Engine: Pratt and Whitney Double Wasp air-cooled 18-cylinder water-injected radial
Wingspan: 41 feet
Wing area: 314 square feet
Length: 34 feet 6 inches
Length (fuselage): 24 feet 5 inches
Height: 14 feet 9 inches
Empty: 9,205 pounds
Gross: 14,670 pounds
Maximum speed: 446 mph at 26,200 feet
Maximum ceiling: 41,500 feet
Range: 1,005 miles
Armament: Four AN/M3 20 mm cannons
The prototype Vought XF4U-1 Corsair made its maiden flight on May 29, 1940, and that October became the first single-engine fighter to exceed 400 mph. After a shaky debut the Corsair developed into a carrier-operable aircraft that dominated the Pacific skies in World War II, during which F4U pilots earned three Medals of Honor and a Victoria Cross. It remained effective during the Korean War. Notably, U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas J. Hudner received the Medal of Honor for deliberately crash-landing his Corsair in an attempt to rescue downed squadron mate Ensign Jesse L. Brown. The only Navy ace of that war, Guy Bordelon, scored his five victories in an F4U-5N night fighter.
The last Corsair model, the F4U-7, was procured specially for the French Aéronavale through the U.S. Mutual Assistance Program. The 94 built at Chance Vought’s Dallas plant combined the payload capacity of the AU-1 attack variant with the F4U-4 fighter’s 2,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W engine within a revised cowling.
The first F4U-7s were delivered to Flottille 14F at Karouba Air Base near Bizerte, Tunisia, on Jan. 15, 1953, and on April 17, 1954 the unit arrived at Da Nang, where 25 AU-1s were already in action during the First Indochina War. Operations continued after Dien Bien Phu fell to the Viet Minh on May 7. Just two Corsairs were shot down during the nearly 1,000 sorties flown before hostilities ceased on July 21.
French Corsairs subsequently operated against Algerian guerrillas starting in 1955. During the Suez Crisis the following year 36 Corsairs with yellow-and-black wing bands flew from the carriers Arromanches and La Fayette, losing one plane to anti-aircraft fire and another in a landing accident. Responding to a blockade of the Tunisian air base in 1961, Corsairs flew more than 150 sorties without a single loss. F4U-7s continued to serve with the Aéronavale until their retirement on Sept. 28, 1964. MH