By: Norm Goyer
The prototype Corsair XF4U-1 first flew on May 29, 1940. Chance-Vought and the Navy knew instantly that they had a winner. The aircraft, powered with the new R-2800 Pratt & Whitney radial engine, two machine guns on the cowl shooting through the prop and two 50 cal canon in the wings. The aircraft literally whistled thought the time trails at 403 mph, very fast for a fighter in 1940. The Corsair was destined for star status.
The Navy wanted some changes in the production model such as more protective armor, fuselage guns removed and three 50 cal guns in the wings. Fuel tanks removed from the wings and added to the fuselage. They also requested a jettsonable canopy to allow the pilot to exit the aircraft more easily. The ailerons were enlarged and the hard points for bombs under the wing were removed. On June 30th 1941, about six months before Pearl Harbor the Navy issued production orders for Chance Vought, Goodyear and Brewster were to build approxiately 5,559 including the newer high cabin version.
It is interesting to follow the various changes to the Corsair, all needed due to experiences while flying in combat. At each junction the aircraft became even more deadly to the enemy. The first major change came with the model F4-1A. The previous Corsairs had a birdcage canopy which restricted visibilty due to the braces. The Dash 1A had a semi bubble canopy (blown) which had reduced braces greatly improving visibility in all directions including to the rear with mirrors.
Early in 1945 the Corsair Dash 1C was introduced. It differed from the 1A due to the six machine guns in the wings being replaced with four 20mm canon for increased fire power in ground attack mode. Vought produced about 200 Corsairs with canon instead of machine guns. The next improvement was in the Dash 1D. This Corsair was considered to be a fighter bomber and needed extra power to carry the added weight. Water injection was added to the R-2800 engines giving an increase in take off power. The injection could be used at full power for up to five minutes, for take off with loads or running away from the enemy. Provisions were made to carry extra fuel tanks, napalm tanks and extra bombs and rockets. The F4U-1P was a field modification allowing a camera to be installed in the rear fuselage to record ground details.
In 1942 the Navy wanted to try out radar for night flying duties. Vought built the F4U-2 with a different starboard (right) wing. The outer machine gun was removed and a radar dome installed about half way out on the outer wing section. These aircraft pioneered radar night fighting. The Corsair F4F-4 is easy to remember, it had the first four bladed prop and was able to fly at 451 mph. The engine was the more powerful P & W 2800-18. The aircraft also had a new cowl chin scoop and a more comfortable cockpit. This version was available with either the six MGs or 4 canon and some were equipped with the right wing radar module. This model was used until the end of the war.
Probably the most interesting Corsair was produced by Goodyear late in the war. The Navy wanted a “Super Corsair” so the F2G was designed. The F2G-1 had hand cranked wings and the dash 2 had hydraulic wings for carrier use. The engine was a Pratt 7 Whitney R-4360 four row corn cob type engine of 3,000 hp. The F2G could climb to 30,000 feet in four minutes. Goodyear only produced 18 of this model before the contract was cancelled due to the war being over. A number of these 18 became racing aircraft, with at least one still racing over 60 years later. In my opinion the Goodyear F2G-2 was the most beautiful of any World War II aircraft. I have a 1/5 scale version on my workbench at this time. NG