The Vought F4U Corsair was one of the most successful single-engined US fighters of WWII also going onto to see service in the Korean War.
Within less than a year of its introduction, demand for the aircraft had overwhelmed Vought’s manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in US history.
Its unique ‘gull-wing’ configuration and powerful 2,000 hp, 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine made it one of the fastest single engine fighters of the war being only marginally slower than the P-47 Thunderbolt which used the same power plant.
Whilst originally designed as a carrier-based aircraft, the F4U's high approach speed and restricted pilot vision made carrier landings extremely hazardous rendering it unsuitable for US Navy use. Instead, the aircraft was given to the Marines who used it with great effect in their Pacific Island-hopping campaign.
Although viewed as unsuitable by the USN and gradually phased out of carrier service, those purchased by the British Royal Navy did not suffer the same fate.
With smaller aircraft carriers, the British clipped the wingtips off the F4U to fit in their deck hangers. This resulted in reducing the ‘float & bounce’ experienced by US carrier landings which often meant the F4U’s tail hook failed to snag the arrester line sending it crashing into stationary aircraft or disappearing over the side.
The British solved the visibility problem by raising the pilot seat and sealing a section of the F4U’s cowling intake directly in front of the pilot that had a tendency to spray engine oil over the windscreen at slow speeds. A curved left-hand approach was also initiated which allowed the pilot to always keep the carriers deck in view. A total of 2012 Corsairs served on British carriers in both European and Pacific Theatres.
From February 1943 onward, the F4U was flown by the Marines from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands with their first recorded combat engagement on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 along with P-40s and P-38s escorted a formation of Consolidated B-24 Liberators on a raid against a Japanese aerodrome at Kahili in southern Bougainville.
The more experienced and battle-hardened Japanese pilots defending the airfield managed to shoot down four P-38’s, two Corsairs and two Liberators with only a few Zeros lost in the encounter.
US pilots quickly learned that altitude was paramount. Whoever had altitude dictated the terms of the battle and there was nothing a Zero pilot could do to change that. The F4U could outperform a Zero in every aspect except slow speed manoeuvrability and slow speed rate of climb. The trick was to keep the F4U’s throttle wide open when combating the Zero.
Perhaps one of the most celebrated Corsair Squadrons of the war in the Pacific was the “Black Sheep” Squadron VMF-214. Led by Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington in an area of the Solomon Islands called “The Slot”, Boyington was credited with 22 kills in F4Us.
By early 1944, Marine pilots were also beginning to exploit the type’s considerable capabilities in the close-support role during amphibious landings. At the wars end F4U’s had flown over 64,000 operational sorties for the US Marines and US Navy, claiming 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1.
During the Korean War, the Corsair was used mostly in the close-support role. The AU-1 Corsair was developed from the F4U-5 and was a ground-attack version which normally operated at low altitudes. There were dogfights between F4Us and Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters early in the war, but when the enemy introduced the MiG-15, the Corsair was completely outmatched and withdrawn from frontline service.
All F4U Corsair Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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