Chance Vought F4U Corsair

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was one of the most successful naval aircraft of the Second World War. It was produced in greater numbers than any other carrier aircraft, with 12,571 being produced between 1943 and 1952. It had a longer production run than any other American piston engined fighter. It played a major role in the Allied fight back in the Pacific, first seeing combat towards the end of the battle of Guadalcanal in February 1943. It had the most powerful engine yet fitted to a single engined fighter, one by-product of which was the distinctive invert-gull wing, adopted to allow the use of a large propeller with normal landing gear.

The only blemish on its record is that the early Corsair was not well suited to carrier operations. Its long nose reduced visibility, its tendency to dip to port at low speeds and to bounce on landing meant that the US Navy did not use it on carriers until the end of 1944. As a result, the Corsair achieved most success with the Marine Corps, who used it as a land based aircraft.

The Corsair was at least the equal of any Japanese fighter. The Kawanishi N1K2-J “George”, the best Japanese land fighter of the war, was probably its clossest rival, but only 1,500 were produced, far too few to turn the tide against the Corsair. In American service the Corsair shot down 11 Japanese aircraft for every Corsair lost in air to air combat (2,140 Japanese kills for 189 losses). Another 1,435 Corsairs were lost to anti-aircraft fire or accidents – the long nose and poor ground visibility took their toll.

The Corsair was also a superb ground attack aircraft. Later versions could carry eight rockets and two 1000 lb bombs or a napalm tank. They performed this role over Okinawa, and then five years later repeated it in Korea. Some 1,800 Corsairs saw combat in Korea, and an entirely new model was produced for the war – the AU-1. In Korea the Corsair was used almost entirely as a ground attack aircraft, although Corsair night fighter pilots claimed at least seven kills, and one cannon armed Corsair even managed to shoot down a MiG-15 jet. The sturdy Corsair was able to fly from rough airfields and had a longer endurance than the early jets, making it very suited to operations on the Korean peninsula.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 April 2007), Chance Vought F4U Corsair, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_F4U_intro.html

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