36 years of service for the “Gullwing Marvel”
Probably the most famous fighter ever designed for any Navy, arguably, was the Vought F4U Corsair. Not only for its production, which went further than the Hellcat, and went shy of their land rivals, the P51 Mustang and P47 Thunderbolt, but certainly outlived them all but its active service. The very last seeing action in a war zone were 19 Honduran F4U in the 1969 “soccer war” vs El Salvador (they were only retired in 1976). Since the Corsair, second of the name, first flew in 1940, this made for 36 years of service. A rare feat for any WW2 vintage model.
One key to understand this success could be the fact it was as good as a fighter than as a bomber, with its heavy payload and robust construction, high survivability. In fact it was the very fist dedicated fighter-bomber of the USN, for many years, soldiering in WW2 and Korea for the US alone. The French Aeronavale retained them until 1963 and they were deployed in four conflicts. In addition to the USN and USMC, the Corsair was also deployed with allied the Fleet Air Arm (1944-45) as the RNZAF. But also Argentina, in addition to El Salvador and Honduras.
Quite unique with its long nose (or pilot far back), a problem for taxiing and landing, and gull wings, plus double radial, the Corsair was quite unique and went down into popular culture with the 80’s famous serie “baa baa black sheep”. Many survived to these days between private and public colections, museums and exhibitions. A “classic”, the pilots also called “Ensign Eliminator”, “Bent-Wing Eliminator” (due to its extensive flight training) or just “U-bird” or “Bent Wing Bird”. But the time spent was well rewarded in combat. Over North Korea it was probably one of the most important ground attack aircraft, despite being overshadowed by the Lockheed P33 and Sabre in the skies.
Genesis of the design
The first takeoff in history from the deck of a ship was carried out on November 14, 1910 by the American pilot Eli. He also landed on the deck of the cruiser Pennsylvania on January 18, 1911. These two dates are the birthdays of carrier-based aviation. The years of the First World War were the time of the birth of aircraft carriers as a new class of warships, which were soon destined to become the main striking force of the leading fleets. Immediately before the Second World War, there were 23 aircraft carriers in the fleets of various states, including Japan – 9, the USA – 7, England – 6 and France – 1. The main tasks facing aircraft carriers were:
Torpedo-bomb strikes by carrier-based aircraft on ship groups and convoys at sea, bases and coastal structures;
Anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense of large formations of ships;
Operational and tactical intelligence;
Anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense of convoys.
The first large-scale combat operation using aircraft carriers was carried out by Japanese carrier-based aircraft (from six aircraft carriers) on December 7, 1941, during a surprise raid on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. As a result of this attack, the American fleet suffered heavy losses. This raid showed the exceptionally great combat capabilities of aircraft carriers and radically changed the views on these ships in the USA, England and other countries, where they began to be recognized as one of the main striking forces of the fleet, capable of solving important tasks of war at sea. Mass construction of these ships began. During the war years, 169 aircraft carriers were built, of which 137 were built in the USA. The performance of combat missions by aircraft carriers required the creation of a special class of carrier-based aircraft. The main differences between these aircraft and land aircraft were:
The presence of special devices for takeoff and landing on an aircraft carrier (landing hook, ejection device attachment, etc.);
Increased capacity of fuel tanks;
Special equipment for flights over the sea;
Rotary wing consoles to reduce the geometric dimensions of the aircraft during storage and maintenance on an aircraft carrier.
⚠ Note: This post is in writing. Completion expected in late 2023.
The first carrier-based aircraft, as a rule, were created by modifying conventional aircraft. But in the future, most of these aircraft were created specifically for operations from aircraft carriers. During the war, there were three main types of fighter aircraft in the service of the American carrier-based aviation, which were mainly used in combat operations in the Pacific Ocean. These aircraft were the Grumman Wildcat and Hellcat and the Chance Vought fighter Corsair. The American F4F “Wildcat” carrier-based fighter, which made its first flight on September 2, 1937, was widely used in battles over the Pacific Ocean and proved to be a reliable fighter. Although it was somewhat inferior in speed to the Japanese Zero fighter, but the large wing area and low load on it gave the car excellent controllability and good maneuverability, and the tank protection and cockpit armor made the aircraft more tenacious. It was these qualities that ensured the combat use and release of the F4F until the end of the war. In total, 7815 aircraft of all modifications were produced.
However, with the advent of new Japanese fighters, the US Navy needed a new, more powerful aircraft. It was planned that the “Wildcat” would be replaced by the “Corsair” fighter, which was created by Chance Vought. But due to delays in terms and various technical shortcomings of the XF4U-1 prototype, it was decided to create a new fighter based on the “Wildcat” by Grumman as a temporary measure until the appearance of the F4U “Corsair”. The F6F “Hellcat” fighter turned out to be so successful that its production not only did not stop after the appearance of the Corsair serial fighters, but also continued until 1949. It was the most massive fighter of the American naval aviation during the Second World War. A total of 12,274 aircraft were produced. All F6F “Hellcats” account for 75% of all combat victories won by US naval fighters. They destroyed 5,157 enemy aircraft with their own losses of 270 aircraft!
On February 1, 1938, the US Navy announced a competition for the creation of a single-seat fighter aircraft adapted to operate from the deck of an aircraft carrier. At the request of the customer, its speed was to be at least 350 miles/hour (563 km / h) at an altitude of 20,000 feet (6096 m). The Vought design bureau, led by chief engineer Rex Beisele, adopted several fighter concepts for work, later embodied in two projects, the V-166A and V-166B. When working on them, it was not yet completely clear which engine would be chosen for mass production, and therefore two versions of the fighter were designed at once. One was the V166A with a 1200 hp R-1830 Twin Wasp engine, and the other was the V-166B with a 2000 hp R-2800-2 Double Wasp 18-cylinder engine.
Design Development 1938-42
Theoretical calculations led U.S.Navy to accept the second version of the aircraft project, and on June 11, 1938, a contract was signed to build a prototype under the designation XF4U-1. It competed with the Bell XFL-1 Airabonita and the twin-engine Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket, which were never accepted for serial production. Vought designers used a Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propeller with a diameter of 4064 mm, the largest three-bladed propeller used on single-engine aircraft, on their fighter. The choice of the wing, which looks like a W in the front view, was largely dictated by the desire to achieve the required distance between the ground and the propeller blades without excessively increasing the length of the main landing gear. In addition to purely practical considerations, Rex Beissel used the results of research in a wind tunnel when choosing a W-shaped wing. When creating the aircraft, completely new technologies were used. For the first time, the spot welding method was used, which significantly reduced the overall weight of the structure and improved the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. When cooling the engine, hydraulically adjustable shutters on the hood were used.
The armament of the prototype consisted of two 12.7 mm machine guns in the wings and two synchronized 7.62 mm machine guns above the engine. To combat formations of enemy bombers on the XF4U-1, 20 2.4 kilogram bombs were placed in the wing compartments. It was assumed that, flying over a dense formation of bombers, it would be enough to drop bombs to hit one or more aircraft. Between February 8 and 11, 1939, representatives of the Ministry of Naval Aviation carried out the acceptance of the layout of the XF4U-1 prototype at the Vought-Sikorsky plant. After that, work on the aircraft was even more accelerated. After testing the XR-2800-4 engine (1850 hp) and running the aircraft around the airfield, the chief pilot of the company Lyman A. Baylord (Luman A.Buliard) May 29, 1940 lifted the car into the sky from the Bridgeport Municipal airfield, Connecticut. The first flight lasted 38 minutes and showed high performance of the aircraft. However, the flight ended in a forced landing due to high-frequency shaking of the aileron trimmers, which came off at a speed of 370 km/h. Despite the significant workload in managing the aircraft, the pilot managed to land it without damage. Among the shortcomings that were identified during the flight, the main ones were engine overheating and poor performance of the fuel system. Therefore, the chief pilot of Pratt & Whitney, Lewis MacLain, was involved in the tests.
During the fifth test flight, June 12, 1940, the pilot Boone T. Guyton (Boone T. Guyton) crashed into trees during an emergency landing on a golf course (at a speed of 150 km / h). The aircraft rolled over and received severe damage to the fin and propeller, and one wing was torn off. The pilot miraculously survived. It was believed that with such damage it would be impossible to restore the aircraft, but thanks to a successful design, the aircraft was repaired three months later. Test flights were continued in October. A new R-2800-8 engine with a power of 2000 hp was installed on the prototype. On October 1, while on a flight from Strenford to Hartford, this aircraft overcame the 400-mile speed limit and reached a record speed of 405 miles per hour (651.7 km / h). The rate of climb of the machine with a mass of 4250 kg was 810 m / min, and the ceiling was 10,730 meters. Tests also showed the shortcomings of the aircraft. The XF4U-1 stalled on the wing at a minimum landing speed. There were many problems with the unfinished engine, which overheated a lot.
One of the types of flight tests that the prototype underwent was the measurement of the maximum dive speed of the aircraft at a distance of 3050 meters. During these flights, a speed of 829 km / h was reached. However, such a high speed led to damage to the fabric covering on the rudders and ailerons. On January 28, 1941, the last dive flight was made. It was carried out from a height of 6100 meters, while the speed was 810 km / h. The flight ended in a forced landing, as the engine was seriously damaged by the strong spin-up of the propeller during a dive. Another test, which consisted of performing ten turns of a corkscrew, which the prototype went through, showed that the withdrawal of the aircraft requires significant physical effort from the pilot. Only by releasing a special anti-spin parachute, it was possible to stop the rotation.
All this revealed the need to make a number of changes to the prototype. The experience of combat operations in Europe also required design improvements from the creators of the aircraft. The armament of the XF4U-1 was considered insufficient and changed. Now it consisted of 6 machine guns of 12.7 mm caliber, three in each wing. Ammunition was 400 rounds per barrel, except for external machine guns, where the ammunition was 25 less. Under the inside of the wings, two MARK 41-2 bomb racks were installed to replace the anti-aircraft bomb armament, which had been dismantled. The increase in the number of machine guns in the wing forced the designers to eliminate the fuel tanks here. Instead, a sealed tank with a capacity of 897 liters was installed immediately behind the engine. This led to the transfer of the cockpit back by 813 millimeters. To improve visibility, the number of metal elements in the design of the lantern was reduced, and for rearward visibility, transparent “ears” were placed behind the sliding part of the lantern, as on the R-40 fighter. Changed tail wheel and brake hook. The armor of the aircraft, in addition to bulletproof glass 38 mm thick, protected the pilot in the cockpit and the oil tank. The total weight of the armor reached 68 kg. The aircraft was equipped with recognition equipment.
The final tests before the representatives of the fleet took place on February 24-25, (the aircraft was piloted by Guyton). And already on March 3, Vought was instructed to prepare for serial production, and the order for the first 584 aircraft, under the factory designation VS-317, was received from the Navy on June 3, 1941. The first serial F4U-1 (serial number 02153) with an R-2800-8 engine with a power of 1970 hp. was produced by the plant in Dallas and made its first flight on June 28, 1942. During test flights, a speed of 638 km / h was achieved at an altitude of 7540 meters and a rate of climb of 15.23 m / s. The empty weight was 4028 kg, and the takeoff weight of the aircraft was 5388 kg. The official transfer of the aircraft to the US Navy took place on July 31, 1942, after which the aircraft was sent to the aircraft carrier “Sangamon” (“Sangamon”) in the Chesapeake Bay.
The aircraft was a single-seat, all-metal, single-engine, low-wing, reverse-gull wing aircraft. The aircraft fuselage is a three-dimensional structure with duralumin skin reinforced with frames and stringers. It consists of four parts: motor, anterior, middle and posterior. The skin is attached to the frames and stringers by spot welding. The propulsion part – from the beginning of the fuselage to the fire barrier (the first main frame) – 2.33 meters. It contains: a gearbox, an engine, a fire extinguishing system, a supercharger, an oil tank. An antenna strut is attached to the front main frame, mounted to the right of the axis of the aircraft and slightly tilted forward.
The front part of the fuselage, oval section, from the front main frame to the second main frame (4.72 meters from the beginning of the fuselage). It contains the main fuel tank (897 l), reserve fuel tank (189 l), cockpit. The thickness of the skin above the fuel tank is 2.5 mm. The front of the lantern is made of 38 mm thick glass. The pilot’s head and shoulders are covered by an armored plate (68 kg). Rear view is provided by a mirror on the cover of the lantern.
The middle part of the fuselage from the second main frame to the frame at a distance of 7.31 m from the beginning of the fuselage. It contains a compartment with radio and navigation equipment. A second antenna pole is also attached here.
The rear part of the fuselage ends with a frame at a distance of 9.436 m from the beginning of the fuselage. It houses the tail wheel and landing hook. In addition, the rear of the fuselage carries the tail unit. Stabilizers of metal construction, with fabric covering of elevators. Stabilizer installation angle 1.25° Area 2.66 m2. The area of the elevators is 0.68 m2. Deviation of the elevators 23° up and 17° down. The keel, also of metal construction, is set 2° to the left of the axis of the aircraft in order to compensate for torque from the engine. The rudder is covered in fabric. Keel area 2.03 m2. The width at the root is 0.86 m. The area of the rudder is 1.20 m2. Rudder deflection 25° in both directions.
The wing is of metal construction, shaped like a W in the front view. The wing profile is NACA 2300, with a thickness of 18% at the root, 15% at the folding area and 9% at the tip. The wing consists of a center section and two consoles. The center section has an integral interface with the fuselage. The main spar is attached to the front main frame. In the front view, the center section has a negative angle of 23 °, the installation angle of the center section is 2 °, the width at the root is 2.66 m. Under the center section, on the fuselage are two hooks for the catapult. The outer part of the wing has a metal set, duralumin sheathing from the toe to the main spar and cloth after. On modifications F4U-5 and later, the wing skin is all-metal.
The consoles were hydraulically folded in the parking lot. The folded wing span is 5.2 m, the height of the aircraft is 4.9 m. In the front view, the consoles had a positive V 8.5 °. Landing flaps (on the center section and part of the console) had duralumin sheathing. The area of the flaps is 3.38 m2. Deviated hydraulically down to an angle of 50 °. Ailerons with plywood sheathing, 2.28 m long, were suspended at three points, deviated upward by an angle of 19 ° and downward by an angle of 14 °. Area – 1.68 m2. Trimmers on each aileron, on the left, in addition, an adjustment trimmer. The width of the wing at the end is 1.8 m. On the left console there is a PVD and a landing light. On the upper parts of the console there are hatches for access to machine guns, from below there are cartridge case ejectors. Each console has unprotected fuel tanks with a capacity of 235 liters.
Aircraft landing gear: the main racks were retracted into the center section in flight with the wheels turning 90 °. Track 3.68 m. Wheel diameter 813 mm, width 203 mm. The wheelbase is 7.43 m. The tail wheel with a diameter of 317 mm and a width of 114 mm had a non-pneumatic solid rubber tire. The tail wheel retracted into the fuselage.
Engine – Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 Double Wasp – 18-cylinder two-row air-cooled star, equipped with a two-stage two-speed supercharger with subsequent air cooling. Takeoff power 2000 hp at 2700 rpm. The cross-sectional area of the engine is 1.4 m2. Hamilton Standard propeller – variable pitch, three-bladed, 4.06 m in diameter. On modification F4U-4 and later, four-bladed 3.98 m in diameter.
The armament of the aircraft consisted of 6 Colt-Browning M-2 machine guns of 12.7 mm caliber. Machine guns were installed at a distance of 2.51 m, 2.69 m, 2.86 m from the axis of the aircraft. Machine gun weight 29 kg, rate of fire 750 high / min, bullet weight 43 grams, bullet speed at the muzzle 800 m / min. The total ammunition capacity was 2350 rounds (400 for each of the four internal and 375 for each of the two external). Modification F4U-1C was equipped with four 20-mm guns. Starting from the F4U-1D modification, 2 453.6 kg bombs or 8 127 mm unguided rockets could be suspended under the wing.
⚒ specifications 1943
|Dimensions||28 ft 9 in (8.76 m) x 38 ft 0 in (11.58 m) x 11 ft 10 in (3.61 m)|
|Wing area||Wing area: 260 sq ft (24 m2)|
|Airfield||Root: NACA 23015; tip: NACA 23009|
|Weight, empty||4,907 lb (2,226 kg)|
|Weight, gross||7,423 lb (3,367 kg)|
|Propulsion||Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 14-cyl 1,200 hp (890 kW)|
|Propeller||3-bladed constant-speed propeller|
|Speed, max.||331 mph (533 km/h, 288 kn)|
|Ceiling||39,500 ft (12,000 m)|
|Climb Rate||2,303 ft/min (11.70 m/s)|
|Range||845 mi (1,360 km, 734 nmi)|
|Wing load||28.5 lb/sq ft (139 kg/m2)|
|Power/mass||0.282 kW/kg (0.172 hp/lb)|
|Armament: MGs||4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning MGs with 450 rounds|
|Armament: Bombs||2 × 100 lb (45.4 kg) bombs|
|Armament: Rockets||Six 5 inches (127 mm) rockets underwings, 2×3 racks (FM-2)|
|Payload:||2 × 58 US gal (48 imp gal; 220 l) drop tanks|
Early Combat Action 1942-43
The command of the Navy intended to use their F4U primarily as a carrier-based interceptor fighter. But unsuccessful experiments in using the Corsair from aircraft carriers forced the US military to use aircraft for the first time in the ground units of the Marine Corps (U.S. Marine Corps). The first such unit was the VMF-124 squadron, formed on September 7, 1942 at Camp Kern, California. The squadron was trained on a new aircraft for them and was declared operational on 28 December. The VMF-124 was armed with 22 F4U-1 Corsair aircraft.
On Friday, February 12, 1943, the squadron was transferred to the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. On the same day, the Corsairs completed their first sortie, escorting PB4Y bombers during their raid on Japanese ships in Bouangville. But on this day they did not come into combat contact with enemy aircraft. While performing a similar task on February 14, fighters from VMF-124, together with R-40 and R-38, were intercepted by 50 Japanese Zero fighters. The debut for the “Corsairs” was unsuccessful, they lost two cars in this battle. The total losses of the Americans were: two Corsairs, four P-38s, two P-40s, two PB4Ys with three Japanese Zeros shot down. The F4U pilots were justified only by the fact that 20 flight hours were completely insufficient for retraining from the Buffalo and Wildcat fighters. The battle tactics were also not worked out. The pilots simply did not yet know the capabilities of their aircraft. However, after two months of fighting, the squadron had 68 Japanese aircraft on its combat account, and the losses amounted to 11 Corsairs and three pilots killed.
During the two-month battles, the F4U-1 pilots developed tactics that became standard in battles with Japanese aircraft. Using the advantages of the “Corsairs” in speed and rate of climb, the American pilots attacked the Japanese first. Having found enemy planes, the Americans quickly gained altitude, and then dived on them, destroying enemy vehicles with machine gun fire. After the attack, they left the battle with a climb and occupied a new line for a second attack. Yielding to the “Zero” in maneuverability, the “Corsairs” tried not to get involved with them in a close maneuverable battle. And in difficult situations, the Corsair could break away from the enemy due to a quick climb or dive. Word of the Corsair’s greater capabilities spread as VMF-124 increased its number of victories, and more Marine squadrons began to receive new F4U-1 fighters.
A Dangerous plane for aircraft carriers
Much more difficult was the preparation for the use of the aircraft on aircraft carriers. The first series of test takeoffs and landings, carried out on the aircraft carrier “Sangamon” from September 25, 1942, revealed a number of design flaws in the aircraft. The Corsair suddenly, for no apparent reason, lost speed, fell on the right wing, and if the pilot did not have time to energetically move the rudders away from him, the fighter went into a tailspin. Due to the strong torque of the propeller during takeoff and landing, the instability of the aircraft was felt. The fighter was literally chattering left and right. The standard technique for landing on an aircraft carrier was almost impossible. The engine limited the pilot’s view, and drops of oil falling from the engine onto the windshield made it even more difficult to see. At the moment of landing, the pilot was forced to approach the ship not in a straight line, but on a turn, in order to see the landing deck. At the moment of landing, the fighter dropped its nose and hit the main wheels hard. The Corsair bounced on hard-damped landing gear, which often led to damage to the aircraft. In this situation, the Navy command could not use the F4U-1 as carrier-based fighters.
The Vought-Sicorsky Division, part of United Aircraft Corp., has put a lot of effort into improving the aircraft’s flight data. More than 100 changes were made to the fighter. To counteract propeller torque, the stabilizer angle has been changed 2 degrees to the left. To improve rearward visibility, a 180 mm high bulge was made on the canopy for installing a mirror. Chassis damping has been changed, they have become more “soft”. An oil leak from the hydraulic hood shutter control system was eliminated by closing the upper engine cooling flaps. Additional fuel tanks were placed in front of the wing. The maximum mass of the F4U-1 upgraded in this way reached 5770 kg. To increase the rate of aircraft production, the production of the F4U-1 was deployed at the factories of Goodyear Aeronautical Corp. in Ohio and Brewster Aeronautical Corp. in NYC. The first Goodyear FG-1 took off on February 25, 1943 and differed from the F4U-1 only in that the wings did not fold. One FG-1 was used as a flying laboratory to test the first American Westingho U.S.e Yankee axial compressor jet engine. Brewster began production of the F3A-1 (similar to the F4U-1 fighter) on April 26, 1943.
On October 3, 1942, upgraded F4U-1 fighters began to enter the US Navy’s VF-12 Experimental Squadron. However, the fleet command was not sure that the pilots would successfully cope with landing on an aircraft carrier, and therefore the squadron was initially stationed at a land base in the city of San Diego, California. By January 14, 1943, VF-12 was fully equipped with 22 Corsair fighters and redeployed aboard the aircraft carrier Core on January 22. In March-April 1943, the new F4U-1 fighters entered the VF-17 squadron, previously armed with F6F3 Hellket aircraft. In mid-April, the unit was transferred aboard the aircraft carrier “Bunker Hill” (“Bunker Hill”). It was the first U.S. Navy carrier-based squadron to enter combat in Corsair aircraft. Beginning in September 1943, VF-17 pilots, operating from ground bases in the Solomon Islands, destroyed 127 Japanese aircraft and 5 ships in 76 days. Fifteen pilots of the squadron became aces. One of them, Lieutenant Kepford (Ira Kepford), before his return to his homeland won 17 victories and became the fifth among naval pilots in terms of the number of aircraft shot down.
The VF-17 squadron was the first to prove that the Corsairs were suitable for operations from aircraft carriers. Departing from the islands of New Georgia on November 8, 1943, F4Us from VF-17 carried out a combat mission to cover the aircraft carriers Essex and Bunker Hill, whose aircraft attacked the city of Rabaul. Having intercepted and destroyed a group of 18 Japanese bombers, the Corsairs almost completely used up their fuel supply. Therefore, contrary to instructions, a forced decision was made to land on aircraft carriers. All aircraft landed safely on deck. This landing influenced the further decision of the command on the wider use of the F4U from aircraft carriers. However, things didn’t always end so happily. On January 25, 1944, 23 Corsairs from VMF-422 took off from the island of Tarawa for a 700-mile ferry flight to Funatuti. Bad weather and an unsuccessfully planned route led to the fact that the squadron got lost, and, having completely run out of fuel, the planes fell into the sea. Only one plane reached the base. Six pilots died while landing on the water.
Many pilots became real aces, fighting on the Corsairs. The first of these was Lt. Kenneth A. Walsh (Kenneth A. Walsh) from VMF-124, who scored six victories. Moreover, he shot down three planes in one day on May 13, 1943. Later, Major G. Weissenberger of VMF-213 Squadron destroyed 3 Zero fighters in one minute of combat! Pilot A. Jensen from VMF-214 squadron, having lost his group due to a tropical downpour, suddenly discovered a Japanese airfield. Dropping to low level flight, he began to shoot the planes standing on the runway. During this attack, Jensen destroyed and seriously damaged 8 Zero fighters, 4 Val dive bombers and 12 Betty bombers. The next day, photographic reconnaissance data confirmed this. This squadron was commanded by one of the best American aces, Major Gregory M. Boyington (G. M. Boyington). During the battles for Rabaul in November-January 1943-44, having six aircraft shot down in China, he brought the number of his victories to 28. On January 3, 1944, he was shot down, but survived. Another pilot who became an ace over Rabaul was Lieutenant Robert M. Hanson of VMF-215. Starting service in this squadron on October 6, 1943, he won his first victory on November 1. By the beginning of the large-scale battle for Rabaul, Hanson had five victories and in 17 days brought his combat score to 25 aircraft. On February 3, 1944, while attacking the positions of Japanese anti-aircraft artillery, his plane was damaged and fell into the sea. By the end of 1943, all US Marine fighter squadrons in the South Pacific were re-equipped with F4U fighters, and by this time 584 enemy aircraft had been destroyed by the Corsairs.
1943 Improved Corsair
In the middle of 1943, starting with the 758-series F4U-1 aircraft, production of a new modification of the F4U-1A fighter began on all three assembly lines. The Goodyear and Brewster factories also began production of a new version of the fighter under the designation FG-1A and F3A-1A, respectively. The main difference between the F4U-1A was the new convex cockpit canopy. The pilot’s seat is raised by 178 mm. We managed to partially cope with the effect of falling on the wing by installing a 152-mm triangular blotch on the right wing. It was located on the leading edge near the machine gun holes. The fighter could carry two 454 kg bombs under the fuselage or an external fuel tank with a capacity of 662 liters. From November 1943, starting with 862 F4U-1A, the R-2800-8W engine with 2250 hp was installed on the aircraft. A small series of 190 aircraft produced the F4U-1C with four 20 mm Hispano M2 cannons. These fighters, due to the low rate of fire of the guns, were practically not used in maneuverable air battles, but were used in ground attack and during night interceptions. The first of these was released on August 30, 1943.
On the next version of the F4U-1D fighter, they returned to the previous version of weapons – heavy machine guns. The main difference between the F4U-1D and the “-1A” was the presence of two bomb racks under the center section for 454-kilogram bombs or fuel tanks. In addition to them, on the central pylon of the Brewster company, it was possible to hang bombs or fuel tanks weighing 907 kg. The last 266 F4U-1Ds and 295 FG-1Ds provided for the suspension of eight 127mm HVAR missiles under the planes. Using powerful missile and bomb armament, the aircraft was often used as a fighter-bomber. To test the new tactics, at the end of 1943, Vought commissioned the legendary Charles A. Lindbergh to conduct two test flights over the front line with a maximum bomb load. The armament of the aircraft consisted of a 907 kg bomb on the central pylon and two 454 kg bombs under the center section. This was almost half the bomb load of the B-17 heavy bomber! In flight, Charles Lindbergh violated the instructions forbidding him to engage in combat with the enemy. He destroyed the positions of Japanese anti-aircraft artillery at a distance of 370 km from the base. This flight confirmed the possibility of using “-1D” as a heavy fighter-bomber. Production of the F4U-1D was deployed at Goodyear factories under the designation FG-1D. Initially, it was planned to connect Brewster to the release of “-1D”, but the order was canceled, and in July 1944 the company completely stopped the production of “Corsairs”.
1944-45 Main Operations
In April 1944, experiments were completed with a modernized F4U-1D fighter aboard the escort aircraft carrier Gambier Bay. The pilots completed 113 takeoffs and landings without a single accident. The landing gear improved on this modification was then introduced on all Corsairs in operation. On April 22, the command of the US Navy lifted all restrictions on the use of the F4U as carrier-based fighters. However, the first naval F4U squadrons became widely used in early 1945, although the first Marine squadrons VMF-124 and VMF-213 were deployed on the aircraft carrier Essex as early as December 28, 1944. And on January 3, 1945, after a series of training flights in which 2 pilots died and three aircraft crashed, a Japanese fighter was destroyed by carrier-based F4U-1D. During the battles for Okinawa, in March 1945, the US Navy operated 10 deck squadrons armed with F4U-1Ds: four VMFs, three VBFs, three VFs (VF-10 on the Interpid aircraft carrier), VF- 5 to “Franklin” (“Franklin”), VF-84 to “Bunker Hill”). At that time, there was an active re-equipment from Hellkets to Corsairs, and by the end of the battle for Okinawa, almost all attack aircraft carriers of the American fleet carried squadrons of Corsairs.
On June 12, 1944, Germany used V-1 cruise missiles against England. It was necessary to urgently take measures to combat the new weapons of the Nazis. The most effective way to destroy missiles was to attack the launchers from the air. At this time, a particularly powerful 298 mm Tiny Tim missile was developed at the California Institute of Technology specifically for the fleet. Two of these missiles could be suspended under the F4U-1D, turning the Corsair into an efficient flying platform for delivering them to their target. In July 1944, a special Marine Corps Aviation Group-51 (Marine Air Group MAG-51) was formed, including VMF-513 and VMF-514. The group was to be deployed to Europe to attack V-1 positions as part of the “Project Crossbow” (“Project Crossbow”). However, the delay in the production of “Tiny Tim” hampered the preparation of squadrons, and the project had to be abandoned, as ground forces captured the areas of deployment of launchers.
In parallel with the development of daytime versions of the fighter, in November 1941, Vought began work on the creation of a night version of the Corsair fighter. The work was carried out slowly and therefore was transferred to the state naval aviation plant (Naval Aircraft Factory) in Philadelphia. The first XF4U-2 was created in September 1942. By the beginning of 1943, 12 F4U-1 fighters were converted into night fighters, and a total of 32 F4U-2s were produced. About 100 changes were made to the base model. On the right wing, in a streamlined container weighing 115 kg, an AN / ASP-6 radar was installed with a range of 8 kilometers. One machine gun on the right wing was dismantled. The cockpit housed a large radar screen. The aircraft was equipped with a radio altimeter and other additional electronic equipment. The suspension of two 113 kg bombs or one 454 kg bomb was provided.
The combat use of the F4U-2 was very limited, due to the small number of machines of this modification. First, they were equipped with a squadron of VF (N) -75 of the US Navy, which operated in the area of the Solomon Islands. On October 31, 1943, she made her first successful interception of a Japanese aircraft. The F4U-2 night fighters also began to enter service with the VMF (N) -532 squadron, which was fully formed on April 3, 1943. After testing, VMF (N) -532 was transferred to the Marshall Islands in February 1944, where on the night of April 13-14 she made her first night interception using the AN / APS-6 radar. As a result of the battle, the pilots shot down two G4M bombers and three more according to unconfirmed reports. American losses amounted to one F4U-2. The squadron also participated in night attacks on Japanese targets, bombing them. Later, 6 F4U-2s served with VF(N)-101 Squadron, which operated from the aircraft carriers Essex, Hornet and Interpid. However, the aircraft of these three squadrons did not become standard for the US Navy. The F6F-3N and F6F-5N Hellkets became mass night fighters.
The F4U-4, best Corsair in combat ?
In the second half of 1943, work began on the F4U-4. The first prototype was converted from a standard F4U-1A and under the designation F4U-4XA made its first flight on July 19, 1944. Already on September 20, the aircraft was accepted for serial production. The need for a new fighter was so great that the fleet ordered 6049 aircraft at once. More than 300 changes were made to the new modification of the fighter, but the main difference was the installation of a new C-series R-2800-18W engine with a four-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller with a diameter of 4013 mm. Maximum takeoff engine power 2070 hp allowed to develop a speed of 683 km / h, and with the injection of water into the cylinders, it briefly increased to 2450 hp. and the speed reached 717 km / h. The need for more active cooling of air and oil in the radiators located in the root of the wing required the placement of an additional air intake in the lower part of the hood. To improve visibility, the cover of the lantern has been changed. Facilitated access to radio equipment due to the folding pilot’s seat.
Armament of six machine guns was retained. An additional 89.3 kg of armor was installed on the aircraft. The suspension of two 454-kilogram bombs or 8 HVAR missiles with a caliber of 127 mm was envisaged. In the amount of 296 copies, the F4U-4C version was built with a 20 mm M3 gun. The ammunition capacity was 220 rounds per barrel, if necessary, an increase in ammunition supply by 26 rounds for each gun was provided. 48 production vehicles were equipped with an automatic weapon system AN / ASG 10 Mk.I Mod 1 for dropping bombs from a pitch-up. The reconnaissance version of the F4U-4P with the K-21 camera was built in 11 copies. Until the end of the war, 1912 F4U-4 Corsairs were built, and about 500 aircraft were used in the last battles on the island of Okinawa, during raids on Tokyo, Saigon and other important targets. After the war, the order for Corsairs was reduced to 793 aircraft, which immediately affected the pace of production. Only 20 fighters were produced per month. In total, up to August 1, 1947, 2557 F4U-4s were produced by Vought.
Goodyear also intended to produce the F4U-4 under the designation FG-4, but an order for 500 aircraft was canceled due to the end of the war. However, back in March 1944, the US Navy signed a contract for the supply of 418 F2G-1 and F2G-2 aircraft, designed primarily to destroy Japanese aircraft with suicide pilots. In essence, it was a new aircraft, and therefore the machine received the designation F2G, as the second aircraft of the company. The main difference was the installation of a powerful four-star 28-cylinder R-4360-4 Wasp Major engine with a maximum power of 3000 hp. The fuselage behind the cockpit was lowered and the cockpit received a new teardrop-shaped canopy that could be moved back. This eliminated one of the most important shortcomings of the Corsair – an insufficient view. The armament consisted of four 12.7 mm machine guns with 1200 rounds of ammunition. It was possible to carry two 728 kg bombs or 8 HVAR missiles. The F2G-1 did not have a folding wing or a landing hook and was intended for operations from land airfields. The F2G-2 was a carrier-based aircraft and had special equipment for operations from aircraft carriers.
The surrender of Japan stopped work on both aircraft and the order was cancelled. Manufactured 10 aircraft were later bought by private individuals and participated in various competitions on them. The program for creating a high-altitude version of the Corsair was also buried without fanfare. In March 1943, Vought ordered three XF4U-3 prototypes with XR-2800-16C engines, which, with the help of a 1009A turbocharger, maintained 2000 hp. at an altitude of 12,000 meters and provided a speed of 663 km / h at an altitude of 9,445 meters. At low and medium altitudes, the aircraft was worse than the F4U-1A. The XF4U-3 outwardly differed from the standard Corsairs by the presence of a large turbocharger air intake under the fuselage. It was also planned to place an order for another 27 aircraft from Goodyear, but the order was later reduced to 13 aircraft, which were used mainly for various tests. Not a single aircraft ever entered service with the fleet.
Summing up the review of the modifications of the fighter, created during the war, it should be noted that, although the aircraft began to be widely used in combat operations only from 1944, 2140 Japanese aircraft were destroyed in air battles by the Corsairs, with the loss of only 189 aircraft. Among the pilots of naval aviation, he was considered the most powerful fighter aircraft in the American fleet, as evidenced by the high ratio of victories to losses (11.3: 1). For every thirty Corsair sorties, more than one Japanese aircraft was shot down. Japanese pilots considered the F4U the best American fighter in the Pacific. But it would be wrong to say that the Corsair was the standard of a carrier-based fighter aircraft. Prior to the advent of the “-1D” series, every takeoff and landing on an aircraft carrier was fraught with great risk. To confidently pilot the Corsair, the pilot had to undergo serious flight training. It is no coincidence that the number of F4U aircraft lost for non-combat reasons far exceeds combat losses (349 aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft artillery, 230 for other combat reasons, 692 during non-combat sorties and 164 crashed during takeoff and landing on aircraft carriers).
The F4U-5 debut in Korea
Even before the end of World War II, Vought began work on a new modification of the fighter. On December 21, 1945, a prototype XF4U-5 high-altitude fighter took off with a new E-series R-2800-32W engine equipped with a two-stage variable speed compressor. Maximum engine power 2450 hp The engine hood has been modified to accommodate the compressor, and the engine itself is tilted downward at an angle of 2° 45′. All this, together with a new cockpit canopy and canopy, significantly improved the pilot’s view. The maximum speed of the prototype was 744 km / h at an altitude of 9570 m, the ceiling increased to 13,440 meters. The armament was significantly changed, instead of 6 machine guns, 4 M3 T-31 guns of 20 mm caliber were installed. Under the center section, bombs weighing 907 kg could be suspended, and 10 127 mm caliber missiles could be placed under the wing. The first production F4U-5 made its first flight on May 1, 1947. A total of 568 aircraft of 4 modifications were produced. Issue discontinued October 22, 1951. 214 F4U-5N night fighters built. Photo reconnaissance F4U-5P and all-weather night fighters F4U-5NL were also built. For night modifications of the fighter, the maximum speed was reduced to 700 km / h, the ceiling was 13,410 meters.
In the summer of 1950, an armed conflict began on the Korean Peninsula. By decision of the UN, interethnic forces were formed to participate in hostilities, the core of which was American troops. The ground forces accounted for 50%, the Navy – 80%, the Air Force – more than 93% of all countries participating under the UN flag in the war. The combined Navy included more than 800 warships, including 20 aircraft carriers (of which 16 were from the United States). Almost all American aircraft carriers carried F4U-4 or F4U-5 Corsair aircraft. In the first 10 months of the war, they made 82% of all sorties of naval aviation and marine aviation. “Corsairs” were used mainly for delivering missile and bomb strikes against operational reserves, airfields and industrial facilities on enemy territory. Direct support of their troops was actively carried out. From 4 to 7 December 1950 alone, the F4Us flew 900 sorties with this mission. It was the “Corsairs” that covered the A-1 “Skyraider” carrier-based attack aircraft during the famous torpedo attack on the Khvashomskaya dam.
In addition to strikes against ground targets, F4U-5N night fighters were involved in night interceptions and patrols. Here again the main drawback of the Corsairs appeared – falling on the wing at a speed of less than 167 km / h. It was at such speeds that the North Korean Po-2 and Yak-18 light night bombers mainly flew. However, even at such low speeds, American pilots adapted to shoot down enemy aircraft. The most famous night ace flying the F4U-5N was Lieutenant Guy Bordelon, who shot down five La-11s and Yak-18s in a short period in 1953. The pilots of the Corsairs even had jet MiG-15s on their account, which, of course, without detracting from the merits of the American pilots, rather testifies to the low level of training of the Korean-Chinese pilots. However, the main goal of the “Corsairs” still remained the ground facilities of the communists. In total, during the war in Korea, “Corsairs” carried out 45% of the 255,000 sorties of naval aviation and marines. F4U were in service with 26 squadrons based on board 10 aircraft carriers. Another 7 squadrons were in service with the marines on 4 aircraft carriers. From ground airfields in Korea and Japan, 3 naval and 1 squadrons of marines operated. Losses in Corsairs for the entire period of the war reached 312 F4U and 16 AU-1 aircraft, and the first aircraft shot down by the American fleet was the F4U. Almost all the Corsairs lost by the Americans were shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
The French Aeonavale D4U-7 in combat
The latest modification of the “Corsair” was the F4U-7, built by order of the French Navy specifically for operations in Southeast Asia. It was a mixture of the AU-1 airframe with the propulsion system from the F4U-4. 94 aircraft were produced, the first of which took off on July 2, 1952, and the last one was released by the Dallas plant in January 1953. From April to May 1954 French Corsairs were used in Indochina. In 1956, they were used from the aircraft carriers Arromanches (Arromanhes) and La Fayette (La Fayette) as part of Operation Musketeer against Egypt. Until July 1962, F4U-7s operated over Algeria, and in August 1963, their pilots flew sorties against rebels in Tunisia. French Naval Aviation Squadron 14F flew the F4U-7 until October 1964. After the war, Corsairs were also delivered to Latin American countries. In El Salvador, the FG-1Ds were first sold, and later they were replaced by the F4U-4. Honduras received more than 20 F4U-4, F4U-5 and “-5N” aircraft. The Argentine Navy used its F4U-5s and F4U-5Ns on the aircraft carrier Independencia. Some aircraft in these countries were used until the early 70s.
When the XF4U-1 took off on May 29, 1940, few could imagine that the serial production of this aircraft would last as long as 11 years! During this time, 12,576 aircraft were built, more than 20 modifications. The Corsairs remained in service with the US Navy from July 1942 to June 1957, breaking all longevity records for piston aircraft. The F4U was the last piston fighter aircraft produced in the United States. The end of the production and operation of the Corsair is caused only by the fact that a new era has begun in the history of aviation – the era of jet engines. There was no longer room for a veteran aircraft, no matter how well it had performed earlier. But the name of the aircraft did not die, according to the tradition existing in the USA, the name of the aircraft was assigned to the jet attack aircraft Vought A-7 “Corsair II”.
As part of the Mutual Assistance in Warfare Act, the first F4U-1s entered service with the FAA (Fleet Air Arm) in early 1943. These were standard Corsair aircraft, indexed in the US as F4U-1B (British), and in the UK they were given the designation “Corsair F Mk.I”. Modification F4U-1A had the English name “Corsair F Mk.II”. The last 150 aircraft delivered by the US were F4U-1Ds, but the British did not have a special designation for them. Starting with the Corsair F Mk.II, the wing was reduced by 0.36 meters, as the height of the hangars of British aircraft carriers was less than American ones. British pilots were trained in the United States and, together with the aircraft, were transferred to England on escort aircraft carriers. The first FAA squadron, N1830, was stationed on the aircraft carrier Illustrious on June 1, 1943. In July, 1831 Squadron was formed on the aircraft carrier Vengeance, 1833 Squadron on the aircraft carrier Illustrious, and 1834 Squadron FAA on the Victorius. Additionally, in August, the formation of the 1835th and 1836th squadrons (“Victories”), and in September the 1837th (“Illustrious”).
Fleet Air Arm Corsairs Mk.I-V in combat
Unlike the Americans, the British used their “Corsairs” not only in the Pacific Ocean, but also in Europe. So, on the afternoon of April 3, 1944, Corsairs from the 1834 squadron of the FAA took part in escorting the Barracuda torpedo bombers that attacked the German battleship Tirpitz in one of the fjords of Northern Norway. However, the attack was not successful, and in July – August 1944, several more raids were undertaken. They involved the 1841st and 1842nd Corsair Squadrons from the aircraft carrier Formidable. It should be noted that there were no encounters between Korsair fighters and German fighters during this operation. In parallel with the combat debut in Europe, the use of British F4Us in the Pacific began. The first operation was carried out on April 19, 1944, when aircraft from 1830 and 1833 squadrons escorted Barracudas to attack the port of Sabank on the island of Sumatra. During the attack on an industrial facility on January 24, 1945, the Corsairs destroyed 13 Japanese Ki-44 fighters.
From the spring of 1945, the Corsairs began to operate more and more actively from the decks of British aircraft carriers. Only from March 26 to April 4, 1945, they carried out 20% of the 2000 sorties of British aviation. In June-August, the Corsairs operated intensively against targets on the territory of the Japanese islands. In total, by the end of the war, the FAA operated 19 squadrons armed with Corsairs. After the war, these squadrons were quickly disbanded. The last two squadrons were reorganized on 13 August 1946. In total, as part of Lend-Lease deliveries, the UK received 2021 Corsairs: 95 F4U-1, 510 F4U-1A, 430 F3A-1 (“Corsair F Mk.III) and 977 FG-1 (“Corsair F Mk.IV “).
The first delivery of Corsairs was made on March 23, 1944, when the first thirty aircraft were delivered to the workshops at Espiriti Santo in the New Hebrides. Aircraft were often delivered on the decks of escort aircraft carriers, which required careful inspection and replacement of parts damaged by corrosion during a long sea voyage. Later, the aircraft began to arrive in disassembled form. A special unit was created in Espirito Santo to assemble and repair aircraft. A special squadron was created to retrain New Zealand pilots from Kittyhawks and Warhawks and fly around assembled Corsairs. The pace of assembly reached two “Corsairs” per day, the first 100 aircraft were ready on June 2, 1944. A total of 287 F4U-1A and “-1D” aircraft were assembled here. Aircraft assembly at Espiriti Santo ended in December 1944. The assembly site was moved to Los Negros in the Admiral Islands, where the FG-1D was later assembled.
The first unit to enter the battle on the Corsair was the 20th squadron of the RNZAF, which operated from May 15, 1944 from the island of Bougainville. Until the end of the year, the RNZAF had 8 squadrons armed with F4Us. New Zealand fighters operated primarily as attack aircraft and light bombers against Japanese land targets and ships. Aircraft deliveries continued in 1945, with 60 FG-1Ds delivered to the base at Los Negros. The aircraft arrived disassembled. Wings, propellers and equipment were packed in separate boxes. In addition, 77 aircraft were assembled at Hobsovville in New Zealand and used mainly for training. A total of 424 Corsair aircraft were delivered: 237 F4U-1A, 127 F4U-1D and 60 FG-1D. They were in service with 13 RNZAF fighter squadrons (from 14 to 26).
After the Japanese surrender, the aircraft were returned to New Zealand and the personnel were demobilized. Only one 14th squadron was stationed as part of the occupying forces in Japan on the island of Honshu at the former Japanese naval aviation base Iwakuni. In February 1948, the squadron was transferred to the base in Bofu. The decision was later made not to continue the presence of New Zealand troops in Japan. Since the planes were already badly worn out, it did not make sense to transfer them to New Zealand. All aircraft, spare parts and other equipment of the 14th squadron were collected in one place at the airfield and burned on October 10, 1948. On the territory of New Zealand, the decommissioning of the Corsairs also continued. So, for example, in March 1948, 215 aircraft were sold for scrap. During 1949, the last Corsair was taken out of active service, and by 1953, the RNZAF did not have a single aircraft of this type.
The Corsair Today: Legacy, pop culture, Museums & collections
F4U-1 “Gus Gopher” (Wilbur “Gus” Thomas) VMF-213, Guadalcanal 1943
Cold War Corsairs
F4U-4 VF-61, AG-6 USS Midway, 1945
F4U-5 Corsario, ARA Independencia 1960
In FAA service ()
Corsair Mark II Onboard HMS Unicorn, 757 NAS, July 1944
F4U-1D aboard HMS Colossus February 1945
Cold war internationl service
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