The Vought F4U Corsair

United States of America
United States of America

side view front view under view

The Corsair was one of the best carrier based aircraft of the War. During the mid 1930's the US Navy planned for an improved carrier force, first improving on the 'Yorktown' class that later was designated 'Essex' class. 32 of these ships were ordered, 29 completed.
The Essex class was considerably larger than it's predecessors, which enabled the US Navy to look at advanced aircraft types as well.
The Vought-Sikorsky Division of the United Aircraft Corporation set off for an advanced fighter type that would be at least one generation ahead of the types that were scheduled to enter service in the near future, being for example the Brewster F2A and the Grumman F4F. In 1943 Vought and Sikorsky were split into the Chance Vought Division and the the Sikorsky Aircraft Division. The first was to concentrate on fixed-wing aircraft, the second to concentrate on rotary-wing aircraft (helicopters). When after the War an anti-trust law forced the UAC to split up into various companies, Chance Vought Aircraft Inc was born.

In 1936 Vought started a new design for a carrierborne fighter based on the most powerful engine available at that moment, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp twin-row radial that was still under development. The design project was designated V-166A. This engine already delivered some 1,850 hp (1.379 kW) and it was expected that it would deliver more than 2,000 hp (1.491 kW) before tests and initial design would be completed. This high output rate demanded a large propeller in order to make use of the engine power, some calculations showed that the diameter would need to be 13 ft 4 inch (4,06 m) for a three-blade unit. To this the needed clearance of 1 ft 6 inch (0,46 m) would be added, which resulted in a landing gear of about 6 ft (1,83 m) long, totally unacceptable for a carrierborne fighter. Firstly the gear would be too vulnerable to damage due to the rougher landings than on land, and secondly the long gear would give the fighter a very high nose-attitude, blocking forward visibility which was very important on an aircraftcarrier.
These problems led to the V-166B design which featured the famous inverted gull wings of all subsequent versions. The gear was subsequently attached to the lowest part of the wing, the angle between the inboard and the outboard wing panels. Still there was enough ground clearance for the propeller, and the nose height was minimized given the circumstances. The comparatively short main landing gear legs retracted to the rear and turned through 90° as they retracted so that each wheel lay flat in the undersurface of the wing. Another advantage of the inverted gull wing, which was located in the low-set position, was that it ensured a 90° junction between the inner wing panels and the fuselage for minimum wetted area and thus the smallest possible drag figure. This was a consideration of signal importance in a fighter that was being optimized for the highest possible performance, and other drag-reducing features were the adoption of a semi-retractable tailwheel that was combined with the ‘stinger’ type of arrester hook that was provided for carrierborne landings, a basically all-metal structure that used spot-welded rather than riveted skinning for great smoothness, and the location of the oil coolers in the wing-root inlets that provided air for the engine’s supercharger. Hot air from the coolers was dumped into the freestream air through adjustable doors in the lower surfaces of the wings. Another feature adopted at the design stage for the first time in a US Navy fighter was a wing-folding mechanism so that the outer wing panels could be hinged upward and inward to reduce carrierborne stowage problems.

The US Navy ordered one XF4U-1 prototype in Februari 1938 while it demanded some remarkable additional features: one was the XR-2800-4 radial engine rated at 1,850 hp (1.379 kW) for take-off and 1,460 hp (1.089 kW) at 21,500 ft (6.555 m), while the other comprised the combination of 1 × 0.3 in (7,62 mm) and 1 × 0.5 in (12,7 mm) synchronized machine gun in the upper side of the forward fuselage (originally 2 × 0.3 inch/7,62 mm guns with 500 rounds per gun), 2 × 0.5 inch (12,7 mm) unsynchronized machine guns in the wings with 200 rounds per gun and provision for later replacement by a pair of 23 mm Madsen cannon, and 20 × 8.8 lb (4 kg) light bombs in two small bays in the wings. These bombs were contact-fused weapons that were to be released above bomber formations with the aid of a sighting panel let into the underside of the lower fuselage.
When in Februari 1939 wind tunnel tests proved the concept with the mock-up, real production of the first prototype started. This was an aircraft with a comparatively low canopy characterized by a heavily framed section that was designed to slide rearward so that the pilot could enter and leave the cockpit, and its empty and maximum take-off weights were 7,505 and 9,357 lb (3.404 and 4.244 kg) respectively with a maximum fuel load of 229.8 Imp gal (276 US gal, 1.045 liters) carried in integral tanks along the wing leading edges. It was basically of all-metal construction, though the control surfaces and the wing aft of the main spar were fabric covered. The whole airframe was particularly strong, especially the forward and central fuselage sections that had to withstand the power of the engine and the aerodynamic loads transmitted from the wings.
The prototype first flew in May 1940, and from the beginning of the flight test program the XF4U-1 showed excellent performance. In October 1940 it became the first fighter of American design to attain a level speed in excess of 403 mph (649 km/h). Other performance figures were an initial climb rate of 2,660 ft (811 m) per minute and a service ceiling of 35,200 ft (10.730 m).
The XF4U-1 was not without it's drawbacks, and it turned out to be a somewhat temperamental aircraft. During testing it made a forced landing twice, the second time it was damaged extensively. Because of the advanced nature of the fighter every effort was given to try and solve the problems and large number of handling dificulties that were revealed during testflights. Therefor it was December 1942 before the first prototype was finally delivered, while in the meantime already some 100 production aircraft were delivered to the US Navy simultaneously as well. The design team had sought to solve all complaints of the pilots, which included slow aileron response, poor low-speed handling, inadequate forward fields of vision during take-off and landing, a tendency to drop a wing just before landing as a result of torque stall, a tendency to bounce on landing, and lack of directional control after landing.

During the time of test flying, the US Navy recognised the fact that they had falsely believed the USA would not be drawn in another large scale war. As such they needed an advanced aircraft to be able to fight the seemingly unbeatable Nazi-forces. At the same time they capitalized on the experience that was gained the hard way by the British and French forces. Therefor the first production aircraft differed considerably from the XF4U-1. Production aircraft were able to sustain a high-speed dive by removing the fabric on the wings and replacing it with sheet metal. Span and length were each increased slightly, and the armament was revised. The two fuselage-mounted guns and their heavy synchronization system were removed, and the wing-mounted armament was first increased to four and then 6 × 0.5 inch (12,7 mm) fixed forward-firing machine guns with the considerably enlarged ammunition capacity of 400 rounds per gun for the inboard four weapons and 375 rounds per gun for the outboard two weapons. At the same time the two outer-wing bomblet bays were removed. The revision of the wing-mounted armament meant the elimination the integral leading-edge tanks pioneered in the prototype, and to redress the resulting shortfall in fuel capacity the original small center-section tank was replaced by a large 197 Imp gal (237 US gal, 897 liter) self-sealing tank inserted into the fuselage. This tank had to be located as close to the center of gravity as possible, so the cockpit was moved some 3 ft 0 inch (0,91 m) farther to the rear despite the fact that this relocation further worsened the already inadequate forward fields of vision suffered by the pilot during take-off and landing. The Corsair could carry a centerline drop tank of 146 Imp gal (175 US gal, 662 liter) capacity, but the size of the internal fuel capacity provided by the fuselage tank was still considered inadequate, and two 52 Imp gal (62 US gal; 235 liter) unprotected leading-edge tanks were therefore added outboard of the gun bays in a process that raised the maximum take-off weight with internal fuel to 12,694 lb (5.758 kg) in concert with the addition of IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) gear, a bulletproof windscreen, a jettisonable canopy, and 155 lb (70.3 kg) of armor round the cockpit and oil tankage.
These changes increased wing loading by just over 33% from the XF4U-1’s figure of 29.8 lb/sq ft (145,5 kg/m²) to 40.4 lb/sq ft (197,2 kg/m²) and further eroded maneuverability despite the adoption of longer-span ailerons for improved roll response. The negative effect of weight on performance was countered by the adoption of the R-2800-8(B) radial engine rated at 2,000 hp (1.491 kW), and this was installed in a cowling with mechanically rather than hydraulically operated cooling gills in a fuselage lengthened by 1 ft 5 inch (0,43 m) to 33 ft 4 inch (10,16 m) from the XF4U-1’s figure of 31 ft 11 inch (9,73 m), and the pilot’s fields of vision were improved to the rear at least by the adoption of a cutaway headrest and additional transparent panels.

The first F4U-1 made its initial flight in June 1942 and was delivered in the following month just one day after the first example of the Grumman F6F Hellcat with the same engine type, but the US Navy deemed the F4U-1 too tricky for carrierborne operation and initially allocated the type to land-based operation by the US Marine Corps. The initial Corsair unit was VMF-122 created in September 1942. This squadron was declared combat-ready in December of the same year and was shipped to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where the Corsair flew its first operational mission in mid-February 1943.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Vought F4U-4's on an airfield. Note the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and something that looks like the Convair B-32 Dominator in the background, which probably relates this photo with the Philippines during the closing weeks of the Pacific War.
Vought F4U-4's on an airfield. Note the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and something that looks like the Convair B-32 Dominator in the background, which probably relates this photo with the Philippines during the closing weeks of the Pacific War.

Vought F4U-4's in close formation.
Vought F4U-4's in close formation.

 

Technical data on the Vought F4U-1 Corsair
Powerplant 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8(B) radial, rated at 2000 hp (1490.98 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Night-Fighter
Length 33 ft 4 inch Height 15 ft 0.25 inch with vertical propeller
Empty weight 8873 lb Operational weight 11878 lb typical,
13846 lb max
Wing Span 40 ft 11.75 inch fixed wings Wing Aspect ratio unknown
Wing Area 314 sq ft Service ceiling 37100 ft
Maximum speed 417 mph at 19900 ft Cruising speed 182 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 2,890 ft per min
Climb to 10,000 ft in 5 min 6 sec,
Climb to 20,000 ft in 10 min 42 sec
Range 1070 miles minimum,
1507 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 301 Imp gal (361 US gal) in one 197 Imp gal (237 US gal) centerline tank, and two unprotected 52 Imp gal (62 US gal) leading edge tanks outboard of the gun bays Fuel capacity external Up to 146 Imp gal (175 US gal) in one centerline drop tank
Machine guns
  • 6 × 0.50 inch Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wings, 400 rounds each (4 inboard guns), or 375 rounds each (2 outboard guns)
Cannons -
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground and Naval
First flight (prototype) 29 May 1940 Operational Service September 1942 - 1977
Manufacturer Chance Vought Aircraft Inc. Number produced 12.571 total, 4.669 this version (including F4U-1 - F4U-1P)
Metric system
Length 10.16 m Height 4.58 m with vertical propeller
Empty weight 4025 kg Operational weight 5388 kg typical,
6281 kg max
Wing Span 12.49 m fixed wings Wing Aspect ratio unknown
Wing Area 29.17 m² Service ceiling 11308 m
Maximum speed 671 km/h at 6066 m Cruising speed 293 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 881 m per min
Climb to 3.050 m in 5 min 6 sec,
Climb to 6.095 m in 10 min 42 sec
Range 1722 km minimum,
2425 km max
Fuel capacity internal 1.366 liters in one 897 liters centerline tank, and two unprotected 235 liters leading edge tanks outboard of the gun bays Fuel capacity external Up to 662 liters in one centerline drop tank
Machine guns
  • 6 × 12,7 mm Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wings, 400 rounds each (4 inboard guns), or 375 rounds each (2 outboard guns)
Cannons -
Bomb load - Torpedoes/rockets -

Technical data on the Vought F4U-4 Corsair
Powerplant 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W Double Wasp radial, rated at 2250 hp (1677.35 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Night-Fighter
Length 33 ft 8.25 inch Height 14 ft 9 inch over propeller
Empty weight 9205 lb Operational weight 14670 lb max
Wing Span 16 ft 4 inch folded wings Wing Aspect ratio 5.33
Wing Area 314 sq ft Service ceiling 41500 ft
Maximum speed 446 mph at 26200 ft Cruising speed 215 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 3,870 ft per min Range unknown
Fuel capacity internal 197 Imp gal (237 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 291 Imp gal (350 US gal) in two 146 or 129 Imp gal (175 or 155 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 6 × 0.50 inch Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 400 rounds each for the four inboard guns, and 375 rounds each for the two outboard guns.
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 2,000 lb of disposable stores carried on four underwing hardpoints, rated at 1,000 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 1,000 lb or 500 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets Alternatively to the bombs:
  • 2 × 11.75 inch 'Tiny Tim' rockets on the inboard hardpoints, or
  • 8 × 5 inch HVAR rockets on zero-length launchers on the outboard hardpoints
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground and Naval
First flight (prototype) 29 May 1940 Operational Service September 1942 - 1977
Manufacturer Chance Vought Aircraft Inc. Number produced 12.571 total, 2.197 this version
Metric system
Length 10.27 m Height 4.5 m over propeller
Empty weight 4175 kg Operational weight 6654 kg max
Wing Span 4.98 m folded wings Wing Aspect ratio 5.33
Wing Area 29.17 m² Service ceiling 12649 m
Maximum speed 718 km/h at 7986 m Cruising speed 346 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate 1.180 m per min Range unknown
Fuel capacity internal 897 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 1.325 liters in two 662 or 587 liters drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 6 × 12,7 mm Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wing leading edge, 400 rounds each for the four inboard guns, and 375 rounds each for the two outboard guns.
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 907 kg of disposable stores carried on four underwing hardpoints, rated at 454 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 454 kg or 227 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets Alternatively to the bombs:
  • 2 × 298 mm 'Tiny Tim' rockets on the inboard hardpoints, or
  • 8 × 127 mm HVAR rockets on zero-length launchers on the outboard hardpoints

Technical data on the Goodyear F2G-2
Powerplant 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360 four-row radial, rated at 3650 hp (2721.04 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
  • (Ground) Attack Fighter
  • Night-Fighter
Length 33 ft 9 inch Height 16 ft 1 inch
Empty weight 10249 lb Operational weight 13346 lb typical,
15422 lb max
Wing Span 41 ft 0 inch Wing Aspect ratio 5.35
Wing Area 314 sq ft Service ceiling 38800 ft
Maximum speed 431 mph at 16400 ft Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 4,400 ft per min Range 1190 miles typical,
1955 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 257 Imp gal (309 US gal) Fuel capacity external Up to 250 Imp gal (300 US gal) in two 125 Imp gal (150 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 4 or 6 × 0.50 inch Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wing, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 3,200 lb of disposable stores carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated at 1,600 lb each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 1,600 lb or 1,000 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets
  • 8 × 5 inch rockets alternatively to bombs
Crew 1 Naval or ground based Ground and Naval
First flight (prototype) 29 May 1940 Operational Service September 1942 - 1977
Manufacturer Chance Vought Aircraft Inc. Number produced 12.571 total, 5 this version
Metric system
Length 10.29 m Height 4.9 m
Empty weight 4649 kg Operational weight 6054 kg typical,
6995 kg max
Wing Span 12.5 m Wing Aspect ratio 5.35
Wing Area 29.17 m² Service ceiling 11826 m
Maximum speed 694 km/h at 4999 m Cruising speed unknown
Initial climb rate 1.341 m per min Range 1915 km typical,
3146 km max
Fuel capacity internal 1.168 liters Fuel capacity external Up to 1.136 liters in two 568 liters drop tanks
Machine guns
  • 4 or 6 × 12,7 mm Browning MG53-2 fixed forward-firing in the wing, 300 rounds each
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 1.452 kg of disposable stores carried on two underwing hardpoints, rated at 726 kg each. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 726 kg or 454 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets
  • 8 × 127 mm rockets alternatively to bombs

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Vought F4U  Corsair
Vought V-166 This was the designation for the prototype of the F4U Corsair.
Number built: 1
Vought XF4U Corsair This was the designation of the US Navy for the prototype. The 'X' shows clearly it was still on trials. It was armed by 1 × 0.30 inch (7,62 mm) and 1 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns in the nose, and 2 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns in the wings. The XF4U was the first American fighter to reach a level speed of 350 kt (403 mph, 649 km/h) . The climb rate was 2,660 ft (811 m) per minute, and the service ceiling was 35,200 ft (10.730 m).
These performance figures were good, if not impressive, but not all was well. The XF4U suffered a couple of accidents, and it possessed quite a large number of handling deficiencies. In order to cure these, the atual prototype was not delivered to the US Navy until December 1942, by which time already the first 100 aircraft had been ordered.
Number built: 1
Vought F4U-1 Corsair This version was the first production version which suffered from many of the problems the XF4U had. Since the handling deficiencies had not been addressed yet, the aircraft were deemed too temperamental to be fit for carrierborne operations, and subsequently were used for land operation only.
Although it had the same handling problems as the XF4U, it did have a number of differences. Wing span and the length of the aircraft was increased slightly, and armament changed. At first the guns in the nose were removed to do away with the heavy synchronisation equipment, and 2 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns were additionally installed in the wings. Later this number was increased from 4 to 6, together with a larger ammunition capacity for the inner four guns. The outboard bomblet bays in the wings were removed. Because of the new weapons scheme the leading edge fuel tanks were removed, causing the total fuel capacity to drop too much. This was addressed by enlarging the center-section tank to 197 Imp gal (237 US gal, 897 liters). Because the heavier weight the center of gravity was affected, and thus the cockpit had to be moved 3 ft (0,91 m) to the rear which in turn worsened the forward view even more. This was still not enough, so again leading edge fuel tanks were installed. These were placed outboard the gunsbays, were unprotected, and had a capacity of 52 Imp gal (62 US gal, 235 liters) each.
Further changes include the addition of IFF (Identify Friend or Foe), a bulletproof windscreen, a jettisonable canopy and 155 lb (70,3 kg) of armor round the cockpit and oil tankage.
Number built: unknown out of 4.669 (including F4U-1 - F4U-1P)
Vought F4U-1A Corsair This version had no folding wings. Since the aircraft were not deemed fit for carrier operations there was no need for folding wings, and so the construction and weight of the folding system was saved. Also, this version had a clear-view canopy that in itself improved the pilot’s fields of vision but, more importantly, had a domed top that allowed the seat to be raised by some 7 in (0.18 m) for a useful improvement in the pilot’s forward fields of vision. Also, a pneumatic rather than solid tire on a heightened tailwheel unit was introduced, that effectively lowered the nose, and a small spoiler was added on the leading edge of the starboard wing. The 862nd F4U-1A introduced another upgraded feature in the form of 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W radial with a water-injection capability that boosted maximum power to 2,250 hp (1.678 kW).
Number built: 2,066
Vought F4U-1B Corsair This was the US Navy designation of the first F4U that were transferred to the British Fleet Air Arm.
Transferred: 95
Vought F4U-1C Corsair This version was based on the F4U-1A with a revised wing armament of 4 × 20 mm Hispano M2 cannon, 120 rounds each, in stead of the original 6 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) machine guns for additional offensive capability in the ground-attack role. The different armament was indeed superior for the strafing task, but most American pilots preferred the machine gun armament with its higher rate of fire, which they believed superior for the air-to-air role, so production soon reverted to the original standard.
Number built: 200
Vought F4U-1D Corsair This version was based on the F4U-1C with the R-2800-8W radial engine with water injection boosting maximum power output to 2,250 hp (1678 kW), a fixed armament of 6 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns rather than four cannon and, in response to the ever increasing demand for ground attack aircraft, hardpoints under the inner wing panels for 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs or two 133 Imp gal (160 US gal, 606 liter) drop tanks. Some of the aircraft had provision for a centerline drop tank, and this attachment could be fitted with a Brewster adaptor able to lift a single 500 lb (227 kg), 1,000 lb (454 kg) or 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb.
Early aircraft also carried two Mk 41-2 racks under their outer wing panels to be able to carry two 100 lb (45 kg) bombs, although in the last 266 aircraft switched to zero-length launchers for 8 × 5 in (127 mm) HVAR rockets that were altogether more powerful ground-attack weapons.
The F4U-1D differed from the later F4U-4 in details such as its length of 33 ft 4 in (10,16 m), height of 15 ft 1 in (4,60 m), empty weight of 8,694 lb (3.944 kg), normal take-off weight of 12,039 lb (5.461 kg), max take-off weight of 13,120 lb (5.951 kg), max level speed of 425 mph (684 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6.095 m) declining to 328 mph (528 km/h) at sea level, max range of 1,562 miles (2.514 km) with drop tanks, initial climb rate of 3,120 ft (951 m) per minute, and a service ceiling of 37,000 ft (11.280 m).
Number built: 1.375 out of 4.669 (including F4U-1 - F4U-1P)
Vought F4U-1P Corsair This versions was an armed photo-reconnaissance conversion for tactical reconnaissance. An unknown number of F4U-1's had a camera istalled in the fuselage behind the cockpit.
Number converted: unknown
Vought F4U-2 Corsair This version was the first night-fighter version of the Corsair. One F4U-1 was scheduled to be converted to night-fighter standard, however the attack on Pearl Harbor in december 1941 prevented Vought to dedicate a lot of time on the project. The single prototype, which was fitted with an Autopilot and AI (Airborne Intercept) Radarthat was pod-mounted on the leading egde of the starboard wing's outer panel, was handed over to the Naval Aircraft Factory.
The NAF converted 12 F4U-1's to the F4U-2 standard with an autopilot, APS-4 radar with it's antenna in a wing-mounted radome, and the reduced armament of 4 × 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) guns.
These aircraft were used by one US Marine Corps and two US Navy squadrons. One of these had the world premiere by scoring the world's first nocturnal kill by a radar-equipped single-seat fighter.
Number converted: 12
Vought XF4U-3 Corsair This version only reached prototype stage, and was powered by a turbosupercharged Pratt & Whitney R-2800-??? Double Wasp radial.
Number converted: 1, plus 2 built
Vought F4U-4 Corsair This version was the last Corsair version to be developed during World War 2. It was based on the F4U-1, but had a number of improvements. The powerplant was 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W(C) or -42W(C) double Wasp radial with water injection. Withou injection the rated power was 2,100 hp (1.566 kW), with water injection it was increased to 2,450 hp (1.827 kW). Thi spowerplant drove a Hamilton-Standard four-blade propeller with a diameter of 13 ft 2 in (4,01 m). The max level speed rose from 425 mph (684 km/h) to 446 mph (718 km/h). The cockpit was revised with regrouped instruments, an armored bucket seat and an improved canopy. Armor weight increased to 197 lb (89,4 kg). the carburetor air inlets were relocated from the wing leadin gedges to the underside of the engine cowling, and the seat back could be folded to ease access to the radio equipment for maintenance.
The first two prototypes were conversions from the F4U-1 standard, but all subsequent prototypes were freshly built. These also had capability for the two hardpoints under the inner wing panels to carry two 11.75 in (298 mm) unguided rockets as an alternative to the more standard 1,000 or 500 lb (454 or 227 kg) bombs. The later prototypes confirmed that the revised type offered a number of important advantages over the F4U-1 series, and the F4U-4 was rushed into production for the delivery of the first such warplane to the US Navy during October 1944.
Number built: 2.197
Vought F4U-4C Corsair This version was based on the F4U-4, but was in stead armed with 4 × 20 mm M3 cannon, 220 or 246 (overload) rounds each.
Number built: 300 out of 2.197
Vought F4U-4E Corsair This version was the night-fighter conversion of the F4U-4C. All hese aircraft had the APS-4 radar fitted with the antenna in a pod attached to the leading edge of the starboard wing.
Number converted: unknown
Vought F4U-4N Corsair This version was the night-fighter conversion of the F4U-4C. All hese aircraft had the APS-6 radar fitted with the antenna in a pod attached to the leading edge of the starboard wing.
Number converted: unknown
Vought F4U-4P Corsair Like the F4U-1P, this version was an armed tactical reconnaissance aircraft, in this case converted from the F4U-4 by installing a camera behind the cockpit.
Number converted: unknown
Vought F4U-5 Corsair This version was the first post-war version of the Corsair. Three F4U-4 were converted to XF4U-5 standard by fitting the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32W(E) Double Wasp radial, rated at 2,450 hp (1.827 kW) and fittted with a two-stage supercharger of the variable-speed type with twin auxiliary blowers in place of the earlier engines' single blower. Externally the difference was visible because the earlier type’s single inlet in the 6 o’clock position at the bottom of the cowling by two cheek inlets in the 4 and 8 o’clock positions on the lower sides of the cowling. The whole engine installation was also tilted down through 2° 45’ to enhance stability and provide the pilot with improved fields of vision, and other changes were a slightly widened forward fuselage and a fully retractable tailwheel.
The production aircraft all had these changes, and then some: the wings were entirely skinned in metal for a significant reduction in drag, spring-tabbed elevators for reduced control force requirements at high speed, a further improved cockpit, a canopy that was bulged sufficiently outward to provide the pilot with good rearward fields of vision, a combustion heater to warm the cockpit and defrost the windscreen, electric heaters for the gun bays and pitot head, a fixed armament of 4 × 20 mm M3 cannon aimed via the Mk 6 Fire-Control System incorporating a Mk 8 Gyroscopic Lead-Computing Reflector Sight Gunsight, a centerline hardpoint able to carry a 2,000 lb (907 kg) load, the two inner underwing hardpoints uprated to take individual drop loads weighing up to 1,600 lb (726 kg), and the outer underwing hardpoints revised to carry a maximum of 10 × 5 inch (127 mm) rockets; the three central hardpoints could each carry a Mk 5 or Mk 12 drop tank, but fuel system constraints dictated that the maximum load was two tanks carried on the two underwing hardpoints or alternatively on the centerline and starboard underwing hardpoints.
Number built: unknown out of 923 (F4U-4C until F4U-7 and AU-1 aircraft)
Vought F4U-5N Corsair This version was the night-fighter version of the F4U-5. It was fitted with an autopilot and APS-19A radar. The antenna was placed, like with other night-fighter versions of the Corsair, in a pod attached to the leading edge of the starboard wing.
The F4U-5N had empty and max take-off weights of 9,683 and 14,106 lb (4.392 and 6.398 kg) respectively, and its performance data included a max level speed of 470 mph (756 km/h) at 26,800 ft (8.170 m), a cruising speed of 227 mph (365 km/h) at optimum altitude, a range of 1,120 miles (1.802 km), an initial climb rate of 3,780 ft (1.152 m) per minute, and a service ceiling of 41,400 ft (12.620 m).
Number built: 45, plus 169 conversions from the F4U-5 (out of 923)
Vought F4U-5NL Corsair At some time the F4U-5N was used operationally during the Korean War (1950-1953), but suffered from the severe conditions of the Winter. This version was a fully ‘winterized’ version with Goodrich flexible de-icer boots on the leading edges of the wings and tail unit, de-icer shoes on the leading edges of the propeller blades, and improved thermal de-icing of the windscreen.
Number built: 72 plus 29 conversions from F4U-5 (out of 923)
Vought F4U-5P Corsair This version was the armed tactical reconnaissance derivative of the F4U-5 with a camera installation in the rear fuselage behind the cockpit.
Number built: 40 (out of 923)
Vought F4U-7 Corsair This version was built in response to meet a requirement of the French naval air force for a fighter-bomber. based on the F4U-5, it had the wing of the AU-1 (with 4 × 20 mm cannon and provision for up to 4,000 lb/1.814 kg of disposable stores). Powered was delivered by 1 7t Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W Double Wasp radial.
This was the last version of the Corsair to be built.
Number built: 94
Vought Corsair Mk I This version was the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) version of the F4U-1
Number transferred: 95
Vought Corsair Mk II This version was the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) version of the F4U-1 with a raised cockpit hood, a new type of tail wheel (improving the forward view), and wings that were cropped by 1 ft 4 inch (0,41 m) to fit the smaller British carriers.
Number transferred: 510
Vought Corsair Mk III This version was the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) version of the F3A-1.
Number transferred: 430
Vought Corsair Mk IV This version was the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) version of the FG-1
Number transferred: 977
Goodyear FG-1 Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1, built by Goodyear
Number built: 377 out of 4.014 FG-1 versions
Goodyear FG-1A Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1A, built by Goodyear
Number built: 1.327 out of 4.014 FG-1 versions
Goodyear FG-1D Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1D, built by Goodyear
Number built: 2.302 out of 4.014 FG-1 versions
Goodyear FG-1E Corsair This version was the night-fighter version of the FG-1. It was fitted with the APS-4 radar with its antenna in a pod mounted on the leading edge of the starboard wing, and was armed by 4 × 20 mm cannon.
Number built: 8 out of 4.014 FG-1 versions
Goodyear FG-1K Corsair This version was a conversion from the FG-1 to radio-controlled target aircraft.
Number converted: unknown
Goodyear FG-3 Corsair This version was the equivalent of the XF4U-3, built by Goodyear
Number built: 13
Goodyear F2G-1 Corsair The Goodyear Aircraft Corporation is mostly known because of its production of the Corsair. However, it also undertook a measure of design, resulting in the F2G.
Early in 1944 Goodyear was asked to prepare a low-level derivative of the F4U with non-folding wings and powered by 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-4360 four-row radial as the powerplant for the high performance required of a land-based type intended for the US Marine Corps as a low-level interceptor of Japanese kamikaze attack aircraft. Goodyear’s response was the F2G with its fuselage modified to accept the considerably more powerful engine and a bubble canopy similar to that earlier flight-tested on two FG-1As.
Eight XF2G-1 prototypes were constructed out of three FG-1s and five FG-1Ds, and the first of these flew in May 1944. This was about two months after Goodyear had received contracts for 418 F2G-1 fighters with a powerplant of 1 × R-4360-4 Wasp Major radial, rated at 3,000 hp (2.237 kW) or 3,650 hp (2.721 kW) with water injection, and supplied with fuel from an internal capacity of 257 Imp gal (309 US gal, 1.168 liters) that could be supplemented by two 125 Imp gal (150 US gal, 568 liter) drop tanks. The new fighter’s fixed armament was to be four or six 0.50 inch (12.7 mm) Browning M53-2 fixed forward-firing machine guns in the wings with 300 rounds per gun, and disposable stores could be carried by two underwing hardpoints able to carry two 1,600 or 1,000 lb (726 or 454 kg) bombs, or alternatively eight 5 inch (127 mm) rockets. Only five of the F2G-1s had been completed at the end of World War II, and the other 403 were canceled as performance was deemed to be disappointing, together with lateral instability problems.
Number built: 5, plus 12 prototypes from conversions
Goodyear F2G-2 Corsair This version was to be the carrierborne counterpart of the F2G-1 with redesigned vertical tail surfaces, folding wings and specialized equipment. Five out of the 10 aircraft originally ordered had been completed by the end of World War II, but the other five were then canceled, the type did not enter service and no further production was contemplated.Besides the data mentioned above in the tables, there is more accurate information: max level speed of 431 mph (694 km/h) at 16,400 ft (5.000 m) declining to 399 mph (642 km/h) at sea level, max range of 1,955 miles (3.146 km) with drop tanks or 1,190 miles (1915 km) with internal fuel.
Number built: 5
Brewster F3A-1 Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1, built by Brewster
Number built: 136
Brewster F3A-1A Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1A, built by Brewster
Number built: 420
Brewster F3A-1D Corsair This version was the equivalent of the F4U-1D, built by Brewster
Number built: 179
Vought AU-1 Corsair In 1950 the Corsair was still used heavily in its fighter-bomber role, so Vought planned a dedicated attack variant, and a single F4U-5N was converted as the XF4U-6 prototype for this development. This was later redesignated as the AU-1.
Power was delivered by 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-83WA Double Wasp radial engine, rated at 2,300 hp (1.715 kW) and fitted with a simplified supercharger installation lacking the F4U-5’s cheek inlets but optimized for the delivery of maximum power at low level. Other technical details are: an empty weight of 9,835 lb (4.461 kg), max level speed of 238 mph (383 km/h) at 9,500 ft (2.895 m), cruising speed of 184 mph (296 km/h) at optimum altitude, typical range of 484 miles (779 km), initial climb rate of 920 ft (280 m) per minute, and service ceiling of 19,500 ft (5.945 m).

The inboard movement of the oil coolers and extra armor protection for the pilot were just the most obvious features of the changes designed to reduce the AU-1’s vulnerability to ground fire, and another protective improvement was the incorporation of 25 pieces of armor plate, no fewer than 17 of them shielding the underside of the engine and its accessory section. Armament consisted of 4 × 20 mm M3 cannon, 215 rounds each, and the hardpoints were strengthened still further to allow loads of up to 5,000 lb (2.268 kg) of disposable stores lifted at an overload take-off weight of 19,398 lb (8.799 kg).
A typical load could include one 250 Imp gal (300 US gal, 1.136 liter) drop tank on the starboard inner hardpoint, one 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb on the port inner hardpoint, and up to four 250 lb (113 kg) bombs under each outer wing panel. An alternative load was 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs and 6 × 500 lb (227 kg) bombs, and the outer underwing hardpoints could otherwise lift 10 × 100 lb (45 kg) rockets of 5 inch (127 mm) caliber, or 10 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs. The weapons were aimed via the Mk 6 Mod 0 Fire-Control System with separate cannon, rocket firing and dive-bombing capabilities.
Number built: 111

Operational remarks:

The Corsair is an aircraft that took it's time to develop, but made it's mark unmistakably after entering service. Today the fighter is considered to be arguably the best fighter of World War 2, and the still flying examples are mostly admired by great crowds at air shows.
This respect was gained during the fierce battles against the Japanese air forces during the War. After it was delivered to the first unit in September 1942, it was declared combat ready in December 1942. The first operational sorties were conducted in Februari 1943. At the time it was still used from land airbases in stead of carriers, but this would soon be dealt with. The Corsair in British service (delivered via the Lend-Lease pact, some 2.012 aircraft in all) was first declared safe for carrierborne operations, in August 1943.
Even though the Corsair still suffered from handling deficiencies, by the end of 1943 they had achieved no less than 584 victories over Japanese aircraft. One of the F4U-2's even scored the world's first nocturnal victory by use of radar on a single-seat fighter. The Corsair was also used by the British FAA to provide escort for the Fairey barracudas when they launched their attack against the German battleship Tirpitz in the Kaafjord in Norway, on 3 April 1944.
The Corsair was used everywhere throughout the Pacific, as well as an air-superiority fighter as a ground-attack aircraft. All in all the Corsair flew 64.051 sorties, 54.470 from land and 9.581 from carriers. During these sorties they shot down 2.140 Japanese fighters for the loss of 189 Corsairs. This means an 11,32 to 1 kill ratio, the highest of all World War 2 fighters. In the ground attack role, where it was used heavily as well, the Corsair also scored well. The disposable load was great considering the fact that it was a single-engine fighter; early two-engined bombers had less stores and less range. Also, the Corsair could attack from almost zero-height, adding the guns into the fray as well as a great measure of surprise.

After the War the Corsair was one of the few piston engined aircraft that were further developed, which means that the qualities of the fighter were widely recognised and accepted. After the War it was developed further mainly in the ground-attack role, and was operation even up until 1953 during the Korean War (1950- 1953). After that the Corsair went to numerous small airforces of African, South American and Asian countries, were it soldiered on until 1977.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/27/02