HVAR's punch, which led to a new 6.5 in (16.5 cm) shaped charge antitank warhead being developed. The result was called the "Anti-Tank Aircraft Rocket (ATAR)." The 11 inch (29.85 cm) "Tiny Tim" was also used in combat, with two under the belly.
Lieutenant Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., flying an F4U-4 of VF-32 off the USS Leyte, was awarded the Medal of Honor for crash landing his Corsair in an attempt to rescue his squadron mate, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, whose aircraft had been forced down by antiaircraft fire near Changjin. Brown, who did not survive the incident, was the U.S. Navy's first African American naval aviator.
After the war, the French Navy had an urgent requirement for a powerful carrier-born close-air support aircraft to operate from the French Navy's four aircraft carriers that it acquired in the late 1940s (Two former U.S. Navy and two Royal Navy carriers were transferred). Secondhand US Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers of Flotille 3F and 4F were used to attack enemy targets and support ground forces in the north of Indo-China. Former US Grumman F6F-5 Hellcats and Curtiss SB2C Helldivers were also used for close air support. A new and more capable aircraft was needed.
First Indochina War
The last production Corsair was the F4U-7, which was built specifically for the French naval air arm, the Aéronavale. The XF4U-7 prototype did its test flight on 2 July 1952 with a total of 94 F4U-7s built for the French Navy's Aéronavale (79 in 1952, 15 in 1953), with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out on 31 January 1953. The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the U.S. Navy and passed on to the Aéronavale through the U.S. Military Assistance Program (MAP). The French Navy used its F4U-7s during the second half of the First Indochina War in the 1950s (12.F, 14.F, 15.F Flotillas), where they were supplemented by at least 25 ex-USMC AU-1s passed on to the French in 1954, after the end of the Korean War.
On 15 January 1953, Flotille 14F, based at Karouba Air Base near Bizerte in Tunisia, became the first Aéronavale unit to receive the F4U-7 Corsair. Flotille 14F pilots arrived at Da Nang on 17 April 1954, but without their aircraft. The next day, the carrier USS Saipan delivered 25 war-weary ground attack Ex-USMC AU-1 Corsairs (flown by VMA-212 at the end of the Korean War). During three months operating over Dien Bien Phu and Viêt-Nam, the Corsairs flew 959 combat sorties totaling 1,335 flight hours. They dropped some 700 tons of bombs and fired more than 300 rockets and 70,000 20 mm rounds. Six aircraft were damaged and two shot down by Viet Minh.
In September 1954, F4U-7 Corsairs were loaded aboard Dixmude and brought back to France in November. The surviving Ex-USMC AU-1s were taken to the Philippines and returned to the U.S. Navy. In 1956, Flotille 15F returned to South Vietnam, equipped with F4U-7 Corsairs.
The 14.F and 15.F Flotillas also took part in the Anglo-French-Israeli seizure of the Suez Canal in October 1956, code-named Operation Musketeer. The Corsairs were painted with yellow and black recognition stripes for this operation. They were tasked with destroying Egyptian Navy ships at Alexandria but the presence of U.S. Navy ships prevented the successful completion of the mission. On 3 November, 16 F4U-7s attacked airfields in the Delta, with one corsair shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Two more Corsairs were damaged when landing back on the carriers. The Corsairs engaged in Operation Musketeer dropped a total of 25 tons of bombs, fired more than 500 rockets and 16,000 20 mm rounds.
As soon as they disembarked from the carriers that took part in Operation Musketeer, at the end of 1956, all three Corsair Flotillas, moved to Telergma and Oran airfields in Algeria from where they provided CAS and helicopter escort. They were joined by the new "Flottille 17F", established at Hyères in April 1958.
French F4U-7 Corsairs (with some loaned AU-1s) of the 12F, 14F, 15F and 17F Flotillas conducted missions during the Algerian War between 1955 and 1962. Between February and March 1958, several strikes and CAS missions were launched from Bois Belleau, the only carrier involved in the Algeria War.
France recognized Tunisian independence and sovereignty in 1956 but continued to station military forces at Bizerte and planned to extend the airbase. In 1961, Tunisia asked France to evacuate the base. Tunisia imposed a blockade on the base on 17 July, hoping to force its evacuation. This resulted in a battle between militiamen and the French military which lasted three days. French paratroopers, escorted by Corsairs of the 12F and 17F Flotillas, were dropped to reinforce the base and the Aéronavale launched air strikes on Tunisian troops and vehicles between 19-21 July, carrying out more than 150 sorties. Three Corsairs were damaged by ground fire.
In early 1959, the Aéronavale experimented with the Vietnam War-era SS.11 wire-guided anti-tank missile on F4U-7 Corsairs. The 12.F pilots trained for this experimental program were required to "fly" the missile at approximately two kilometers from the target on low altitude with a joystick using the right hand while keeping track of a flare on its tail, and piloting the aircraft using the left hand an exercise that could be very tricky in a single-seat aircraft under combat conditions. Despite reportedly effective results during the tests, this armament was not used with Corsairs during the ongoing Algerian War.
The Aéronavale used 163 Corsairs (94 F4U-7s and 69 AU-1s), the last of them used by the Cuers-based 14.F Flotilla were out of service by September 1964, with some surviving for museum display or as civilian warbirds. By the early 1960s, two new modern aircraft carriers, Clemenceau and Foch, had entered service with the French Navy and with them a new generation of jet-powered combat aircraft.
Corsairs flew their final combat missions in 1969 during the so-called "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador, in service with both air forces.
The conflict was allegedly triggered, though not really caused, by a disagreement over a football (soccer) match. Captain Fernando Soto of the Honduran Air Force shot down three Salvadoran Air Force aircraft on 17 July 1969. In the morning he shot down a Cavalier Mustang, killing the pilot. In the afternoon, he shot down two FG-1s the pilot of the second aircraft may have bailed out, but the third exploded in the air, killing the pilot. These combats were the last ones among propeller-driven aircraft in the world and also making Soto the only pilot credited with three kills in an American continental war. El Salvador did not shoot down any Honduran aircraft. At the outset of the Football War, El Salvador enlisted the assistance of several American pilots with P-51 and F4U experience. Bob Love, a Korean war ace, Chuck Lyford, Ben Hall and Lynn Garrison are believed to have flown combat missions, but it has never been confirmed. Lynn Garrison had purchased F4U-7 133693 from the French MAAG office when he retired from French naval service in 1964. It was registered N693M and was later destroyed in a 1987 crash in San Diego, California.
The Corsair entered service in 1942. Although designed as a carrier fighter, initial operation from carrier decks proved to be troublesome. Its low-speed handling was tricky due to the left wing stalling before the right wing. This factor, together with poor visibility over the long nose (leading to one of its nicknames, "The Hose Nose"), made landing a Corsair on a carrier a difficult task. For these reasons, most Corsairs initially went to Marine Corps squadrons who operated off land-based runways, with some early Goodyear-built examples (designated FG-1A) being built with fixed wings. The USMC aviators welcomed the Corsair with open arms as its performance was far superior to the contemporary Brewster Buffalo and Grumman F4F-3 and F4F-4 Wildcats.
Moreover, the Corsair was able to outperform the primary Japanese fighter, the A6M Zero. While the Zero could outturn the F4U at low speed, the Corsair was faster and could out climb and outdive the A6M.
This performance advantage, combined with the ability to take severe punishment, meant a pilot could place an enemy aircraft in the killing zone of the F4U's six .50 (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and keep him there long enough to inflict major damage. The 2,300 rounds carried by the Corsair gave just under 30 seconds of fire from each gun, which, fired in three to six-second bursts, made the F4U a devastating weapon against aircraft, ground targets, and even ships.
Beginning in 1943, the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) also received Corsairs and flew them successfully from Royal Navy carriers in combat with the British Pacific Fleet and in Norway. These were clipped-wing Corsairs, the wingtips shortened 8 in (20 cm) to clear the lower overhead height of RN carriers. FAA also developed a curving landing approach to overcome the F4U's deficiencies.
Infantrymen nicknamed the Corsair "The Sweetheart of the Marianas" and "The Angel of Okinawa" for its roles in these campaigns. Among Navy and Marine aviators, the aircraft was nicknamed "Ensign Eliminator" and "Bent-Wing Eliminator" because it required many more hours of flight training to master than other Navy carrier-borne aircraft. It was also called simply "U-bird" or "Bent Wing Bird". Although Allied World War II sources frequently make the claim that the Japanese called the Corsair the "Whistling Death", Japanese sources do not support this, and it was mainly known as the Sikorsky.
The Corsair has been named the official aircraft of Connecticut due to its connection with Sikorsky Aircraft.
During World War II, Corsair production expanded beyond Vought to include Brewster and Goodyear models. Allied forces flying the aircraft in World War II included the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Eventually, more than 12,500 F4Us would be built, comprising 16 separate variants.
F4U-1 (called Corsair Mk.I by the Fleet Air Arm)
- The first production version of the Corsair with the distinctive "birdcage" canopy and low seating position. The differences over the XF4U-1 were as follows:
- Six .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning AN/M2 machine guns were fitted in the outer wing panels, displacing fuel tanks.
- An enlarged 237 gal (897 l) fuel tank was fitted ahead of the cockpit, in place of the fuselage armament. The cockpit was moved back by 32 in (810 mm).
- The fuselage was lengthened by 1 ft 5 in (0.43 m).
- The more powerful R-2800-8 Double Wasp was fitted.
- 150 pounds (68 kg) of armor plate was fitted to the cockpit and a 1.5 in (38 mm) thick bullet-resistant glass panel was fitted behind the curved windscreen.
- IFF transponder equipment was fitted.
- Curved transparent panels were incorporated into the fuselage behind the pilot's headrest.
- The flaps were changed from deflector type to NACA slotted.
- The span of the ailerons was increased while that of the flaps was decreased.
- One 62 gal (234 l) auxiliary fuel cell (not a self-sealing type) was installed in each wing leading edge, just outboard of the guns.
- The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm received 95 Vought F4U-1s. These were all early “birdcage” Corsairs. Vought also built a single F4U-1 two-seat trainer the Navy showed no interest.
F4U-1A (called Corsair Mk.II by the Fleet Air Arm)
- Mid-to-late production Corsairs incorporated a new, taller and wider canopy with only two frames &mdash very close to what the Malcolm hood did for British fighter aircraft &mdash along with a simplified windscreen.
- The new canopy design implied that the semi-elliptical turtledeck "flank" windows could be omitted.
- The designation F4U-1A to differentiate these Corsairs from earlier "birdcage" variants was allowed to be used internally by manufacturers.
- The pilot's seat was raised 7 in (180 mm) which, combined with the new canopy and a 6-inch (152.4 mm) lengthening of the tailwheel strut, allowed the pilot better visibility over the long nose.
- In addition to these changes, the bombing window under the cockpit was omitted.
- These Corsairs introduced a 6 in (150 mm)-long stall strip just outboard of the gun ports on the right wing leading edge and improved undercarriage oleo struts which eliminated bouncing on landing, making these the first truly "carrier capable" F4Us.
- 360 F4U-1As were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm.
- In British service, the aircraft type was modified with "clipped" wings (8 in (200 mm) was cut off each wingtip) for use on British aircraft carriers, although the Royal Navy had been successfully operating the Corsair Mk.I since 1 June 1943 when No. 1830 Squadron was commissioned and assigned to HMS Illustrious.
- F4U-1s in many USMC squadrons had their arrester hooks removed.
- Additionally, an experimental R-2800-8W engine with water injection was fitted on one of the late F4U-1As.
- After satisfactory results, many F4U-1As were fitted with the new powerplant.
- The aircraft carried 237 gal (897 l) in the main fuel tank, located in front of the cockpit, as well as an unarmored, non-self-sealing 62 gal (235 l) fuel tank in each wing.
- This version of the Corsair was the first to be able to carry a drop tank under the center-section.
- With drop tanks fitted, the fighter had a maximum ferry range of just over 1,500 mi (2,400 km).
F3A-1 and F3A-1D (called Corsair Mk.III by the Fleet Air Arm)
- This was the designation for Brewster-built F4U-1.
- Labor troubles delayed production, and the Navy ordered the company's contract terminated they folded soon after.
- Poor quality wing fittings meant that these aircraft were red-lined for speed and prohibited from aerobatics after several lost their wings.
- None of the Brewster-built Corsairs reached front line units.
- 430 Brewster Corsairs (334 F3A-1 and 96 F3A-1D), more than half of Brewster's total production, were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm.
FG-1A and FG-1D (called Corsair Mk.IV by the Fleet Air Arm)
- This was the designation for Corsairs that were license built by Goodyear, to the same specifications as Vought's Corsairs.
- The first Goodyear built FG-1 flew in February 1943 and Goodyear began delivery of FG-1 Corsairs in April 1943.
- The company continued production until the end of the war and delivered 4,007 FG-1 series Corsairs, including sixty FG-1Ds to the RNZAF and 857 (400 FG-1 and FG-1A, and 457 FG-1D) to the Royal Navy as Corsair Mk.IVs.
- The prototype F4U-1C, appeared in August 1943 and was based on an F4U-1.
- A total of 200 of this variant were built from July to November 1944 all were based on the F4U-1D and were built in parallel with that variant.
- Intended for ground-attack as well as fighter missions, the F4U-1C was similar to the F4U-1D but its six machine guns were replaced by four 20 millimeter (0.79 in) AN/M2 cannons with 231 rounds of ammunition per gun.
- The F4U-1C was introduced to combat during 1945, most notably in the Okinawa campaign.
- Aviators preferred the standard armament of six .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns since they were already more than powerful enough to destroy most Japanese aircraft, and had more ammunition and a higher rate of fire.
- The weight of the Hispano cannon and their ammunition affected the flight performance, especially its agility, but the aircraft was found to be especially potent in the ground attack role.
F4U-1D (called Corsair Mk.II by the Fleet Air Arm)
- This variant was introduced in April 1944, and was built in parallel with the F4U-1C.
- It had the new R-2800-8W Double Wasp engine equipped with water injection.
- This change gave the aircraft up to 250 hp (190 kW) more power, which, in turn, increased performance.
- Speed was increased from 417 mph (671 km/h) to 425 mph (684 km/h).
- Due to the U.S. Navy's need for fighter-bombers, it had a payload of rockets double the F4U-1A's carried on permanent launching rails, as well as twin pylons for bombs or drop tanks.
- These modifications caused extra drag, but the additional fuel carried by the two drop tanks would still allow the aircraft to fly relatively long missions despite heavy, un-aerodynamic loads.
- A single piece "blown" clear-view canopy was adopted as standard equipment for the F4U-1D model, and all later F4U production aircraft.
- 150 F4U-1D were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm.
- Experimental conversion of the F4U-1 Corsair into a carrier-borne night fighter, armed with five .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (the outboard, right gun was deleted), and fitted with Airborne Intercept (AI) radar set in a radome placed outboard on the starboard wing.
- Since Vought was preoccupied with more important projects, only 32 were converted from existing F4U-1s by the Naval Aircraft Factory and another two by front line units.
- The type saw combat with VF(N)-101 aboard USS Enterprise and USS Intrepid in early 1944, VF(N)-75 in the Solomon Islands and VMF(N)-532 on Tarawa.
- Experimental aircraft built to hold different engines in order to test the Corsair's performance with a variety of power plants.
- This variant never entered service.
- Goodyear also contributed a number of airframes, designated FG-3, to the project.
- A single sub-variant XF4U-3B with minor modifications was also produced.
- XF4U-3B, planned procurement for the FAA.
- The last variant to see action during World War II.
- Deliveries to the U.S. Navy of the F4U-4 began in early 1945.
- It had the 2,100 hp (1,600 kW) dual-stage-supercharged -18W engine.
- When the cylinders were injected with the water/alcohol mixture, power was boosted to 2,450 hp (1,830 kW).
- The aircraft required an air scoop under the nose and the unarmored wing fuel tanks of 62 gal (234 L) capacities were removed for better maneuverability at the expense of maximum range.
- The propeller was changed to a four blade type.
- Maximum speed was increased to 448 miles per hour (721 km/h) and climb rate to over 4,500 ft/min (1,180 m/min) as opposed to the 2,900 ft/min (884 m/min) of the F4U-1A.
- The "4-Hog" retained the original armament and had all the external load (i.e., drop tanks, bombs) capabilities of the F4U-1D.
- The windscreen was now flat bullet-resistant glass to avoid optical distortion, a change from the curved Plexiglas windscreens with the internal plate glass of the earlier Corsairs.
- Vought also tested the two F4U-4Xs (BuNos 49763 and 50301, prototypes for the new R2800) with fixed wing-tip tanks (the Navy showed no interest) and an Aeroproducts six-blade contraprop (not accepted for production).
F4U-4E and F4U-4N
- Developed late in WWII, these night fighters featured radar radomes projecting from the right wingtip.
- The F4U-4E was fitted with the APS-4 search radar, while the F4U-4N was fitted with the APS-6 type.
- In addition, these aircraft were often refitted with four 20 mm M2 cannons similar to the F4U-1C.
- Though these variants would not see combat during WWII, the night fighter variants would see great use during the Korean war.
- A 1945 design modification of the F4U-4, first flown on 21 December 1945, was intended to increase the F4U-4 Corsair's overall performance and incorporate many Corsair pilots' suggestions.
- It featured a more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32(E) engine with a two-stage supercharger, rated at a maximum of 2,760 hp (2,060 kW).
- Other improvements included automatic blower controls, cowl flaps, intercooler doors and oil cooler for the engine, spring tabs for the elevators and rudder, a completely modernized cockpit, a completely retractable tail wheel, and heated cannon bays and pitot head.
- The cowling was lowered two degrees to help with forward visibility, but perhaps most striking as the first variant to feature all-metal wings (223 units produced).
- Maximum speed was 408 knots (470 mph) and max rate of climb at sea level 4,850 feet per minute.
- Winterized version (72 units produced, 29 modified from F4U-5Ns (101 total)).
- Fitted with rubber de-icing boots on the leading edge of the wings and tail.
- U.S. Marines attack variant with extra armor to protect the pilot and fuel tank, and the oil coolers relocated inboard to reduce vulnerability to ground fire.
- The supercharger was simplified as the design was intended for low-altitude operation.
- Extra racks were also fitted.
- Fully loaded for combat the AU-1 weighed 20% more than a fully loaded F4U-4, and was capable of carrying 8,200 lb of bombs.
- The AU-1 had a maximum speed of 238 miles per hour at 9,500 ft, when loaded with 4,600 lb of bombs and a 150-gallon drop-tank.
- When loaded with eight rockets and two 150-gallon drop-tanks, maximum speed was 298 mph at 19,700 ft.
- When not carrying external loads, maximum speed was 389 mph at 14,000 ft.
- First produced in 1952 and used in Korea, and retired in 1957.
- Re-designated from F4U-6.
Super Corsair Variants 2
In March 1944, Pratt & Whitney requested an F4U-1 Corsair from Vought Aircraft for evaluation of their new P&W R-4360, Wasp Major 4-row 28-cylinder "corncob" radial engine. The F2G-1 and F2G-2 were significantly different aircraft. F2G-1 featured a manual folding wing and 14 ft (4.3 m) propeller, while the F2G-2 had hydraulic operated folding wings, 13 ft (4.0 m) propeller and carrier arresting hook for carrier use. There were five pre-production XF2G-1s (BuNo 14691, 14692, 14693 (Race 94), 14694 (Race 18), and 14695). There were ten production F2Gs. Five F2G-1s (BuNo 88454 (Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington), 88455, 88456, 88457 (Race 84), 88458 (Race 57)) and five F2G-2s (BuNo 88459, 88460, 88461, 88462, and 88463 (Race 74)). Five F2Gs were sold as surplus and went on to racing success after the war (indicated by the "Race" number after the BuNo), winning the Thompson trophy races in 1947 and 1949. The only surviving F2G-1s are BuNos 88454 and 88458 (Race 57). The only surviving F2G-2 was BuNo 88463 (Race 74). It was destroyed in a crash September 2012 after having a full restoration completed in July 2011
- Argentina: Argentine Navy Argentine Naval Aviation operated 26 F4U-5/F4U-5N/F4U-5NL Corsairs from 1956 to 1968 from ARA Independencia.
- El Salvador: Air Force of El Salvador operated 25 F4U/FG-1D from 1957 to 1976.
- France: French Navy operated 69 AU-1 and 94 F4U-7 from 1954 to 1964 Aeronavale: French Aéronavale 12.F Flotilla, French Aéronavale 14.F Flotilla, French Aéronavale 15.F Flotilla, French Aéronavale 17.F Flotilla.
- Honduras: Honduran Air Force operated 19 from 1956 to 1979.
- New Zealand: Royal New Zealand Air Force operated 368 F4U-1 and 60 FG-1D from 1944 to 1949: No. 14 Squadron RNZAF, No. 15 Squadron RNZAF, No. 16 Squadron RNZAF, No. 17 Squadron RNZAF, No. 18 Squadron RNZAF, No. 19 Squadron RNZAF, No. 20 Squadron RNZAF, No. 21 Squadron RNZAF, No. 22 Squadron RNZAF, No. 23 Squadron RNZAF, No. 24 Squadron RNZAF, No. 25 Squadron RNZAF, No. 26 Squadron RNZAF.
- United Kingdom: Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated 2,012 Corsairs of all types during World War 2, including 95 Corsair I (F4U-1), 510 Corsair II (F4U-1A), 430 Corsair III (F3A-1D) and 977 Corsair IV (FG-1D) Fleet Air Arm.
- United States: United States Navy United States Marine Corps.
Specifications F4U-5/F4U-5N Corsair 3,4
- Cantilever low-wing monoplane.
- All-metal single-spar structure in three main sections consisting of inverted gull center section and two outer panels at acute dihedral angle.
- Spot-welded metal skin.
- Center-section spar is integral with center portion of fuselage.
- Outer wings fold upwards hydraulically for stowage.
- Wood ailerons with wood covering.
- All-metal slotted trailing-edge flaps between ailerons and fuselage.
- Gross wing area 314 ft 2 (29.2 m 2 )
- All-metal monocoque structure in four main sections: - engine section center-section with main spar cockpit section and rear fuselage.
- Spot-welded metal skin.
- Cantilever monoplane type, structurally similar to wings, with spot-welded metal skin over fin.
- Metalite skin on tailplane and fabric-covering over movable surfaces.
- Balanced rudder with controllable trim-tab.
- Balance and trim-tabs in elevators.
- Retractable two-wheel type.
- Wheels turn through 90° as they retract backwards so as to lie flat within wings.
- Tail-wheel with deck arrestor hook attached retracts backwards into fuselage.
- Hydraulic operation.
- One 2,400 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32W Double Wasp eighteen-cylinder two-row radial air-cooled engine employing water injection and driving a Hamilton Standard Hydromatic four-blade constant-speed airscrew.
- Electric starter.
- Fuel tanks in fuselage with capacity for 234 U.S. gallons (850 L).
- Two auxiliary drop tanks (total 300 U.S. gallons = 1,135 L) may be carried under center-section.
- Pilot's cockpit has bulged enclosure which slides backwards for access.
- Bullet-resisting windscreen and armor-plate protection.
- Four 20-mm cannon, two in each outer wing, outboard of airscrew disk.
- Racks below wings for eight 5-in (12.7 cm) rocket projectiles, or two 1,000 lbs (454 kg) or 1,600 lbs (726 kg) bombs under wing.
- (F4U-5E/F4U-5N) Special radar or special night fighting equipment may be installed.
- (F4U-5N) Special radar or special night fighting equipment may be installed.
- (F4U-5P) Long-range photo-reconnaissance version.
- Span: 40 ft 11¾-in (12.48 m).
- Span (folded): 17 ft 0-in (5.18 m).
- Length: 34 ft 6½-in (10.5 m).
- Height (tail down): 14 ft 9¼-in (4.49 m).
- Height (folded): 16 ft 4¼-in (4.98 m).
Weights and Loadings
- Loaded weight (F4U-5): 13,297 lbs (6,040 kg).
- Gross weight (F4U-5N) 4 : 14,106 lbs (6,3984 kg). Empty weight (F4U-5N) 4 : 9,683 lbs (4,392.1 kg). Wing loading: 39.9 lbs/ft 2 (194.7/m 2 ).
- Power loading: 5.9 lbs/hp (2.67 kg/hp).
- Maximum speed (F4U-5): Over 455 mph (720 km/h).
- Maximum speed (F4U-5N) 4 : 470 mph (756.4 km/h) at 26,800 ft (8,168.64 m).
- Cruising speed: (F4U-5N) 4 : 227 mph (365.3 km/h).
- Climb (F4U-5): 4,800 ft/min (1,465 m/min).
- Climb (F4U-5N) 4 : 3,780 ft/min (1,152.1 m/min)
- Service ceiling (F4U-5): 42,500 ft (12,960 m).
- Service ceiling (F4U-5N) 4 :: 41,400 ft (12,618.8 m).
- Range (F4U-5N) 4 : 1,120 miles (1,790 km).
F4U-5 Corsair Serial Numbers 4 :
- BuNo 121793-122066
- BuNo 122153-122206
- BuNo 123144-123203
- BuNo 124441-124560
- BuNo 124665-124724
- Shupek, John. The Skytamer Photo Archive, photos by John Shupek, copyright © 2003 Skytamer Images (Skytamer.com)
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Vought F4U Corsair
- Bridgeman, Leonard. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1950-51, Chance Vought: The Chance Vought Corsair, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., London, 1951, pg. 213c-214c
- Swanborough, Gordon and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft since 1911: Vought F4U Corsair. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, USA, 1976, ISBN 0-87021-792-5, pp 449-453.
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The F4U incorporated the largest engine available at the time: the 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. To extract as much power as possible a relatively large Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three-blade propeller of 13 feet 4 inches (4.06 m) was used. To accommodate a folding wing the designers considered retracting the main landing gear rearward but, for the chord of wing that was chosen, it was difficult to make the landing gear struts long enough to provide clearance for the large propeller. Their solution was an inverted gull wing, which considerably shortened the required length of the main gear legs. [ 18 ] The anhedral of the wing's center-section also permitted the wing and fuselage to meet at the optimum angle for minimizing drag, without using wing root fairings. [ 18 ] The bent wing, however, was heavier and more difficult to construct thus offsetting these benefits.
Landing gear and wings
The Corsair's aerodynamics were an advance over those of contemporary naval fighters. The F4U was the first U.S. Navy aircraft to feature landing gear that retracted into a fully enclosed wheel well. The landing gear oleo struts rotated through 90° during retraction, with the wheel atop the lower end of the strut a pair of rectangular doors enclosed the wheel wells, leaving a streamlined wing. [ 19 ] This swiveling, aft-retracting landing gear design was common to the Curtiss P-40 (and its predecessor, the Curtiss P-36), as adopted for the F4U Corsair's main gear and its erstwhile Pacific War rival, the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The oil coolers were mounted in the heavily anhedraled center-section of the wings, alongside the supercharger air intakes, and used openings in the leading edges of the wings, rather than protruding scoops. The large fuselage panels were made of aluminum [ 20 ] and were attached to the frames with the newly developed technique of spot welding, thus mostly eliminating the use of rivets. While employing this new technology, the Corsair was also the last American-produced fighter aircraft to feature fabric as the skinning for the top and bottom of each outer wing, aft of the main spar and armament bays, and for the ailerons, elevators and rudder. The elevators were also constructed from plywood. [ 21 ] The Corsair, even with its streamlining and high speed abilities, could fly slowly enough for carrier landings with full flap deployment of 60°.
In part because of its advances in technology and a top speed greater than existing Navy aircraft, numerous technical problems had to be solved before the Corsair would enter service. Carrier suitability was a major development issue, prompting changes to the main landing gear, tail wheel and tailhook. Early F4U-1s had difficulty recovering from developed spins, since the inverted gull wing's shape interfered with elevator authority. It was also found that the Corsair's starboard wing could stall and drop rapidly and without warning during slow carrier landings. [ 22 ] In addition, if the throttle were suddenly advanced (for example, during an aborted landing) the port wing could stall and drop so quickly that the fighter could flip over with the rapid increase in power. [ 23 ] These potentially lethal characteristics were later solved through the addition of a small, 6 in (150 mm)-long stall strip to the leading edge of the outer starboard wing, just inboard of the gun ports. This allowed the starboard wing to stall at the same time as the port. [ 24 ]
Other problems were encountered during early carrier trials. The combination of an aft cockpit and the Corsair's long nose made landings hazardous for newly trained pilots. During landing approaches it was found that oil from the hydraulic cowl flaps could spatter onto the windscreen, badly reducing visibility, and the undercarriage oleo struts had bad rebound characteristics on landing, allowing the aircraft to bounce out of control down the carrier deck. [ 24 ] The first problem was solved by locking the top cowl flap down permanently, then replacing it with a fixed panel. The undercarriage bounce took more time to solve but eventually a "bleed valve" incorporated in the legs allowed the hydraulic pressure to be released gradually as the aircraft landed. The Corsair was not considered fit for carrier use until the wing stall problems and the deck bounce could be solved. Meanwhile the more docile and simpler to build F6F Hellcat had begun entering service. Corsair deployment aboard U.S. carriers was delayed until late 1944. [ N 1 ]
Production F4U-1s featured several major modifications compared with the XF4U-1. A change of armament to six wing-mounted .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns (three in each outer wing panel) and their ammunition (400 rpg for the inner pair, 375 rpg for the outer) [ 26 ] meant that the location of the wing fuel tanks had to be changed. In order to keep the fuel tank close to the center of gravity , the only available position was in the forward fuselage, ahead of the cockpit. Accordingly a 237 gal (897 l) self-sealing fuel tank replaced the fuselage mounted armament, the cockpit had to be moved back by 32 in (810 mm) and the fuselage lengthened. [ 18 ] In addition, 150 lb of armor plate was installed, along with an 1.5 in (38 mm) bullet-proof windscreen which was set internally, behind the curved Plexiglas windscreen. The canopy could be jettisoned in an emergency, and half-elliptical planform transparent panels were inset into the sides of the fuselage's turtledeck structure behind the pilot's headrest, providing the pilot with a limited rear view over his shoulders. A rectangular Plexiglas panel was inset into the lower center-section to allow the pilot to see directly beneath the aircraft and assist with deck landings. [ N 2 ] The engine used was the more powerful R-2800-8 (B series) Double Wasp which produced 2,000 hp (1,491 kW). On the wings the flaps were changed to a NACA slotted type and the ailerons were increased in span to increase the roll rate, with a consequent reduction in flap span. IFF transponder equipment was fitted in the rear fuselage. All in all these changes increased the Corsair's weight by several hundred pounds. [ 27 ]
WWII LEGO Vought F4U Corsair
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a carrier-capable fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured by Vought, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–1953).
The Corsair served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair. As well as being an outstanding fighter, the Corsair proved to be an excellent fighter-bomber, serving almost exclusively in the latter role throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.
Yes, the cockpit is too big but dang, I love this airplane. :D Built this after I discovered my large, untouched stash of blue parts. Came out pretty good actually. No landing gear yet, still need to figure out how to attach it.
Faves mean more than comments, but both are most definitely welcome. :D
Commander Don Sheppard
Commander Don Sheppard, who has died aged 94, saw service from the Arctic to the Far East and became an air ace while only 21.
On the afternoon of January 4, 1945 during the Fleet Air Arm raid on Pangkalanbrandan, an oil-terminal in North Sumatra, Sheppard flew fighter cover over a force of some 100 aircraft from three British carriers, Victorious , Indomitable and Indefatigable . He saw enemy fighters &lsquocoming straight down at top speed and as I rolled over to attack [one] he attempted to evade me by rolling over on his back and pulling through but I fired a burst at him from short range and he bailed, whether he was hit or because he was merely frightened&rsquo. While regaining height to re-join the escort Sheppard saw a second Japanese Oscar fighter and &lsquowas able to quickly despatch him&rsquo.
He was wingman to Lt Col Ronnie Hay RM [DT 24 Dec 2001], was in overall charge of the attack, who wrote that Sheppard had &lsquoshown the greatest keenness and determination to get to grips with the enemy He has trained himself to a high standard of skill in the air and had made every effort to become a first class fighter pilot. He was worked with energy and success improving the standard of armament maintenance in the squadron&rsquo. The latter was a reference to Sheppard&rsquos role in ensuring that that every gun in his squadron worked and that there were no jams. He was awarded the DSC.
Then on January 24, while flying combat air patrol during a raid on Japanese-held oil refineries at Palembang, Sheppard was jumped from above by another Oscar Sheppard turned his aircraft and hit the Japanese with his second burst. During another raid, five days later &lsquoa vigorous dogfight&rsquo developed at low level &lsquoagainst a very competent and aggressive opponent&rsquo, when Sheppard shared two kills with Hay.
By May 1945 the allies were gaining air superiority, and the Japanese introduced kamikaze, or suicide air attacks. Sheppard, now a leader of his own flight of three Corsairs, was launched to investigate an intermittent radar contact. High above him just out of the cloud, Sheppard spotted a Japanese dive-bomber, which he shot down at his first pass, He could not avoid a massive fireball, but nursed his damaged aircraft back to Victorious .
Donald John Sheppard was born in Toronto where his father was a lawyer and mother a schoolteacher, and he was educated at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, Toronto. With his two brothers they spent their summers on Lake Simcoe where they learned to sail: all would join the wartime Royal Navy.
Don, inspired by reading about the Fleet Air Arm&rsquos attack on Taranto and the hunt for the Bismarck , volunteered and took ship to England to join No 38 Pilots Course. After basic training he recrossed the Atlantic to learn to fly, and first flew solo in September after 13 hours. On his first day in 738 Naval Air Squadron, unused to the higher torque of the high performance machines with which the FAA was becoming equipped, he made a rare pilot error and crashed on take-off, but soon he had clocked up several score hours flying in single-engined warplanes.
In October 1943 Shepard joined 1835 NAS and learned to fly the Chance Vought Corsair, which had been rejected as a carrier aircraft by the USN. With its air of scarcely concealed menace, it inspired almost as much fear in the hearts of those who were going to fly it as in the enemy, but once mastered it could out-fly most aircraft, and it had an endurance of five hours. Sheppard made his first deck-landing on USS Charger on 22 November 1943, and in March 1944 he embarked in the British fleet carrier Victorious to prepare for Operation Tungsten, the raid on the German battleship Tirpitz which was hiding in Kaafjord in northern Norway. On April 3 1944, the German was hit by 16 bombs which left her useless as a warship. After further raids in northern waters, Victorious deployed to the Far East.
Postwar Sheppard joined the Royal Canadian Navy, where he completed 112 decklandings and flew 2,655 hours in 25 types of aircraft. After six years at NATO Headquarters in Europe he retired in 1974. Sheppard never bragged about his war, and embraced reconciliation, his son once finding him watching old television movies with a German who had been in his gunsights.
Sheppard farmed for several years in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. An avid woodsman, who fed his young family on moose and salmon, gradually his relationship with animals changed, and he gave up hunting. He wept openly when his favourite horse was struck by a car. Instead he built a home overlooking Aurora, Ontario, where he enjoyed walking his dogs in the early mornings before the golfers were up. There he and his wife hosted a new generation of children, and he was the best of neighbours, up early after snowstorms to clear their drives, and for many years driving the elderly to medical appointments and picnics at the beach.
In 1947 he married Gwen Falls, the sister of a fellow navy pilot, the future Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Robert Falls. They married in December, for maximum tax benefit, and after a brief, extravagant wedding at Toronto&rsquos Royal York Hotel, they set off in his old car on the long drive to Nova Scotia, and spent their honeymoon broken down in a blizzard in rural New York. She predeceased him in 2016 and he is survived by three daughters and two sons.
A brother who also flew Corsairs, was killed in a flying accident in the carrier Formidable in March 1945.
Three raids at the beginning of the end
In the Spring and Summer of 1944, the Royal Navy had begun to make its presence felt in the Far East. Forced out of the Pacific by overwhelming Japanese naval power, and kept there by the political manoeuvrings of allies, the RN was finally able to stage a series of ambitious raids on Japanese targets in the Far East.
A series of three raids in April, May and June – Cockpit, Transom and Pedal – marked the beginning of the growing British role in the theatre, and set the scene for the rest of the war.
The main aim of these was to disrupt Japanese defences and communications in the region, and the raids typically featured air attacks on ports and airfields. Sometimes these were solely RN operations, while other operations were carried out in partnership with US forces.
Operation Cockpit, on 19 April, was an attack on targets in Sumatra, involving Fairey Barracuda dive bombers from HMS Illustrious and Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Saratoga, as well as fighters and strike fighters from both carriers.
Dauntlesses like these from USS Saratoga took part in joint raids with aircraft from HMS Illustrious
The Barracudas concentrated on the port of Sabang while the Dauntlesses attacked the airfield. When the force arrived, it was with total surprise on its side and no Japanese fighters were in the air. The FAA aircraft dive-bombed ships in the harbour and, with the escorting fighters strafing the vessels, hits were scored on two merchant ships, two destroyers and an escort ship, and large fires in the dockyard were started. At the same time the harbour was bombarded by the RN battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth, and the battlecruiser HMS Renown, with the French battleship FS Richelieu. In addition, the Barracudas hit oil tanks and a wireless station.
The raid had been successful in its own right, and also in acting as a diversion from the US invasion of the Marianas islands.
Barracudas of 812 Squadron, HMS Vengeance, in British Pacific Fleet Markings
Barracudas did not take part in Operation Transom, a strike on Sourabaya, Java, in May 1944, their role being taken by Grumman Avengers of 845 Squadron which joined Illustrious briefly between May and July 1944. The raid followed the pattern of the earlier operation but was, according to later assessment, not particularly successful.
The Barracuda dive bombers from HMS Illustrious were reinstated for further raids. In June, Operation Pedal was staged. This was to be a raid on Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, and was remarkable not least for Illustrious operating no fewer than 57 aircraft from its decks, compared with around 33 generally carried in 1940.
The small complement of aircraft carried by UK carriers (and Illustrious in particular) was their single biggest drawback when compared with their US counterparts. With skilful arrangement of the hangers and use of a deck park, the number of aircraft that could be operated was increased from around a third that of US carriers to around two-thirds. On Illustrious, this included 15 Barracudas of the 21st Naval TBR Wing, with the rest being made up of Vought Corsairs. During Operation Pedal it was found that this complement could be handled without any great problems, although during the operation the flight deck was wet and very slippery and 57 aircraft was probably an absolute maximum for Illustrious. The proportion of Corsairs to Barracudas reflects that the RN, like the RAF, was very much moving towards the fast strike fighter as an offensive weapon in place of the lower-performing specialist light bomber.
The Corsair had, like the Barracuda, endured a troubled gestation. However, once excessive ‘float’ on landing, together with an unpredictable stall had been cured (both problems solved by the British) it became a valuable asset. It had very high performance for a naval fighter, with a great ability to carry heavy loads making it useful in the strike role also.
On this occasion the Barracudas benefitted in the raid from the additional fighters with strengthened escorts. As the chances of the task group, ‘Force 60’, being attacked were low it was decided to add a further eight Corsairs to the striking force, to bomb and strafe Japanese airfields, while two more Corsairs were added to the fighter escort making 16 Corsairs protecting the bombers. The fighter umbrella over Force 60 was reduced to an initial four.
The Chance-Vought Corsair provided the Fleet Air Arm with a top-class fighter with a significant strike ability
It had been hoped that the Barracudas could carry three 500lb MC (medium capacity) bombs, but trials with this asymmetric load were unsatisfactory. The Barracudas struggled to take off safely with the three 500 lb bombs, so the load was changed to two 500lb MC bombs and two 250lb GP (general purpose) bombs.
On the 21st June, the strike was launched. The Barracudas were flown off from a distance of 95 miles from the target. Unfortunately, when the bombers arrived, cloud hung at 1,500ft and rain was falling. This made bombing difficult and assessment of the results all but impossible as many of the bombs were not seen once they had been dropped. The Barracudas returned to the task group, a distance of 130 miles as the ships had moved out somewhat since the launch.
A Fairey Barracuda approaches to land on an Illustrious-class carrier
The Barracudas were airborne for times between two hours ten minutes, and two hours thirty minutes. The 225 miles flown by the Barracudas was not far short of the operational maximum of around 250 miles with a bomb load of 1,000lb in Far East climate, so the loss of a single Barracuda was light under the circumstances. Given the crowding on Illustrious’ deck, a landing crash or fire could have had serious consequences. The lack of any such incidents spoke volumes for the skill of the air and deck crews. Four officers and one radio mechanic were mentioned in despatches, including Barracuda Observer Temporary Lieutenant E.M. Maude who according to the citation had ‘by his example and enthusiasm done much to improve the standard of the other observers of his wing’. The excellent navigation displayed by the Barracudas said much for Maude’s contribution.
By the end of the summer, however, the Barracudas had been packed off home, temporarily replaced by Grumman Avengers which had a longer range and better performance in the hot climate of the Far East. By this stage, the RN was a power in the region again. A number of further raids hampered Japanese forces in the archipelago before eventually British ships joined forces with their US counterparts for the assaults on Okinawa and Formosa, then Japan itself.
The Archaeology of the Second World War
Excavating Paintwork: Corsair KD431 Many years ago I spent a few weeks as a
volunteer helping to restore a Second World War-era North American Harvard
advanced training aircraft – the type that most Spitfire and Hurricane pilots would
Author: Gabriel Moshenska
Publisher: Pen and Sword
The Second World War transformed British society. Men, women and children inhabited the war in every area of their lives, from their clothing and food to schools, workplaces and wartime service. This transformation affected the landscapes, towns and cities as factories turned to war work, beaches were prepared as battlefields and agricultural land became airfields and army camps. Some of these changes were violent: houses were blasted into bombsites, burning aircraft tumbled out of the sky and the seas around Britain became a graveyard for sunken ships. Many physical signs of the war have survived a vast array of sites and artefacts that archaeologists can explore - and Gabriel Moshenskas new book is an essential introduction to them. He shows how archaeology can bring the ruins, relics and historic sites of the war to life, especially when it is combined with interviews and archival research in order to build up a clear picture of Britain and its people during the conflict. His work provides for the first time a broad and inclusive overview of the main themes of Second World War archaeology and a guide to many of the different types of sites in Britain. It will open up the subject for readers who have a general interest in the war and it will be necessary reading and reference for those who are already fascinated by wartime archaeology - they will find something new and unexpected within the wide range of sites featured in the book.
In February 1938, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal, for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. For the single-engined fighter the Navy requested the maximum obtainable speed, and a stalling speed not higher than 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). A range of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) was specified. [ 8 ] The fighter had to carry four guns, or three with increased ammunition. Provision had to be made for anti-aircraft bombs to be carried in the wing. These small bombs would, according to thinking in the 1930s, be dropped on enemy aircraft formations.
In June 1938, the U.S. Navy signed a contract for a prototype, the XF4U-1, BuNo 1443. The Corsair was designed by Rex Beisel and the Vought design team. After mock-up inspection in February 1939, construction of the XF4U-1 powered by an XR-2800-4 engine, rated at 1,805 hp (1,350 kW) went ahead quickly. When the prototype was built it had the biggest and most powerful engine, largest propeller and probably the largest wing on any fighter in history. [ 9 ] The first flight of the XF4U-1 was made on May 29, 1940, with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter. [ 10 ] [ 11 ]
On October 1, the XF4U-1 made a flight from Stratford to Hartford with an average ground speed of 405 miles per hour (652 km/h), the first U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph (640 km/h). [ 12 ] The XF4U-1 also had an excellent rate of climb. On the other hand, the testing of the XF4U-1 revealed some requirements would have to be rewritten. In full-power dive tests, speeds of up to 550 miles per hour (890 km/h) were achieved, not without damage to the control surfaces and access panels, and, in one case, an engine failure. [ 13 ] The spin recovery standards also had to be relaxed, as recovery from the required two-turn spin proved impossible without recourse to an anti-spin chute. [ 12 ] The problems clearly meant delays in getting the type into production.
Reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two .30 in (7.62 mm) (mounted in engine cowling) and two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each outer wing panel) was insufficient, and so when the U.S. Navy asked for production proposals in November 1940, heavier armament was specified. [ 14 ] The Navy entered into a letter of intent on March 3, 1941, received Vought's production proposal on April 2 and awarded Vought a contract for 584 F4U-1 fighters on June 30 of the same year. [ 15 ] [ 16 ] It was a remarkable achievement for Vought compared to land-based counterparts, carrier aircraft are "overbuilt" and heavier, to withstand the extreme stress of deck landings.
Vought F4U-4 Corsair Characteristics
|Armament||Six .50 cal. machine guns mounted in the wings four 20mm AN/M2 cannons eight HVAR rockets|
|Bomb load||4,000 lbs.|
|Engine||Pratt & Whitney 2,450 hp R-2800-18W radial piston|
|Maximum speed||446 mph|
|Cruising speed||185 mph|
|Length||33 ft. 8 in.|
|Height||14 ft. 9 in.|
|Weight||9,205 lbs. empty 14,669 lbs. loaded|
Note: Characteristics vary slightly with the F4U Corsair variant, manufacturing site, and date.
F4U Corsair, Sioux Gateway Airport (Col. Bud Day Field) flying at Air/Ag Expo '09 at the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing, Sioux City, IA, August 2009.
F4U Corsair, Sioux Gateway Airport (Col. Bud Day Field) flying at Air/Ag Expo '09 at the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing, Sioux City, IA, August 2009.
Vought F4U-4 Corsair (Bureau No. 81712), of Fighter Squadron 791 (VF-791) makes vapor rings with its propeller as it takes off from USS Boxer (CV-21) for a Korean War air strike, 6 July 1951. Note small bombs under the plane's wings.
Marine Corps Vought F4U-5 Corsair fighter takes off from from USS Coral Sea (CVB-43), while she was operating in the Mediterranean Sea, November 1950.