F4U Corsair (Family)

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The Chance Vought F4U Corsair is an American fighter put into service in 1942. It served throughout WW2 until 1979 as well as in several air forces worldwide.


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Main article: F4U Corsair (History)


In 1938 the Navy wanted to find a design for a carrier-based fighter with more performance than the Brewster F2A and Grumman F4F. The design contract was given to Vought, based on their proposal, which featured a plane dependent on the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine. The design included an inverted gull wing shape. This was necessary because the engine required a large propeller, which needed a large ground clearance. This would require very long landing gear, except the inverted gull wing shape allowed shorter landing gear, while maintaining the necessary ground clearance. The prototype, named XF4U-1 was armed with 4 machine guns, two .50 cal machine guns in the wings and two .30 cal machine guns on the engine cowling. The XF4U-1 first flew on May 29, 1940, and became the first single engine plane to fly over 400 mph. Before Vought was allowed to produce the plane though, they had to increase its armament, as it was deemed insufficient based on data from Europe. Its armament was changed to six .50 machine guns, and it was ordered into production. A self-sealing fuel tank in the fuselage above the wings caused the cockpit to be moved aft as well. The Navy ordered 584 F4U-1's on April 2, 1941.


World War 2

On July 31 1942, the Navy received its first F4U-1. The framed canopy, the long nose, and the angle of the nose made it very hard to taxi on a carrier deck, as forward visibility was low. Despite all of the problems with the design, it was found that the Corsair could land on a carrier during carrier qualification on USS Wolverine, USS Core, and USS Charger. Navy squadron VF-12 soon completed deck landing qualification, in April of 1943. By this point the F6F Hellcat had entered service, and it was preferred over the F4U because it was much easier to land on a carrier. In 1942, the Corsair was sent to the Marine Corps to be used as a land-based fighter, since it still had issues landing on carriers.

In 1943, the Corsair started to be used by the Marine Corps, operating out of the Solomon Islands, notably, Guadalcanal. The first combat action was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 were escorting B-24 Liberator bombers, along with P-40 Warhawks and P-38 Lightnings. The Japanese launched an attack, and four P-38s, two P-40s, two F4Us, and two B-24s were lost. The Japanese lost four A6M Zeros, one of which was knocked out by an F4U, although it was because of an aerial collision, not combat.

On 26 March 1944, Corsairs recorded their first real kills. They shot down eight A6M Zeros while escorting B-25 bombers over Ponape. VMF-113 covered the landings at Ujelang, but quickly began striking targets in the Marshall Islands for the rest of 1944, since the landings were unopposed. One notable kill by a Corsair was when Marine Lieutenant R. R. Klingman of VMF-312 knocked out a Japanese aircraft by ramming its tail with his propeller, since his guns had jammed. He still managed to land safely, even though his propeller was missing five inches on the blades. At the Battle of Okinawa, a number of Corsair squadrons saw success, such as VMF-312, VMF-323, and VMF-224.

965 F4U-1As were built as land-based fighters, since they had not yet been cleared for carrier operations. These models had the hydraulic mechanisms for folding the wings removed. In addition, many had their arrestor wire hooks removed in the field. The modifications simplified the design and reduced unnecessary weight.

The Corsair had the ability to be used as a fighter-bomber, which was utilized by the Marine Corps, starting in 1944. Charles Lindbergh, working with the Marines as a civilian adviser, flew Corsairs in attempts to increase their payload. In the process, he flew missions against Japanese positions in the Marshall Islands, and got a Corsair in the air with 4,000 lbs of bombs. By 1945, the Corsair was performing missions with bombs, rockets, napalm, Tiny Tim rockets, and even Bat glide bombs. It fought over Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa.

In the Solomon Islands, VF-17 reinstalled the tail hooks on their Corsairs, so they could land on the carriers they would be providing air cover for during the raid on Rabaul. The Navy finally cleared the Corsair for carrier operations in April of 1944 when the oleo struts were improved to eliminate bouncing on landing. VMF-124 became the first Corsair squadron to be based on an aircraft carrier in December 1944, along with VMF-213. The amount of Corsair squadrons operating from carriers increased over the course of the war, as they were necessary to help protect against kamikaze attacks.

Korean War

By the time of the Korean War, there were more modern fighters than the F4U Corsair, including jet fighters. Because of this, the F4U was used, for the most part, in a close air support role, instead of that of a fighter. The Corsair versions used in Korea included F4U-4B, F4U-4P, F4U-5N, F4U-5NL, and AU-1. Early in the war, Corsairs saw some action dogfighting with Yak-9s. Later in the war, jet powered MiG-15s were seen. Generally, a piston-engined F4U would make an easy target for a jet powered MiG-15, but in one case an F4U was able to shoot down a MiG-15. Captain Jesse Folmar from the Marine Corps was able to catch a MiG-15 while it was low and slow, and was able shoot it down. He was shot down soon after, but was rescued quickly, and was back in the cockpit the next day.

Chance Vought Aircraft
Corsair  F4U-1A · F4U-1A (USMC) · F4U-1C · F4U-1D · F4U-4 · F4U-4B · F4U-4B VMF-214
Float planes  OS2U-1 · OS2U-3
Attackers  AU-1
Bombers  SB2U-2 · SB2U-3
Jet aircraft 
Corsair II  A-7D · A-7E · A-7K
Crusader  F8U-2 · F-8E
Export  V-156-B1 · V-156-F · ▄Corsair F Mk II · F4U-7 · ▄F-8E(FN)
Captured  ▅F4U-1A