This Is What Made The F4U Corsair WW2’s Best Naval Fighter


It was so successful it saw use during the Korean War, and by other air arms such as the Royal Navy.

The Second World War was one that saw a major advancement in the pursuit of military technology. As the war went on, equipment was rapidly developed further and the limits of technology were really pushed, especially when it came to aircraft. When the war started, monoplanes were just becoming the norm for military air arms. But by the end of the war, it was jet aircraft that were rising to the fore as the landscape of the aviation world had changed forever.

During the war, though, aircraft carrier based aircraft 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 into United States service in 1942, and it soon became an aircraft that the Japanese air arms would go on to fear and recognize as perhaps the most formidable US fighter of the Pacific War. It was so successful it saw use during the Korean War, and by other air arms such as the Royal Navy. This is how it became the best naval fighter of World War Two.

Development And Origins Of The Corsair

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

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The aircraft first flew on October 1st 1940, and it became the first single-engine US 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 to have four guns, but requirements for armament were soon changed following reports from Europe. Heavier armament was thus added to the Corsair, which saw three .50 caliber machine guns in each wing panel become the standard.

The Corsair In Service

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The Corsair was first delivered to the US Navy in July 1942,ultimately for carrier qualification trials before it entered Navy service. The Corsair though needed a few issues ironed out but it was then signed off for combat usage at the end of 1942 with the US Navy, although initially from land bases while the issues were addressed. Around that time, the US Marine Corps also took delivery of the aircraft, and it was soon pressed into service to supplement the now aging F4F Wildcat fleet. The Navy at least had the F6F Hellcat on hand while the deck landing issues of the Corsair were looked at.

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The Marine Corps would operate the F4U from the hotly contested Guadalcanal, as well as other Solomon Islands bases. Initially, the Corsair had a tricky debut with two lost during the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, but quickly they learned how to handle the aircraft. Altitude 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, performing strikes with rockets, bombs or even napalm tanks, most notably near the end of the war in Palaus, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Corsair In Navy Service

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The Corsair would go on to serve with distinction in the US Navy as well, who also flew the aircraft from Guadalcanal. It wouldn’t be until 1944 though that shipborne operations for the Corsair were finally approved by the US Navy. The Navy would go on to achieve a 12:1 kill ratio against the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, and a 6:1 ratio against other aircraft such as the Ki-84 Oscar from Nakajima. While things had got off to a tricky start for the Corsair, it would ultimately become a highly formidable naval fighter.

Korea And The Legacy Of The Corsair

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Remarkably, the Corsair was also used in the Korean War, mostly as a ground attack aircraft but also as a fighter early on against Soviet built Yakovlev Yak-9s. Upon the introduction of the MiG-15, it was quickly switched to ground attack missions, although Marine pilot Captain Jesse G. Folmar did shoot a MiG-15 down! It’s remarkable that, even when outclassed, the Corsair still had the ability to engage a much more advanced rival. In the Second World War, it outclassed nearly everything the Japanese had and was vastly superior to the likes of the F4F Wildcat and Brewster Buffalo initially in US Naval service. It had troubled beginnings, but the Corsair had evolved into the ultimate Navy fighter of World War Two.

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