Several issues plagued the airframe and delayed introduction to carrier service, leaving it to Marine land-based squadrons to introduce the F4U Corsair to combat in February 1943.
One of the most recognizable airplanes in history owing to its unique inverted gull wing design, the F4U remained in continual production from 1942 until 1952, with more than 12,500 examples of the aircraft delivered. One of the Navy and Marine Corps’ finest fighters, Corsairs shot down 2,140 Japanese aircraft during World War II and in the Korean War a Marine pilot became the first to down a MiG-15 jet while flying a propeller-driven aircraft.
Vought-Sikorsky designed the F4U Corsair around the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine in a quest to build a fighter plane of unparalleled power and performance. The size of the engine necessitated a long nose and the aircraft featured inverted gull wings and tall landing gear in order to accommodate its oversized propeller. The result was an airplane that could eclipse 400 mph.
Nevertheless, several issues plagued the airframe and delayed introduction to carrier service, leaving it to Marine land-based squadrons to introduce the aircraft to combat in February 1943.
However, the Royal Navy was able to fix these shortcomings and made of the Corsair one of the best World War II fighters.
‘First the engine. Hellcats and Corsairs (and Thunderbolts) used the same basic engine. It wasn’t the engine that caused the cockpit to move aft, but rather the fuel tank,’ Thomas Foster, former F-4 and F-14 RIO explains on Quora. ‘With the Hellcat coming on line six months later I don’t think the USN was all that interested in changing landing patterns with the pilot friendly F6F about to be introduced. We made the Corsair available to the Royal Navy who had been flying Seafires (another long nosed aircraft) and simply adapted the Seafire landing pattern to the Corsair. Problem solved.
‘Second, the landing gear was too stiff. Yes, the Corsair bounced upon landing and that led to a lot of heartbreak. Take a look at the video below.’
‘That will get your attention. The Royal Navy engineers fixed the problem by replacing a valve in the strut softening it up.
‘Finally, one wing tended to stall before the other. An aircraft carrier approach in the straight deck days brought you in fairly high where you cut the engine power on the LSOs signal. This stalled the aircraft which dropped into the wires. If one wing stalled… oops. Heartbreak due to snap roll. The Royal Navy (again) came up with a simple fix, a wedge riveted to the front of the starboard wing which cured the one wing stall problem. You can see this wedge on the Corsairs we have at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.
‘Let me point out that thanks to the Royal Navy, the Corsair was the longest serving WWII fighter. It was in production from 1942 to 1952.’
‘I maintain the position the Corsair was the best fighter of WWII as evidenced by her performance (equal to the Bearcat in top speed, which is pretty amazing when you consider how fast aircraft development moved during the war).’
Photo credit: Crown Copyright and U.S. Navy