Vought F4U-1 Biplane fighter

It is well known that at one time the Grumman F4F Wildcat was considered as a monoplane. After the failure of the Brewster F2A Buffalo however Grumman decided to revert the design back to a monoplane producing the highly successful Wildcat. What is less well known is that Vought also initially laid out their new carrier fighter, the F4U, as a monoplane. When they learned about the Buffalo and Wildcat however, they switched to a biplane layout.

This resulted in a number of challenges however as the F4U was a big and heavy plane and the two metal wings and heavy armament meant a lot of weight and there was no available engine with enough power. Vought discussed this with Pratt & Whitney and they came up with the idea of coupling up two Double Wasp engines to produce a 36 cylinder radial engine producing 4,000 hp.

This engine was to become known as the Quad Wasp and it was used in the F4U Corsair biplane fighter driving two contra-rotating four bladed propellers. The prototype XF4U-1 first flew in May 1940 and performance was excellent. However the aircraft had rather limited range due to the fuel consumption of the big engine. Also the view from the cockpit was limited during landing due to the two big wings. Initial cooling problems with the big four row engine were solved by introducing a second set of cooling louvres to the cowling.

The aircraft carries a total of twelve 0.50 inch machine guns and could carry various load of bombs and rockets under the lower wing.

The second prototype features a redesigned upper wing carrying more fuel which alleviated the range problem. The poor visibility however remained a problem throughout the service life or the Corsair. The F4U-2 features a raised cockpit to enhance visibility from the cockpit.

The type was used by the US Navy throughout the forties. It never saw combat as the USA was able to keep out of the war in Europe. Initially it was meant to be replaced by the Grumman F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat but after the perceived threat of the Japanese to the USA did not materialize the development of these was halted and the F4U was kept in service. The last F4U (a F4U-8 model) was taken out of active duty on the 2nd of April 1952.


Last updated: 04/07/2017