F4U Corsair

Chance Vought F4U Corsair
Chance Vought F4U Corsair

The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a fighter aircraft that saw service in World War II and the Korean War. Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A.

When flown in 1940, the XF4U-1 became the first U.S. single-engine production aircraft capable of 400 mph in level flight. It was a remarkable achievement for Vought, as carrier aircraft were necessarily heavier than their land-based counterparts to withstand the rigors of deck landings.

Looking at a Corsair, the most striking feature is the inverted "gull" wing. The initial design concept for the Corsair (incorporating the then-largest available fighter engine (the Pratt & Whitney 2,000 hp / 18-cylinder R-2800 Double Wasp) with an enormous 13'4" Hamilton Standard propeller) required the bent wing in order to keep the landing gear reasonably short and provide ground clearance for the propeller.

However, numerous technical problems had to be solved before the Corsair entered service. Carrier suitability was especially troublesome, leading to changes of the landing gear, tailwheel, and tailhook. Additionally, a small spoiler was added to the leading edge of the port wing to reduce adverse stall characteristics.

Missing image
A Corsair of the French Navy

Due to visibility problems on landing caused by a combination of the pilot's position with the length of the nose, Corsairs were largely barred from carrier service until the end of 1944. When it finally saw combat it was nonetheless a superb fighter compared to its contemporaries, achieving a 10 to 1 victory ratio. However, nearly as many Corsairs were lost to landing accidents as the type downed enemy aircraft; this is because its "visibility problems" actually made it a disaster waiting to happen on the ground. Growing pains aside, Marine Corps squadrons readily took to the radical new fighter.

From February 1943 onward, the "U-Bird" was increasingly the leathernecks' favorite mount, flying from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. Corsairs also served well as fighter-bombers in the Central Pacific and the Philippines. Night-fighter versions were produced, equipping Navy and Marine units ashore and afloat. British units flying from carriers developed a curved approach to the carrier that allowed the Corsair pilot to maintain a view of the carrier's deck, allowing safe carrier operations. At war's end, Corsairs were ashore on Okinawa combating the Kamikazes and flying from fleet and escort carriers.

During the war, Corsair production expanded beyond Vought to include Brewster (F3A) and Goodyear (FG) models. Allied nations flying the bent-wing bird included the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force.

The F4U-4 and -5 logged combat in Korea between 1950 and 1953 while the "dash seven" model flew with the French Navy during the same period. Corsairs flew their final combat missions during the 1969 "Football War" between Honduras and El Salvador.

The AU Corsair was a ground-attack version produced for the Korean War. The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine, while it was supercharged, was not as highly "blown" as on the F4U.

Missing image
A Corsair fires its rockets at a Japanese stronghold on Okinawa

The F4U in fiction

The exploits of a Marine Corps squadron which flew the Corsair in the Pacific during the war were depicted in the popular 1970s television series, Baa Baa Black Sheep. See also Pappy Boyington.

Specifications (F4U-4)

General Characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 33 ft 8 in (10.30 m)
  • Wingspan: 41 ft 0 in (12.50 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.90 m)
  • Wing area: 350 ft² (32.5 m²)
  • Empty: 9,205 lb (4,175kg)
  • Loaded: lb ( kg)
  • Maximum takeoff: 14,670 lb (6,654 kg)
  • Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial, 1,950 hp (1,455 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 446 mph (717 km/h) at 26,200 ft (7,986 m)
  • Range: 1,560 miles (2,510 km), with external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 41,500 ft (12,649 m)
  • Rate of climb: 3,100 ft/min (945 m/min)
  • Wing loading: lb/ft² ( kg/m²)
  • Power/Mass: hp/lb ( kW/kg)


  • 6x .50 cal Browning M2 machine guns or
  • 4x 20mm Hispano cannon
  • 8x 5 in (127 mm) rockets or
  • 2x 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs

External links

Related content

Related development:

Comparable aircraft: F8F Bearcat - Hawker Sea Fury - Nakajima Ki-84

Designation sequence: FU - F2U - F3U - F4U - XF5U - F6U - F7U

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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