The fighters of the US Navy: the F4U Corsair

(To Francesco Sisto)

Il Chance Vought F4U Corsair, with gull wings, was absolutely one of the best fighters of the US Navy in the Second World War and - in general - among the allied air forces.

The vehicle was designed in 1938 by a team of American technicians headed by the engineer Red Buren Beisel.

The prototype (XF4U-1) first flew on May 29, 1940, piloted by Lyman A. Bullard Jr; the aircraft on that occasion gave good results.

It should be remembered that on 1 October 1940 theXF4U-1 it was one of the first fighters to exceed the speed of 640 km/h. L'F4U it entered active service in December 1942, and there were numerous variants and subseries. In fact, the aircraft underwent numerous substantial and marginal modifications.

The main users of the vehicle were the US Navy, the United States Marine Corps, the Royal Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It should be emphasized that from 1940 to 1953 more than 12000 were built F4U Corsair.

Overall, it can be stated that theF4U it was a very fast, powerful vehicle, extremely lightning-fast when climbing, capable of producing a "frightening" volume of fire and equipped with good autonomy. Furthermore, the aircraft was also very good as a fighter-bomber. In short, i Corsair they were extremely advanced devices.1

THEF4U it was designed - substantially - as an embarked aircraft, but only from the end of 1944 did the US Navy decide to use them as such. In fact, up until that time the US Navy preferred the Grumman F6F Hellcat as a fighter to embark on aircraft carriers. The latter ensured fewer "problems" with landing and logistics.

Initially i Corsair they were used by land squadrons of the Navy and Marines, and obtained good results. In this respect, it is necessary to mention - the legendary Marine Corps flying ace - Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, who with his colleagues gave not a few problems to the Japanese pilots in the South Pacific. Furthermore, on August 14, 1943, Major Boyington was given command of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 214 (VMF-214); this formation took the nickname of "Black Sheep".

As mentioned above, only in the last periods of the war (from the end of 1944) did the US Navy use Corsair such as embarked aircraft. The USS Essex (CV-9) was the first aircraft carrier to fly them. From that moment, on the sea, it was a nightmare for the air forces of the Japanese Empire. It should be noted that the tide of the conflict had already been in favor of the United States for some time.

The US Navy fighter, exclusively in the Pacific theater, reported 2140 aerial victories against Japanese aircraft, while only 189 Corsair they were lost. It is estimated that the aircraft, in total, flew 64051 sorties during the war (9581 from aircraft carriers), and were also able to carry out raids near Tokyo.

The vehicles also had nicknames during the conflict. In fact, Giorgio Bonacina writes: "The Marines called them The Okinawa Boyfriends for the immense protective cover they guaranteed during the conquest of the island, while the Corsair was called by the Japanese The Whistle of the Night". 2

The United States also used the aircraft in the Korean War (June 25, 1950 - July 27, 1953), and it was withdrawn from active service shortly thereafter.

Il Corsair - after the Second World War - it was also used by other nations, including France. The French Air Force used them in the Indochina War (November 23, 1946 - July 12, 1954), the Algerian War (November 1, 1954 - March 19, 1962) and the Suez Crisis (October 29, 1956 - November 7, 1956 ). Eventually, the Aéronavale sent him into "retirement" in 1964, while the Honduran Air Force even in 1979.

THEF4U-4 it had a wingspan of 12,50 m, height 4,50 m and length 10,26 m. The empty weight was 4238 kg, while loaded 6654 kg.

Engine: 1 Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W, power 2380hp. The maximum speed was 717 km/h, while the cruising speed was 346 km/h. The ceiling height was 12600 m.

Armament consisted of 6 x 2 mm Browning M12,7 machine guns and 12,7 cm rockets. Furthermore, the vehicle could carry up to 1800 kg of bombs.

1 See G. Bonacina, The Corsair, in Illustrated History n°164, 1971, p.144

2 Ibidem

Photo: US Navy / NASA / web