The Vought F4U Corsair is an American fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World War II and the Korean War. The Corsair thus came to and retained prominence in its area of greatest deployment, the Corsair served to a lesser degree in the U. S. Navy. In addition to its use by the U. S. and British, the Corsair was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, after the carrier landing issues had been tackled, it quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. The Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina, in February 1938 the U. S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics published two requests for proposal for twin-engined and single-engined fighters. For the single-engined fighter the Navy requested the maximum speed. A range of 1,000 miles was specified, the fighter had to carry four guns, or three with increased ammunition. Provision had to be made for anti-aircraft bombs to be carried in the wing and these small bombs would, according to thinking in the 1930s, be dropped on enemy aircraft formations. In June 1938, the U. S. Navy signed a contract with Vought for a prototype bearing the factory designation V-166B, the Corsair design team was headed up by Rex Beisel. When the prototype was completed it had the biggest and most powerful engine, largest propeller, the first flight of the XF4U-1 was made on 29 May 1940, with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter. The USAACs twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning had flown over 400 mph in January–February 1939, the XF4U-1 also had an excellent rate of climb but testing revealed that some requirements would have to be rewritten. In full-power dive tests, speeds of up to 550 miles per hour were achieved but not without damage to the surfaces and access panels and, in one case. The spin recovery standards also had to be relaxed as recovery from the required two-turn spin proved impossible without resorting to an anti-spin chute, the problems clearly meant delays in getting the design into production. Reports coming back from the war in Europe indicated that an armament of two.30 in synchronized engine cowling-mount machine guns, and two.50 in machine guns was insufficient, the U. S. Navys November 1940 production proposals specified heavier armament. The increased armament consisted of three.50 caliber machine guns mounted in each wing panel and this improvement greatly increased the ability of the Corsair to effectively shoot down enemy aircraft. Formal U. S. Navy acceptance trials for the XF4U-1 began in February 1941, the first production F4U-1 performed its initial flight a year later, on 24 June 1942. It was an achievement for Vought, compared to land-based counterparts, carrier aircraft are overbuilt and heavier
A restored F4U-4 Corsair in Korean War-era U.S. Marine Corps markings
The XF4U-1 prototype in 1940/41, showing its more forward cockpit location
Landing gear on an F4U-4 Corsair.
An early F4U-1 showing the "birdcage" canopy with rearwards production cockpit location.