The Vought F4U Corsair
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The Vought F4U Corsair

The Vought F4U Corsair, Gull Winged fighter

Image by Wikimedia Commons

Considered one of the most famous fighter aircraft from the US arsenal deployed during World War II, the F4U Corsair also happened to be one of the most elegant US fighter aircraft and the only one of its type fitted with gull wings. The gull wing design came about as a requirement to increase propeller clearance from the ground following the collaboration of Igor Sikorsky (Sikorsky Aircraft and Chance Vought Corporation merged in 1939) and Rex Beisel to come up with the most powerful engine that could be fitted on a fighter. The engine turned out to be an 18 cylinder 2,000 hp Pratt&Whitney R-2800-8 Double Wasp radial engine which due to its great power required a larger propeller to give balance. The Corsair's three bladed propeller was so large that it was considered the largest fitted to a fighter aircraft. Having the main gears situated at the back of the wings and a tail wheel in place of a nose gear to add up to the propeller clearance against the ground was not enough that the last recourse was to bend the wings.

The F4U-1 took to the air in May 1940 and immediately gained recognition as the first Allied fighter to challenge the might of the deadly Mitsubishi A6M Zero that turned the tides of war in favor of the Allies. Three years after its first flight, the fighter had taken down more than 500 Japanese aircraft earning its unlikely nickname “Whistling Death' owing to the sound created on a diving run where the rushing airflow makes a noise against the fighter's cooler vents. Mainly operated as a land-based fighter owing to initial impression that it was too tricky for carrier operations since it has the tendency to bounce on landing, it was not until the British adopted it aboard Royal Navy carriers that its design was fully appreciated as a naval fighter aircraft (carrier-based). The gull wings which can be folded makes for easy stowage on hangars below deck aboard carriers.

Based on an F4U-1, maximum speed was at 671 kph (417 mph) with a climb rate of 881 m (2,890 ft) per minute. The type has a maximum operational ceiling of 11,247 m (36,900 ft) with a range of 1,633 km (1,015 miles). The F4U Corsair ceased production 12 years after its first flight making it one of the most produced fighters of World War II with over 12,500 built of mixed versions from the F4U-1 to the F4U-7. Aside from these, the aircraft designation also varied as it was produced by other manufacturers like Brewster and Goodyear to name a few. By the end of the war, the fighter's overall tally reached some 2,140 enemy aircraft giving it an 11:1 “kill ratio”. The US forces trusted its excellent performance so much that it was continued to be used during the Korean War in the 1950s against Soviet made Mig-15 jets. The French naval aviators also utilized it against the Vietnamese in Indochina from 1952-54. At present the Corsair remains an eye turner in airshows with surviving aircraft maintained on airworthy status for museums and others still in service with some of the world's Air Forces.


pp. 118-119, Naval Aircraft of World Wars I and II by Francis Crosby

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Comments (11)

This looks a great deal like one of the model planes my brother has

Great and interesting presentation.thanks

Superb work Will.

This is such an educational article presented well by you.

A beautiful if not stylist craft.

Nice looking plane. I like the gull wing concept.

Wish I can have a seat on this one. :-)

Now I could see the reason for this plane's design. Very well explained.

A good discussion about this vought F4U corsair.... Hirap ng pangalan. FB liked Will :)

This article brought back memories. One of the very first R/C models that I ever built was of the F4U and that was over forty years ago.

Voted up. Very interesting article