Weapons of World War Two
Vought F4U Corsair
"With the machine guns loaded and the gunsights sparkling, our Corsair fighters flutter like falcons over territory occupied by the enemy. Under us lies the jungle, which extends along the hills of New Ireland... We fly at an altitude of 2400 meters. Our base is a track of flattened coral in the Green Islands, 640 kilometers afar, east of New Guinea, four degrees south of the equator. It is the 22nd May 1944. This is my first war action."
Similar words to these were written by an American aviator who had made History when in May 1927 he had effectuated for the first time the travel without stopovers from New York to Paris. He was Charles August Lindbergh. At the entry of United States in the war, the "Lone Eagle" (as he had been nicknamed), despite of having been accused of strong sympathy towards the Nazi Germany, had enlisted to serve his country like any other citizen, and now he was, together with other younger and less experienced pilots, flying over the Pacific against the Japanese.
The aircraft in which he flew was one which would be soon famous because of its excellent qualities: the F4U Corsair, built by Vought. In the period from the summer of 1942 to the end of the war, the American war industry would produce 8645 fighters of this type, but its production would still last for about seven years more. Born as naval fighter, the Corsair, in the intention of engineer T. Biesel, its projectist, should have been an aircraft of not large size to ease its stowage, but at the same time it had to carry an engine which offered the maximum power acceptable for its limited dimensions.
As propulsion plant it was chosen the radial engine Pratt and Whitney XR 2008 Double Wasp of 18 cylinders, able to provide 2000 horsepower. The election was undoubtedly right, even if the engine was not perfectly tuned up, but it created a problem. For an engine of such power it was required to use a propeller of large diameter, with risk of having a free margin, between the circumference of the propeller and the landing plane, too small for an aircraft destined to operate from aircraft carriers.
Because of this it was proceeded to elongate as much as possible the landing gear and to adopt a special wing shape known as "inverted gull", in similarity to the German Stuka, which offered besides a good robustness the advantage of raising the engine in respect of the wing leading plane and, hence, the ground. So it was born the clean and fast line of this excellent fighter, which from the spring of 1944 to the summer of 1945 would shoot down up to 2140 enemy aircraft, while the number of Corsair downed would not reach 200.
The Corsair, of entirely metallic construction, of low wing in inverted gull, with landing gear in rear tricycle and arresting hook, was the first American aircraft that reached the speed of 650 kilometers/hour. This together with its powerful armament, up to six 12.7-millimeter machine guns, allows to understand the reason of the nickname given by the Japanese: "Whistling Death".
First flight: 23rd May 1940
Wingspan: 12.49 meters
Wing area: 29.17 square meters
Length: 9.72 meters
Height: 4.75 meters
Full load/Empty weight: 4569/3404 kilograms
Payload/Crew: 1165 kilograms/1
Engine: Pratt and Whitney XR 2008 of 2000 horsepower
Maximum speed: 650 kilometers/hour
Service ceiling: 10729 meters
Defensive armament: Four 12.7-millimeter machine guns
Drop armament: 908 kilograms of bombs
Operational range: 1722 kilometers
Also in Weapons of World War Two: