General

Here’s What Made the F4U Corsair WW2’s Best Naval Fighter

Vought-F4U-1A-Corsair Featured Image

World War II was one that saw great progress in the pursuit of army technology. As the war progressed, equipment was rapidly developed and the limits of technology were really pushed, especially when it came to aircraft. When the war started, monoplanes just became the norm for military air weapons. But towards the end of the war, it was jet aircraft that came to prominence as the landscape of the aviation world had changed forever.

However, during the war, aircraft on aircraft carriers went through a lot of development, especially in the United States. And one of the very best was the Vought F4U Corsair. This carrier-based aircraft first took flight in 1940 and was first introduced to US service in 1942, and it quickly became an aircraft that Japanese air forces would fear and recognize as arguably the most formidable American fighter. of the Pacific War. It was so successful that it was used during the Korean War and by other air forces such as the Royal Navy. Thus it became the best naval fighter of the Second World War.


Development and origin of the Corsair

The Corsair’s origins date back to early 1938, when requirements were drawn up for a new twin-engine and single-engine fighter for the US Navy. It is, of course, the one-engine requirement that the Corsair would eventually meet. The US Navy signed a contract with Vought in June 1938 to produce such a fighter, and the prototype would earn the factory designation V-166B, but eventually became known as the XF4U-1. Construction was done very quickly, with the aircraft powered by a 1,805 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine.

The plane first flew on October 1, 1940, and it became the first single-engine American fighter to fly faster than 400 mph, which was incredibly impressive. When it came to the twin-engine fighter, that became the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which itself would fly over 400 mph in the winter of 1939. Originally, the Corsair was supposed to have four guns, but armament requirements were quickly changed after reports from Europe. Heavier armament was thus added to the Corsair, making three .50 caliber machine guns in each wing panel the standard.

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The pirate in service

The Corsair was first delivered to the US Navy in July 1942, eventually for carrier qualifying trials before enlisting in the Navy. The Corsair, however, had to iron out a few issues, but it was signed to the US Navy for combat use in late 1942, although initially from land bases as the issues were addressed. At about the same time, the US Marine Corps also took delivery of the aircraft and it was soon put into service to supplement the now obsolete F4F Wildcat fleet. At least the Navy had the F6F Hellcat on hand while examining the Corsair’s deck landing issues.


The Marine Corps would operate the F4U from hotly contested Guadalcanal, as well as from other bases in the Solomon Islands. Initially, the Corsair had a tricky debut with two lost in the St Valentine’s Day massacre, but they soon learned how to handle the plane. Height would be a key weapon in the F4U’s arsenal, with Marine Major Gregory Boyington able to score 22 kills in his F4U Corsairs. The aircraft was also used as a fighter-bomber and launched attacks with rockets, bombs or even napalm tanks, especially towards the end of the war in Palaus, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The buccaneer in naval service

The Corsair would also serve with distinction with the United States Navy, which also flew the plane from Guadalcanal. However, it would not be until 1944 that operations aboard the Corsair were finally approved by the US Navy. The Navy would achieve a kill ratio of 12:1 against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and a ratio of 6:1 against other aircraft such as Nakajima’s Ki-84 Oscar. Although it had been a rough start for the Corsair, it would eventually become a very formidable naval fighter.

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Korea and the pirate’s legacy

Remarkably, the Corsair was also used in the Korean War, mostly as a ground attack aircraft, but also as a fighter initially against Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-9s† With the introduction of the MiG-15 there was a rapid switch to ground attack missions, although Navy pilot Captain Jesse G. Folmar did shoot down a MiG-15! It’s worth noting that, even if outclassed, the Corsair still had the ability to attack a much more advanced rival. In World War II it surpassed almost anything the Japanese had and was vastly superior to that of the F4F Wildcat and Brewster Buffalo, initially in service with the US Navy. It had a rocky start, but the Corsair had evolved into the ultimate naval fighter of World War II.


Sources: Lockheed Martin, Military Factory, The Aviation Geek Club