|Type||Carrier-based fighter aircraft|
|Designed by||Rex Beisel|
|Maiden flight||29 April 1940|
|Introduced||28 December 1942|
|Primary users||U.S. Navy & Marines (10,016)|
Fleet Air Arm (2,012)
|Variants||F2G "Super Corsair"|
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was an American fighter aircraft that saw service in World War II and the Korean War (and in isolated local conflicts). Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. The Corsair served in some air forces until the 1960s, following the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in history (1940 - 1953).
- 1 Background
- 2 Design and development
- 3 Wartime variants
- 4 Service
- 5 Survivors
- 6 Handling characteristics
- 7 Operators
- 8 Amateur-Built Corsair replicas
- 9 Specifications
- 10 Popular culture
- 11 References
- 12 Related content
The Corsair started life as the result of a U.S. Navy requirement for a carrier aircraft which could match the performance of the best land and carrier-based fighter planes. Designed in 1938 by Rex Biesel, the first prototype Corsair designated XF4U-1 first flew on 29 May 1940. When flown in 1940, the XF4U-1, powered by a R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine, became the first U.S. single-engine production aircraft capable of 400 mph (640 km/h) in level flight. It was a remarkable achievement for Vought, as compared to land-based counterparts, carrier aircraft are "overbuilt" and heavier to withstand the extreme stress of deck landings.
The Corsair first entered service in 1942. Although designed as a carrier fighter, initial operation from carrier decks proved to be troublesome. Its slow speed handling was tricky due to the port wing stalling before the starboard wing. This factor, together with poor visibility over the long nose (leading to one of its nicknames, "The Hose Nose"), made landing a Corsair on a carrier a difficult task. For these reasons, most Corsairs initially went to Marine Corps squadrons who operated off land-based runways, which in turn led Goodyear to build some early Corsairs with fixed, non-folding wings. The USMC aviators welcomed the Corsair with open arms as its performance was far superior to the F4F-3 and -4 Wildcat, which were being used at that time, and superior in a number of ways to the F6F Hellcat, which replaced the Wildcat.
Moreover, the Corsair was able to outperform the primary Japanese fighter, the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero". While the Zero could out-turn the F4U at slower speeds, the Corsair was faster and could out-climb and out-dive the enemy fighters. Tactics developed early in the war, such as the Thach Weave, took advantage of the Corsair's strengths.
This performance advantage, combined with the ability to take severe punishment, meant that a pilot could place an enemy aircraft in the killing zone from the F4U's six .50-caliber Browning machine guns and keep him there long enough to inflict major damage. The 2,300 rounds carried by the Corsair gave over one full minute of fire from each gun, which, fired in three-to-six-second bursts, made the U-Bird a devastating weapon against aircraft, ground targets, and even ships.
The Corsair served with the US Navy, US Marines, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (postwar, the French Aeronavale and other services), and quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of the war. Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought's manufacturing capability, resulting in additional aircraft being produced by the Goodyear Company (as the FG-1) and the Brewster Company (as the F3A-1). From the first prototype delivery to the US Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs had been manufactured by Vought
The Corsair is popularly known as "The Sweetheart of the Marianas" and "The Angel of Okinawa" for its roles in these campaigns respectively—the names were given by ground troops rather than by naval and Marine personnel. Among pilots, however, the aircraft was nicknamed "Ensign Eliminator" and "Bent-Wing Eliminator" because it required many more hours of flight training to master than other Navy carrier-borne aircraft. It was also called simply "U-bird" or "Bent Wing Bird". The Japanese named the F4U "Whistling Death" because of the high-pitched sound it made (caused by airflow through the wing-root oil coolers).
The Corsair has been named the official aircraft of Connecticut, due to its connection with Sikorsky Aircraft, in legislation sponsored by state senator George "Doc" Gunther; Gunther had also organized a Corsair Celebration and Symposium at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Connecticut, on Memorial Day, 29 May 2006.
Design and development
The Corsair was designed by Rex Beisel and Igor Sikorsky, incorporating the largest engine available at the time, the 2,000 hp (1,490 kW) 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial. To extract as much power as possible, a relatively large, 13 ft 4 inch (4.06 m) Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three-blade propeller was used.
In accomodating a folding wing, the designers chose to retract the main gear rearward, and for the chord of wing selected, an inverted gull wing allowed the articulated landing gear to provide sufficient clearance for the large propeller. The "bend" in the wing also permitted the wing and fuselage to meet at the optimum angle for minimizing drag. Offsetting these benefits, the bent wing was more difficult to construct and would weigh more than a straight wing.
The Corsair's aerodynamics were an advancement over contemporary naval fighters. The F4U was the first US Navy airplane to feature landing gear that retracted fully, leaving a completely streamlined wing. Air intakes used slots in the leading edges of the wings rather than protruding scoops. Panels were attached with flush rivetfluh rivets, and the design took advantage of the newly-developed technique of spot welding. While employing this new technology, the Corsair was also the last American-produced, combat aircraft to feature fabric covered control surfaces.  Despite being capable of speeds in excess of 400 mph (640 km/h), with full 60 degree flap deployment, the Corsair was capable of flying at speeds slow enough for carrier landings.
Despite advances in technology and a top speed greater than existing Navy aircraft, numerous technical problems had to be solved before the Corsair would enter service. Carrier suitability was a major development issue, prompting changes to the main landing gear, tail wheel and tailhook. Early prototypes had difficulty recovering from developed spins since the inverted gull wing's shape interfered with elevator authority. A small spoiler was added to the leading edge of the starboard wing to reduce adverse stall characteristics.
The combination of an aft cockpit and the Corsair's long nose made landings hazardous for newly-trained pilots. The cockpit position in the prototype was 3 ft further forward, but a desire for more powerful armament necessitated changes. Putting three 50 caliber guns in each outer wing panel eliminated fuel tanks there, and the fuselage tank above the wings was enlarged to compensate. This required the seat to be moved rearward, behind the tank, an arrangement used in other piston fighters of the era, such as the Spitfire. Because the more docile F6F Hellcat was coming into service, Corsair deployment aboard U.S. carriers could be delayed. Following Vought modifications to the landing gear, repositioning of the seat, addition of the stall block to the starboard wing, and after a landing technique was developed that kept the LSO (landing signal officer) in view while coming aboard, Corsairs entered U.S. carrier service toward the end of 1944.
During World War II, Corsair production expanded beyond Vought to include Brewster (F3A) and Goodyear (FG) models. Allied forces flying the aircraft in WW II included the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Eventually, more than 12,500 F4Us would be built, comprising sixteen separate models. World War II variants included:
World War II variants included: F4U-1: The first Corsair with the original cockpit seat height and "bird cage" canopy. It was based on the XF4U, but differed with the addition of a larger fuel tank and the removal of the fuselage windows behind the canopy as well as a modified armament consisting of six Browning MG53-2 0.50" machine guns. A land-based version for the USMC, without the folding wing capability, was built by Goodyear under the designation FG-1. In Fleet Air Arm service the F4U-1 was given the name Corsair Mk I. Vought also built a single -1 two-seat trainer; the Navy showed no interest.
F4U-1A: Variant incorporating the new "Malcolm" hood with only two struts, similar to the canopy of the Supermarine Spitfire. The cockpit seat was also raised to allow the pilot to see over the long nose as well. F4U-1As supplied to the USMC lacked folding wings and arrester hooks. Aircraft ready for naval service, however, had these features. Additionally, an R-2800-8W engine with water injection was experimented on one of the late F4U-1As. After satisfactory results, many F4U-1As were fitted with the new powerplant. The aircraft carried 237 U.S. gallon (897 liter) in the main fuel tank, located in front of the cockpit, as well as an unarmored, non-self-sealing 62 U.S. gallon (235 liter) fuel tank in each wing. With drop tanks fitted, the fighter had a maximum ferry range of just over 1,500 mi. (2,425 km). A land-based version, without the folding wing capability, was built by Goodyear as the FG-1A. In British service, the aircraft type was modified with clipped wings for use on British aircraft carriers, under the designation Corsair Mk II.
F4U-1B: Essentially identical to the F4U-1A. This new variant however had clipped wing tips to fit in the smaller elevators and lower-overhead hangar decks of British carriers.
F4U-1C: This variant was in production in 1943, but was only introduced in combat during 1945, most notably in the Okinawa campaign. Intended for ground-attack as well as fighter missions, the F4U-1C was similar to the F4U-1A but its armament was replaced by four 20 mm (0.79") AN/M2 cannons, each containing 231 rounds of ammunition. The variant was very rare as only 200 were built. This was due to the fact aviators preferred the standard armament of six .50 machine guns since they were already more than powerful enough to destroy most Japanese aircraft, and had more ammunition and a higher rate of fire. The weight of the Hispano cannons and their ammunition affected the flight performance, especially its agility, but the aircraft was found to be especially potent in the ground attack role.
F4U-1D: Built in parallel with the F4U-1C, but was introduced in 1944. It had the new -8W water-injection engine. This change gave the aircraft up to 250 hp (187 kW) more power, which, in turn, increased performance. Speed, for example, was boosted from 417 mph (671 km/h) to 425 mph (684 km/h). Because of the U.S. Navy's need for fighter-bombers, it had a payload of rockets double the -1A's, as well as twin-rack plumbing for an additional belly drop tank. Such modifications necessitated the need for rocket tabs (attached to fully metal-plated underwing surfaces) and bomb pylons to be bolted on the fighter, however, causing extra drag. Additionally, the new job of fighter-bombing was a new task for the Corsair and the wing fuel cells proved too vulnerable and were removed. The extra fuel carried by the two drop tanks would still allow the aircraft to fly relatively long missions despite the heavy, unaerodynamic load. The regular armament of six machine guns were implemented as well. The canopies 50 of most -1Ds had their struts removed along with their metal caps, which were used - at one point - as a measure to prevent the canopies' glass from cracking as they moved along the fuselage spines of the fighters. Additional production was carried out by Goodyear (FG-1D) and Brewster (F3A-1D). In Fleet Air Arm service, the former was known as Corsair Mk IV, the latter as Corsair III, and both were modified with clipped wingtips.
F4U-1P: A rare photoreconnaissance variant.
F4U-2: Experimental conversion of the F4U-1 Corsair into a carrier-borne night fighter, armed with four .50 machine guns, and fitted with airborne Intercept (AI) radar set in a radome placed outboard on the starboard wing. Since Vought was preoccupied with more important projects, only 32 were converted from existing F4U-1s by the Naval Aircraft Factory and another two by frontline units. The type saw combat with VF(N)-101 aboard USS Enterprise and USS Intrepid in early 1944, VF(N)-75 in the Solomons and VMF(N)-532 on Tarawa.
XF4U-3: Experimental aircraft built to hold different engines in order to test the Corsair's performance with a variety of powerplants. This variant never entered service. Goodyear also contributed a number of airframes, designated FG-3, to the project. A single sub-variant XF4U-3B with minor modifications was also produced.
F4U-4: The last variant to be produced during World War II, the F4U-4 began entering service near the end of 1944. It fully equipped naval squadrons four months before the end of hostilities. It had the 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) dual-stage-supercharged -18W engine. When the cylinders were injected with the water/alcohol mixture, power was boosted to 2,450 hp (1,827 kW). The aircraft required an air scoop under the nose and the unarmored wing fuel tanks of 62 U.S. gal capacities were removed for better maneuverability at the expense of maximum range. The propeller had one additional blade, bringing the total to four. Maximum speed was increased to 448 mph (718 km/h) and climb rate to over 3,800 fpm (1,180 m per minute) as opposed to the 2,900 fpm (884 m per minute) of the F4U-1A. The service ceiling also increased significantly from 37,000 ft. (11,278 m) to 41,000 ft. (12,497 m). The "4-Hog" retained the original armament and had all the external loads (i.e., drop tanks, bombs) capabilities of the F4U-1D. The armored windshield was now flat to avoid optical warping, unlike the curved, armored windshields of the earlier Corsairs. Vought also tested the two F4U-4Xs (BuNos 49763 and 50301, prototypes for the new R2800) with fixed tiptanks (the Navy showed no interest) and an Aeromatic six-blade contraprop (not accepted for production).
F4U-4E and F4U-4N: Developed late in the conflict, these models featured radar randomes projecting from the starboard wingtip for use as night fighters. The -4E was fitted with the APS-4 search radar, while the -4N was fitted with the APS-6 type. Also, these aircraft were often refitted with 4x 20mm M2 cannons similar to the F4U-1C. These aircraft would see greater use during the Korean conflict.
F4U-4P: As with the -1P, a rare variant fitted with a reconnaissance camera.
F4U-5: a 1945 design modification of the F4U-4, was intended to increase the F4U-4 Corsair's overall performance and incorporate many Corsair pilots' suggestions. It featured a more powerful 2,300 hp engine with a fully automatic two-stage supercharger. Other improvements included the electrical trim control, automatic cowl flaps, a gyroscopic lead-computing gunsight and other automatic functions. These and other changes made the F4U-5 500 pounds heavier than the F4U-4.
Super Corsair variants
The F2G-1 and F2G-2 were significantly different aircraft, fitted with the Pratt and Whitney R-4360 28-cylinder 4-row radial engine and tear-drop canopy as a specialized interceptor against Japanese suicide Kamikaze attacks. The difference between the -1 and -2 subvariants was that the -1 featured a fixed wing, while the -2 had the folding wing capability for carrier use. Difficulties in development and the end of the conflict led to the end of development of the F2G series.
In February 1938, the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal, for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. For the single-engined fighter the Navy requested the maximum obtainable speed, and a stalling speed not higher than 70 mph (113 km/h). A range of 1,000 miles (1,610 km) was specified. The fighter had to carry four guns, or three with increased ammunition. Provision had to be made for anti-aircraft bombs to be carried in the wing. These small bombs would, according to thinking in the 1930s, be dropped on enemy aircraft formations.
In June 1938, the USN signed a contract for a prototype, the XF4U-1, BuNo 1443. After mock-up inspection in February 1939 construction of the XF4U-1 went ahead quickly. First flight of the XF4U-1 was made on 29 May 1940, by Lyman A. Bullard Jr. The XF4U-1 was powered by a XR-2800-4 engine, rated at 1,805 hp (1,350 kW). The first flight was eventful; a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter.
On 1 October, the XF4U-1 made a flight from Stratford to Hartford with an average ground speed of 404 mph (650 km/h), the first U.S. fighter to fly faster than 400 mph. The XF4U-1 also had an excellent rate of climb. On the other hand, the testing of the XF4U-1 revealed that some of the requirements of the U.S. Navy would have to be rewritten. In full-power dive tests, speeds of up to 550 mph (885 km/h) were achieved, but not without damage to the control surfaces and access panels, and, in one case, an engine failure. The spin recovery standards also had to be relaxed, as recovery from the required ten-turn spin proved impossible without recourse to an anti-spin chute. The problems clearly meant delays in getting the type into production
Reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two .30 caliber (7.62 mm) and two .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns was too light, and so when the US Navy asked for production proposals in November 1940, heavier armament was specified. At the end of June 1941, the Navy ordered 584 F4U-1 fighters. One year later, on 25 June 1942, Boone T. Guyton flew the production F4U-1 on its maiden flight. At that time, Brewster and Goodyear were already tooling up to join the Corsair production program. The performance of the F4U was impressive. In comparison with the two other fighters which were powered by Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, the F4U-1 was considerably faster than the competing F6F Hellcat and 9 mph slower than the P-47 Thunderbolt. The latter achieved its highest speed at 30,020 ft (9,150 m), with the help of a turbocharger while the F4U-1 reached its maximum speed at 19,900 feet and used a mechanically supercharged engine.
Carrier qualification trials on the escort carrier USS Sangamon Bay, on 25 September 1942, caused the U.S. Navy to release the type to the US Marine Corps. After all, the US Navy still had the Grumman F6F Hellcat, which did not have the performance of the F4U but was a far better deck landing aircraft. The Marines needed a better fighter than the F4F Wildcat. For them it was not as important that the F4U could be put on a carrier, as they usually flew from land bases. Growing pains aside, Marine Corps squadrons readily took to the radical new fighter.
Those who insist that the Corsair was superior to the Hellcat in every respect should realize that the Hellcat was cheaper than the Corsair – the Navy could buy five Hellcats for the price of three Corsairs – and that the Hellcat was a perfectly effective and very rugged fighter and fighter-bomber. More importantly, the Hellcat was much easier to fly, with Corsair pilots freely admitting that the F4U was unforgiving and not a good choice for a green pilot, earning it the nickname "Hog" (as in "Like a hog on ice"). Over half the losses of Corsairs in the Pacific Theater were credited to noncombat accidents. To experienced pilots, the Corsair was a more exciting and challenging aircraft, but Hellcat's docility was admired as well. Official kill records give the Hellcat the majority of kills in the Pacific Theater; however, the Hellcat was in service from US carriers at least half a year earlier.
Despite the decision to issue the F4U to Marine Corps units, two Navy units, VF-12 (October 1942) and later VF-17 (April 1943) were equipped with the F4U. By April 1943, VF-12 had successfully completed deck landing qualification. However, VF-12 soon abandoned its aircraft to the Marines. VF-17 kept its Corsairs, but was removed from its carrier, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). The squadron operated as a shore-based unit in the Solomon Islands due to perceived difficulties in supplying parts at sea.. In November 1943, VF-17 reinstalled its tail hooks so that its F4Us could land and refuel while providing top cover over the task force participating in the carrier raid on Rabaul. The squadron's pilots successfully landed, refueled and took off from their former home, Bunker Hill, and the USS Essex (CV-9) on 11 November 1943..
The US Navy didn't get into combat with the type until September 1943 and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) would qualify the type for carrier operations first. The U.S. Navy finally accepted the F4U for shipboard operations in April 1944, after the longer oleo leg was fitted, which finally eliminated the tendency to bounce. The first Corsair unit to be based effectively on a carrier was the pioneer U.S.MC squadron, VMF-124, which joined the USS Essex. They were accompanied by VMF-213. The increasing need for fighters, as a protection against Kamikaze attacks, resulted in more Corsair units being moved to the carriers.
From February 1943 onward, the "U-Bird" flew from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. Corsairs were flown by the famous Black Sheep Squadron VMF-214 led by Marine Fighter Ace Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington in an area of the Solomon Islands called "The Slot." Other noted Corsair pilots of the time included VMF-215's Robert Hanson and Don Aldrich, VMF-124's Kenneth Walsh, Joe Foss, James Swett and Archie Donohue, and VF-17's Tommy Blackburn, Roger Hedrick and Ike Kepford. Night fighter versions were produced, equipping Navy and Marine units ashore and afloat. At war's end, Corsairs were ashore on Okinawa combating the Kamikaze suicide pilots and flying from fleet and escort carriers. VMF-312, VMF-323, VMF-224 and a handful of others met with success in the Battle for Okinawa.
The Corsair was in frontline service by early 1943. A dozen USMC F4U-1s arrived at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (code name "Cactus") in the Solomon Islands on 12 February 1943. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of Marine Squadron VMF-124 under Major William E. Gise assisted P-40 Warhawks and P-38 Lightnings in escorting B-24 Liberators on raids against Japanese installations in the Solomons. Japanese fighters contested the raid and the Americans got the worst of it, with four P-38s, two P-40s, two Corsairs and two Liberators lost. No more than four Japanese Zeroes were destroyed. A Corsair was responsible for one of the "kills," but it wasn't anything to boast about since it was due to a midair collision. The fiasco was referred to as the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.".
Although the Corsair's combat debut was not impressive, the Marines quickly learned how to make better use of the machine and demonstrate its superiority over Japanese fighters. By April 1943, the Corsair was getting the upper hand. By May, VMF-124 had produced the first Corsair ace, 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, who would rack up a total of 21 kills during the war..
Corsairs also served well as fighter bombers in the Central Pacific and the Philippines. By the spring of 1944, Marine pilots were beginning to exploit the type's considerable capabilities in the close-support role, supporting amphibious landings. The famed pilot Charles Lindbergh flew Corsairs with the Marines as a civilian technical advisor in order to determine how best to increase the Corsair's warload and effectiveness in the attack role. Lindbergh managed to get the F4U into the air with 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) of bombs, with a 2,000 lb (900 kg) bomb on the centerline and a 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb under each wing. In the course of such experiments, he performed strikes on Japanese positions during the battle for the Marshall Islands.
By the beginning of 1945, the Corsair was a full-blown "mudfighter," performing strikes with high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks and HVARs. It was a prominent participant in the fighting for the Palaus, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, with the ground-pounders calling it the "Sweetheart" for its welcome services when things were getting nasty.
Statistics compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U and FG flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict (44% of total fighter sorties), with only 9,581 sorties (15%) flown from carrier decks. F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1. The aircraft performed well against the best Japanese opponents with a 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M, 7:1 against Nakajima Ki-84, 13:1 against Kawanishi N1K-J, and 3:1 against Mitsubishi J2M during the last year of the war. The Corsair bore the brunt of fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 tons of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by fighters during the war).
Corsair losses in the World War II were as follows:
- By combat: 189
- By enemy anti-aircraft artillery: 349
- Accidents during combat missions: 230
- Accidents during non-combat flights: 692
- Destroyed aboard ships or on the ground: 164
One particularly interesting kill was scored by a Marine Lieutenant R.R. Klingman of VMF-312 Checkerboards, over Okinawa. According to the story, he was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") twin engine fighter at extremely high altitude when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold. He simply flew up and chopped off the Ki-45's tail with the big propeller of the Corsair. Despite missing five inches off the end of his propeller blades, he managed to land safely and was awarded the Navy Cross..
During the Korean War, the Corsair was used mostly in the close-support role. The AU-1 Corsair was a ground-attack version produced for the Korean War; its Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, while supercharged, was not as highly "blown" as on the F4U. As the Corsair moved from its air superiority role in World War II into the close air support role in the Korean Conflict, the gull wing proved to be a useful feature. A straight, low-wing design would have blocked most of the visibility from the cockpit toward the ground while in level flight, but a Corsair pilot could look through a "notch" and get a better ground reference without having to bank one way or the other to move the wing out of the way.
The AU-1, F4U-4B, F4U-4C, F4U-4P and F4U-5N (night fighter conversion of the F4U-5) logged combat in Korea between 1950 and 1953. There were dogfights between F4Us and Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9 fighters early in the conflict, but when the enemy introduced the fast Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet fighter the Corsair was outmatched, though one Marine pilot did get lucky. On 10 September 1952, a MiG-15 made the mistake of getting into a turning contest with a Corsair piloted by Captain Jesse G. Folmar, with Folmar shooting the MiG down with his four 20 millimeter cannon. The MiG's wingmen quickly had their revenge, shooting down Folmar, though he bailed out and was swiftly rescued with little injury.
Corsair night fighters were used to an extent. The enemy adopted the tactic of using low-and-slow Polikarpov Po-2 intruders to perform night harassment strikes on American forces, and jet-powered night fighters found catching these "Bedcheck Charlies" troublesome. U.S. Navy F4U-5Ns were posted to shore bases to hunt them down, with U.S. Navy Lieutenant Guy Pierre Bordelon Jr becoming the Navy's only ace in the conflict.  "Lucky Pierre" was credited with five kills (two Yakovlev Yak-18 and three Po-2). Navy and Marine Corsairs were credited with a total of 12 enemy aircraft.
More generally, Corsairs performed attacks with cannon, napalm tanks, various iron bombs and unguided rockets. The old HVAR was a reliable standby, however sturdy Soviet-built armor proved resistant to the HVAR's punch leading to a new 6.5 in (16.5 cm) hollow-charge antitank warhead being developed. The result was called the "Anti-Tank Aircraft Rocket (ATAR)." The big Tiny Tim rocket was also used in combat. There is a story of a Corsair pilot who cut enemy communications lines by snagging them with his arresting hook.
Lieutenant Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., flying with naval squadron VF-32 off the USS Leyte, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for crash landing his Corsair in an attempt to rescue his squadron mate, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, whose aircraft had been forced down by antiaircraft fire near the Chosin Reservoir.* Sherman, Tana. "Thomas J. Hudner Jr.: Building blocks for gallantry, intrepidity." Andover Bulletin, Volume 95, issue 1, Fall 2001  Access date: 30 September 2006. Note: Brown, who did not survive the incident, was the US Navy's first African American naval aviator.
The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) introduced the Corsair into service before the U.S.N. British units flying from aircraft carriers solved the landing visibility problem by approaching the carrier in a medium left-hand turn, which allowed the pilot to keep the carrier's deck in view over the dip in the port wing, allowing safe carrier operations.
In the early days of the war, RN fighter requirements had been based on cumbersome two-seat designs, such as the Blackburn Skua, Fairey Fulmar and Fairey Firefly, on the assumption they would only be fighting long range bombers or flying boats. The RN hurriedly adopted higher performance but less robust types derived from land based aircraft, such as the Supermarine Seafire. The Corsair was welcomed as a much more robust and versatile alternative to naval adaptations of these.
In RN service, most Corsairs had their outer wings clipped to assist with carrier storage as well as benefitting its low-altitude performance. Despite the clipped wings and the shorter decks of British carriers, the pilots of the RN found landing accidents less of a problem than they had been to USN aviators due to the curved approaches mentioned above. Royal Navy Corsairs saw wide service with the British Pacific Fleet from late 1944 until the end of the war, some six carrier-based squadrons flying intensive ground attack/interdiction operations and also claiming 47.5 aircraft shot down.
The Royal Navy received 95 Corsair Mk Is and 510 Mk IIs, these being equivalent to the F4U-1 and F4U-1A. Goodyear-built aircraft were known as Mk IIIs (equivalent to FG-1D), and Brewster-built aircraft as Mk IVs (equivalent to F3A-1D). British Corsairs had their wing tips clipped, 20 cm being removed at the tips, to allow storage of the F4U on the lower decks of British carriers. The Royal Navy was the first to clear the F4U for carrier operations. It proved that the Corsair Mk II could be operated with reasonable success even from small escort carriers. It was not without problems, one being excessive wear of the arrester wires due to the weight of the Corsair and the understandable tendency of the pilots to stay well above the stalling speed.
Fleet Air Arm units were created and equipped in the U.S., at Quonset Point or Brunswick and then shipped to war theatres on board escort carriers. The first Corsair unit of the FAA was No. 1830 Squadron FAA, created on the first of June 1943, and soon operating from HMS Illustrious. At the end of the war, 19 FAA squadrons were operating with the Corsair. British Corsairs operated both in Europe and in the Pacific. The first, and also most important European operations were the series of attacks in April, July and August 1944 on the German battleship Tirpitz, for which Corsairs from the HMS Formidable provided top cover. It appears the Corsairs did not encounter aerial opposition on these raids.
FAA Corsairs originally fought in a camouflage scheme, with a light-green/dark-green disruptive pattern on top and white undersides, but were later painted overall dark blue. Those operating in the Pacific theater acquired a specialized British insignia - a modified blue-white roundel with white "bars" to make it look more like a U.S. than a Japanese insignia to prevent friendly-fire incidents. A total of 2,012 Corsairs were supplied to the United Kingdom.
In the Pacific, the FAA Corsair also began to operate in April 1944, participating in an attack on Sabang, and later in the attack on oil refineries at Palembang. In July and August 1945, the Corsair squadrons No 1834 , No 1836 and No 1842 took part in a series of strikes on the Japanese mainland, near Tokyo. They operated from the carriers HMS Victorious and Formidable.
At least one Corsair was captured by the Germans, this was Corsair JT404 from No. 1841 squadron (HMS Formidable). Pilot, Wing Leader Lt Cdr RS Baker-Falkner, made an emergency landing on 18 July 1944 in a field at Sorvag, near Bodo, Norway. The Corsair was captured intact and it is not known if the Corsair was taken to Germany.
On 9 August 1945, days before the end of the war, FAA Corsairs from Formidable were attacking Shiogama harbor on the northeast coast of Japan. Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, was hit by flak but pressed home his attack on a Japanese destroyer, sinking it with a 450 kilogram (1,000 pound) bomb but crashing into the sea. He was posthumously awarded Canada's last Victoria Cross, becoming the second fighter pilot VC of the war as well as the final Canadian casualty of the Second World War. (Although P/O Andrew Charles Mynarski's VC was actually awarded in 1946, it commemorated an action in 1944).
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Equipped with obsolescent Curtiss P-40s, the Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadrons in the South Pacific performed impressively compared to the American units they operated alongside, in particular in the air-to-air role. The American government accordingly decided to give New Zealand early access to the Corsair, especially as it was not initially being used from carriers. Some 424 Corsairs equipped 13 RNZAF squadrons, including No. 14 Squadron RNZAF and No. 15 Squadron RNZAF, replacing SBD Dauntless as well as P40s.
In late 1944, the F4U equipped all twelve Pacific-based fighter units of the RNZAF. The first squadrons to use the Corsair were Nos 20 and 21, on Espiritu Santo island, operational in May 1944. In the RNZAF Corsair units, only the pilots and a small staff belonged to the squadron; aircraft and maintenance crew were grouped in a pool.
However by the time the Corsairs arrived, there were virtually no Japanese aircraft left in New Zealand's allocated sectors of the Southern Pacific, and despite the RNZAF Squadrons extending their operations to more northern islands, the Corsairs were primarily used for close support of American, Australian and New Zealand soldiers fighting the Japanese. New Zealand pilots noted the Corsair's poor forward view and tendency to ground loop, but found this could be solved by pilot training in curved approaches before use from rough forward airbases.
The RNZAF Corsair mainly flew close-support missions, and as a consequence did not claim a single enemy aircraft shot down. At the end of 1945, all Corsair squadrons but one (No. 14) were disbanded. That last squadron was based in Japan, until the Corsair was retired from service in 1947.
No. 14 Squadron took its Corsairs to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Only one airworthy example of the 424 aircraft procured exists today: NZ5648/ZK-COR, owned by the Old Stick and Rudder Company at Masterton, NZ. One other mostly complete aircraft and the remains of two others were known to be held by a private collector at Ardmore, NZ, in 1996. Their current whereabouts are unknown. .
A total of 94 F4U-7s were built for the Aeronavale in 1952, with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out in December 1952. The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the U.S. Navy and passed on to the Aeronavale through the U.S. Military Assistance Program (MAP). The French used their F4U-7s during the bitter end of their war in Indochina in the mid-1950s, where they were supplemented by at least 25 ex-U.S.MC AU-1s passed on to the French in 1954, after the end of the Korean War.
French Corsairs also performed strikes in the Algerian conflict in 1955 and 1956 and assisted in the Anglo-French-Israeli seizure of the Suez Canal in October 1956, codenamed Operation Musketeer. The Corsairs were painted with yellow and black recognition stripes for this operation. In 1960, some French Corsairs were rigged to carry four SS-11 wire-guided missiles. This was a more or less experimental fit and it is hard to believe it worked well, since it required a pilot to "fly" the missile after launch with a joystick while keeping track of a flare on its tail – an exercise that might be very tricky in a single-seat aircraft under combat conditions. All French Corsairs were out of service by 1964, with some surviving for museum display or as civilian warbirds.
The Football War
Corsairs flew their final combat missions during the 1969 "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador. The conflict was famously triggered, though not really caused, by a disagreement over a football match. Both sides claimed various numbers of kills, and predictably each side disputed the claims of the other.
Over two dozen Corsairs are believed to be still airworthy, most in the United States, others are found in museum collections worldwide.
- FGID 92436: In flying condition (currently undergoing complete restoration in idaho) owner: Olympic Flight Museum, olympia airport, Olympia, Washington state
- F4U-1A #17799: in flying condition at the "Air Museum Planes of Fame," Chino, California
- F4U-1D #50375: on static display at the Virginia Air and Space Center / Hampton History Center, Hampton, Virginia
- XF4U-4 #80750: on static display at the New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, Connecticut
- F4U-4 #97142: on static display at the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona
- F4U-4 #97280 / NX712RD: on static display at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, Addison, Texas
- F4U-4 #97286: Angel of Okinawa on static display at the Fantasy of Flight Museum, Polk City, Florida. This aircraft was owned by Merle B. Gustafson from 1972 until 1984.
- F4U-4 #97349: on static display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola, Florida
- F4U-4 #97369: on static display at the United States Marine Corps Air/Ground Museum, Quantico, Virginia
- F4U-5N: former Argentine Navy aircraft (although missing its radome) restored in the colors of Lt. Guy Bordelon. Flying as a night fighter in Korea as a member of VC-3 Squadron, US Navy, Lt. Bordelon was the only US ace in Korea who flew a propeller driven airplane. Lone Star Flight Museum, Galveston, Texas
- F4U-5N #122189: on static display at the MCAS El Toro Historical Foundation, Irvine, California
- F4U-7 #133704: on static display at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama
- F2G-1 "Super Corsair" #88458: in flying condition, painted as Race #57 at the Fargo Air Museum, Fargo, North Dakota
- F2G-1D "Super Corsair" #88463: Race No. 74 was sold to Walter Soplata, of Newberry, Ohio. This F2G was acquired by the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Bob Odergaard of Kindred, N.D. is restoring the aircraft to static condition.
All variants of the Corsair are known for a tendency to fall off on the left wing in power-on stalls, rolling over onto the side or back and losing as much as several hundred feet of altitude before control can be fully regained. When there is sufficient altitude, the pilot is easily able to regain control, but at low altitudes this can prove fatal, leading to the moniker, "Ensign Eliminator" during early Navy tests of the plane.
Ground handling was a challenge for inexperienced pilots, due to the combination of a castoring tailwheel (that is, it freely swivels unless locked) and the length of the fuselage and cowling ahead of the cockpit (which inspired the nickname "Hose Nose"). The Corsair must be taxiied as a series of S-turns, with the pilot using the brakes to turn the plane first one direction then the other, in order to see past the nose. Crosswinds or sloppy use of the throttle or brakes rapidly leads to embarrassment for the pilot, as the plane veers off the taxiway or (in extreme cases) spins around in a low-speed groundloop and finally stops pointing the wrong direction. When the plane is taxiied a long distance, brake fade—the tendency for hot brakes to become unreliable—can also cause these problems. Pilots may wait a few moments before beginning the takeoff roll in order to let the brakes cool, so that they will have even steering during the first part of the roll before the rudder becomes effective.
The early models of the F4U had a major problem in landing, as the oleo struts in the landing gear would compress, then bounce the plane upward, riding the ground-effect cushion between the wing and the ground, which was increased when the tail was low in a three-point landing. A bad bounce could leave the pilot with tons of airplane, now out of ground effect, falling out of the sky without enough airspeed to keep the left wingtip from dropping toward the ground. The main gear would hit the ground hard enough to begin the cycle again, finally ending either in a series of smaller bounces or in a crash. Until the problem was solved (in a test series which took months), F4U pilots learned to land at high speed and keep the tail high until airspeed and lift bled off enough to keep the plane on the ground when the tail came down.
An added danger was that the shape of the inverted gull wing on the Corsair blanks out the elevators and rudder when the tail is down on the ground. This problem was relieved somewhat by lengthening the tail gear struts to lift the tail a few inches, where there was cleaner airflow.
Due to the long nose, pilots landing on aircraft carriers were unable to see the Landing Signal Officer (LSO)—or the rest of the aircraft carrier, for that matter—during the final, critical moments of final approach. American pilots developed a technique of applying right rudder and left aileron, crabbing the plane toward the flight deck, keeping the LSO in sight by keeping the nose pointed at an angle. British Commonwealth pilots simply modified their approach pattern into a long, shallow turn to the left, again to keep the nose pointed to the right until the signal to land had been given. (Plenty of footage shows USN and USMC pilots landing while making a left turn. Interviews with U.S. pilots state this as well. The goal was to see the LSO. Pilots did not land unless the LSO gave the "OK and Cut". It is reasonable to think that a combination of left turn and crabbing were used while coming aboard. Interviews with U.S. Corsair pilots support this as well.)
- Template:ARG: Argentine Navy
- Template:FRA: Aviation Navale
- Template:IDN: Several aircraft survived at Kalijati Air Base, near Subang, West Java; saved by an ex-pilot of Indonesian Air Forces after the military conflict/police action with the Netherlands ended in 1949.
- Template:NZL: Royal New Zealand Air Force
- Template:UK: Fleet Air Arm
- Template:USA: United States Navy, United States Marine Corps
Amateur-Built Corsair replicas
The Corsair design is one of the most readily-identifiable aircraft in the world. This has designers of experimental, "homebuilt" aircraft to develop their own versions of the Corsair, near-duplicate except in size.
None are currently available as a prefabricated kit, but instead all are built from plans. The most popular of the available plans sets is offered by War Aircraft Replicas International (W.A.R.), generally considered a 1/2-scale though some dimensions are necessarily not exactly 50% of the original size. Most noticeable is that the cockpit is directly over the wing, with the fuselage behind the wing somewhat shortened, but the shape is clearly that of the "Bent-Wing Bird." One other complaint by homebuilders is the lack of propellers with the proper appearance.
One enthusiast is building an 82%-scale version, scaled to match the size of the radial engine which he intends to use, which is approximately 4/5 the size of the radial used in the original Corsair. Due to the expense of radial engines, most replicas use readily-available opposed inline engines, and at least one owner is experimenting with a Wankel engine taken from a Mazda RX-7 sports car.
Handling characteristics of the scaled-down version are similar to the original F4U, and a number of Corsair replicas have been involved in ground-handling accidents, due to the close-coupled landing gear configuration.
Data from Aeroweb
- Crew: 1 pilot
- Length: 33 ft 4 in (10.1 m)
- Wingspan: 41 ft 0 in (12.5 m)
- Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.90 m)
- Wing area: 314 ft² (29.17 m²)
- Empty weight: 8,982 lb (4,073 kg)
- Loaded weight: 14,000 lb (6,300 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8 radial engine, 2,000 hp (1,500 kW)
- Maximum speed: 417 mph (362 knots, 671 km/h)
- Range: 1,015 mi (882 nm, 1,634 km)
- Service ceiling: 36,900 ft (11,200 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,890 ft/min (14.7 m/s)
- 4× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 400 rounds per gun
- 2× 0.50 in Browning M2 machine guns, 375 rounds per gun
- Rockets: 4× 5 in (12.7 cm) High Velocity Aircraft Rockets and/or
- Bombs: 2,000 lb (910 kg)
Data from Aeroweb
- Crew: 1 pilot
- Length: 33 ft 8 in (10.2 m)
- Wingspan: 41 ft 0 in (12.5 m)
- Height: 14 ft 9 in (4.50 m)
- Empty weight: 9,205 lb (4,174 kg)
- Loaded weight: 14,669 lb (6,653 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W radial engine, 2,100 hp (1,565 kW)
- Maximum speed: 446 mph (388 knots, 718 km/h)
- Range: 1,005 mi (873 nm, 1,618 km)
- Service ceiling: 41,500 ft (12,649 m)
- Rate of climb: 3,870 ft/min (19.7 m/s)
- 6× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 400 rounds per gun or
- 4× 20mm cannons
- Rockets: 8× 5 in (12.7 cm) High Velocity Aircraft Rockets and/or
- Bombs: 4,000 lb (1820 kg)
- Flying Leathernecks (1951) starring John Wayne, was about a Marine Corps squadron flying Corsairs while developing close-support tactics.
- The exploits of Marine Corps squadron VMF-214 which flew the Corsair in the Pacific during the war were depicted in the popular 1976 made-for-TV movie Baa Baa Black Sheep (also released as Flying Misfits) and the follow-up television series Baa Baa Black Sheep, which aired from 1976 to 1978). The TV series featured six genuine flying Corsairs, but the storylines were fictional. See also Pappy Boyington.
- The Corsair plays a prominent role in W.E.B. Griffin's book series, The Corps (1986- present).
- The movie Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War(2004) set during the Korean War, has a battle scene with Corsairs in a ground attack role.
- Corsair. "U.S. Warplanes."  Access date:15 November 2006.
- Tillman 1979, p.5.
- Guyton 1996
- Styling 1995
- Aircraft Database of the Fleet Air Arm Archive 1939-1945. Chance-Vought F4U Corsair. Access date: 5 March 2007.
- Shettle 2001, p. 107.
- Shettle 2001, p. 107.
- Connecticut State Register & Manual. STATE OF CONNECTICUT, Sites º Seals º Symbols. Access date: 4 January 2007.
- Musante, Fred. Senator "Doc" Gunther retires. "Stratford Star 18 May 2006."  Access date: 5 January 2007.
- Green 1973, p. 188
- Green 1973, p. 188
- Swinhert, Earl. "Vought F4U Corsair." The Aviation History Online Museum. Vought F-4U Corsair Access date: 3 March 2007.
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. Page 108. Aerospace Publishing/Orbis Publishing.
- Green 1973, p. 188
- Greg Goebel in the Public Domain. The Vought F4U Corsair Retrieved: 5 March 2007.
- Veronico, Nicholas A., with Campbell, John M. and Campbell, Donna. F4U Corsair (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1984), p.21.
- Slaker's Flight Journal. F4U-1D Standard Aircraft Characteristics Retrieved: 5 March 2007.
- Green 1975, p. 144.
- Green 1975, p. 149.
- Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc F4U-2 Retrieved: 9 April 2007.
- Green 1975, p. 145-6.
- Green 1975, p. 146.
- Veronico, Nicholas A., with Campbell, John M. and Campbell, Donna. F4U Corsair (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1984), p.55-8.
- Green 1973, p.105,194.
- Green 1973, p.102,192.
- Blackburn 1989, p. 83.
- Bowman 2002, p. 39.
- Sherrod 1952, p. 75-129.
- Sherrod 1952, p.134-135.
- Sherrod 1952, p.431.
- Barber 1946, Table 1
- Barber 1946, Table 2
- Barber 1946, Table 28
- Sherrod 1952, p.392-393.
- Grossnick and Armstrong 1997
- Tillman 1979, p. 174-175.
- Department of the Navy: Naval Historical Center. Ensign Jesse LeRoy Brown, USN, (1926-1950) Access date: 12 February 2007.
- Tillman 1979, p. 94-95.
- Tillman 1979, p. 103.
- Tillman 1979, p. 103-105.
- Tillman 1979, p. 192.
-  Old Stick and Rudder Company site.
- Tillman 1979, p. 179-182.
- Tillman 1979, p. 192.
- F4U-1A. "Aeroweb."  Access date: 27 December 2006. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "aeroweb" defined multiple times with different content
- Abrams, Richard. F4U Corsair at War. London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-7110-0766-7.
- Barber, S.B. Naval Aviation Combat Statistics -- World War II, OPNAV-P-23V No. A129. Washington, DC: Air Branch, Office of Naval Intelligence, 1946.
- Blackburn, Tom. The Jolly Rogers. New York: Orion Books, 1989. ISBN 0-5175-7075-0.
- Bowman, Martin W. Vought F4U Corsair. Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press Ltd., 2002. ISBN 1-8612-6492-5.
- Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1973. ISBN 0-385-03259-5.
- Grossnick, Roy A. and Armstrong, William J. United States Naval Aviation, 1910-1995. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Historical Center, 1997. ISBN 0-16049-124-X.
- Guyton, Boone T. Whistling Death: The Test Pilot's Story of the F4U Corsair. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.,1996. ISBN 0-88740-732-3.
- Musciano, Walter A. Corsair Aces: The Bent-wing Bird Over the Pacific. New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-668-04597-3.
- Okumiya, Masatake and Horikoshi, Jiro, with Martin Caiden. Zero! New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1956.
- Pautigny, Bruno (translated from the French by Alan McKay). Corsair: 30 Years of Filibustering 1940-1970. Paris: Histoire & Collections, 2003. ISBN 2-913903-28-2.
- Pilots Manual for F4U Corsair. Appleton, Wisconsin: Aviation Publications, 1977 (reprint). ISBN 0-87994-026-3.
- Sherrod, Robert. History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Washington, DC: Combat Forces Press, 1952. No ISBN.
- Shettle, M.L. Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Co., 2001. ISBN 0-96433-882-3.
- Styling, Mark. Corsair Aces of World War 2. London: Osprey, an imprint of Reed Consumer Books Limited, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-530-6.
- Sullivan, Jim. F4U Corsair in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1977. ISBN 0-89747-028-1.
- Tillman, Barrett. Corsair - The F4U in World War II and Korea. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1979. ISBN 1-55750-944-8.
- Connecticut Corsair
- Warbird Alley: F4U Corsair page
- Corsairs in French service
- http://www.thecorsairexperience.com Interviews with Corsair pilots
- http://www.F4Ucorsair.com Information on the remaining Corsair projects, museum Corsairs, and blueprints
- Baa Baa Black Sheep the television series
- http://history.navy.mil/branches/hist-ac/fighter.htm U.S. Navy performance charts for F4U-4
- http://www.geocities.com/slakergmb/id3.htm Comprehensive collection of historical flight data charts and reference material
- Vought F4U Corsair
- Navy F sequence: FU - F2U - F3U - F4U - XF5U - F6U - F7U / FG - F2G / FA - F2A - F3A
- Navy A sequence: AU - A2U
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