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Chance Vought F4U Corsair

An F4U Corsair ready to take-off from the decks of U.S.S. Boxer, near Korea. Note the Sikorski HO3S in the background. (1951. No Photographer, or exact date available. I apologize sorry for any inconvenience.)

An American fighter aircraft that participated in two major wars, World War II, and the Korean War (and some isolated local conflicts.), the Corsair was an amazing plane. Designed by Rex Beisel, and Igor Sikorsky, who worked for Chance Vought at that time, and manufactured by 3 different Aeronautical companies. Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG, and Brewster-built ones F3A.

Introduction, and Retirement...

The F4U's introduction was on 28th December, 1942, and retired in 1953, right after the Korean War, as a wonderful fighter-bomber aircraft. It continued to serve in some air forces till the 1960s. It was the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in history.

The Early Days...

The Corsair did not show much success as a Navy plane, as its carrier qualifications aboard USS Sangamon Bay was not as good as expected, and so it was passed to the Marine Corps.. The first Fighter Squadron of Marine Air to be ever equipped with the F4U was VMF-124, and they flew their first combat mission using the Corsair on February 11th, 1943, from Guadalcanal. By August, all Marine Fighter Squadrons had converted from the F4F to the F4U. Despite that, the Corsair had troubling problems with its large, and powerful engine, the 2000 hp (1,490 kW) 18 cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. However, they were corrected with modifications to this montrous powerhouse. On April, 1944, the U.S. Navy finally accepted the Corsair for carrier service, prior to some modifications.

The Design...

The main designers of the F4U, Rex Beisel, and Igor Sikorsky incorporated the Corsair with the largest engine available at that time, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. This led to the two men deciding to give the bird, a relatively large, 13 ft, 4 inch (4.06) Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three-blade propeller, which extracted as much power as possible from the engine. Then, to accomodate a folding wing, the designers considered a landing gear that retracted rearwards, but that resulted to a problem. It was difficult to fit gear struts long enough to meet the U.S. Navy requirement that demanded sufficient ground clearance, as the propeller was quite big. The answer was simple, just by converting the Corsair's originally planned straight wings, they changed it to an inverted gull wing. This reduced the length of the main gear legs considerably. Another problem occured with the F4Uafter it became operational with the Marine Corps., the forward view for pilots was largely disrupted by the large engine, which led some to dub it a "bird cage". This was quickly fixed in later variants.

"Corsair fighter looses its load of rocket projectiles on a run against a Japanese stronghold on Okinawa. In the lower background is the smoke of battle as Marine units move in to follow up with a Sunday punch." Lt. David D. Duncan, ca. June 1945. Wikipedia..

Korean War...

The F4U Corsair had proved itself as a worthy fighter in the air superiority role in World War II, but when conflict in Korea erupted, it was swiftly converted to the close-support role, attacking ground targets. The F4U version produced during the Korean War was designated AU-1 as a ground-attack variant, and produced impressive results. The gull wing became a very useful feature for the AU-1, as a straight, and low-wing design would have blocked most of the visibility of the ground target, but the pilot of a Corsair could just look though a "notch", and thus have a better view of the target without banking left, or right to get the wings out of his view. Dogfights between Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters occured early in the conflict, but when the enemy introduced the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, the Corsair was greatly outclassed. The Corsair was also used as a night fighter to hunt down the Polikarpov Po-2 night intruders.

Final Combat missions...

The F4U Corsair flew its final combat mission during the 1969 "Football War" between Honduras, and El Salvador. It was famously triggered by a disagreement over the result of a football (soccer) match. Both sides claimed kills, though each side disputed the kills of the other.

Other Information...
  • The Corsair was flown by the famous Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-214, and its famous Squadron Commander, Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, who earned a Medal of Honour. He was famous for not only his flying skills, but his dishonesty.
  • F2G "Super" Corsair, built by Goodyear, was a specialized Japanese suicide Kamikaze attacks. It was a significantly different aircraft, from engine to airframe, but still incorporates the gull wings. Furthur work was abandoned on th F2G series as development problems emerged during the near conclusion of World War II. Several F2Gs went on to racing after World War II, and had considerable success, winning the Thompson Trophy races in 1947, and 1949.
  • An interesting kill by a Marine Lieutanent R.R. Klingman of VMF-312 Checkerboards, over Okinawa., was done in a Corsair. According to him, he was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick"), a twin engined fighter, when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold at the high altitude he was in. So, he simply flew up, and chopped the tail off the Toryu with his big propeller. The Kawasaki fell out of the sky, but Klingman, even though missing 5 inches (127 mm) off the end of the Corsair's propeller, managed to land safely. He earned himself a Navy Cross with heroic, and quite strange kill.
  • The U.S. Navy counted 11:1 kill ratio for every F4U Corsair shot down, which is a marvelous result.

F4U Corsair loses during World War II...

  • By combat: 189
  • By enemy anti-aircraft artillery: 349.
  • By accidents during combat missions: 230.
  • By accidents during non-combat flights: 692.
  • Destroyed on the ground, or aboard ships: 164.

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