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F4U Corsair vs F6F Hellcat


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#1 KnightMove

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 04:32 PM

Inspired by the Corsair-vs-Mustang thread, another question:

What exactly needed the USN both types of fighter for, Hellcat and Corsair? Both were introduced at roughly the same time, and contrasted to a statement in the other thread, the Corsair saw service even a little earlier.

According to Wikipedia, the Hellcat "accounted for 75% of all aerial victories recorded by the U.S. Navy in the Pacific." But the Corsair "quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of World War II, and the U.S. Navy counted an 11:1 kill ratio with the F4U Corsair." Both served as fighter-bombers, too.

So what was the benefit of producing them both instead of concentrating manufacturers on one type only?

Edited by KnightMove, 17 May 2012 - 07:34 PM.

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#2 mcoffee

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 05:14 PM

I'm not sure "quickly" is an appropriate word for the Corsair development as it had a long and troublesome gestation period. The F4U first flew in May 1940, but did not enter combat until February 1943. The USN awarded the contract to Grumman for the F6F as a backup to the Corsair program because of concerns over its development. There is always risk in putting "all your eggs in one basket". There was a similar recent discussion regarding the B-17/B-24.
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#3 brndirt1

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 05:26 PM

That is sort of what I was thinking "mcoffee", while the Vought program was running into trouble as a totally new approach, the Grumann program was developing, improving an existing design. We (America) could afford to let people in the aircraft industry try out new and radical design concepts, and some of them were pretty "out there". Some were wonderfully beautiful, some were simply bizarre. The McDonnell XP-67 "Bat" being beautiful and the something like the Fisher XP-75 "Eagle" being an example of ugly composites parts slapped together.

We did manage to try all sorts of approaches, why? Because we could afford to do so on the off chance one of them would really WORK!
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#4 KnightMove

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 07:41 PM

There was a similar recent discussion regarding the B-17/B-24.


I'm interested in that, but failed to find it. Can you help me pls?
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#5 USMCPrice

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 11:49 PM

What exactly needed the USN both types of fighter for, Hellcat and Corsair? Both were introduced at roughly the same time, and contrasted to a statement in the other thread, the Corsair saw service even a little earlier.


MCoffee and Clint have already given you the correct answer. It was insurance against the Corsair not working out. The Corsair incorporating many innovative and advanced features with the Hellcat being an incremental development of the Wildcat.

According to Wikipedia, the Hellcat "accounted for 75% of all aerial victories recorded by the U.S. Navy in the Pacific."


Actually it says,

(56% of all U.S. Naval/Marine air victories of the war)


A little but different than 75%, don't you think?

So what was the benefit of producing them both instead of concentrating manufacturers on one type only?


The Corsair also made it's debut during the critical Solomons campaign while Japan still had a credible air component. The Japanese still had a large percentage of talented and skilled aviators, this changed largely due to the attrition inflicted upon them, first by Wildcats and then Corsairs. The Hellcat's first significant combat was in November during the Gilberts operation. These 7 or so months were a critical time during the Pacific war
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#6 KnightMove

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 12:15 AM

Actually it says,
A little but different than 75%, don't you think?


The two statements about 75% and 56% are just two lines apart and attribute two different things - the air victories of the Navy in the Pacific theater and the air victories of Navy and Marine combined in the entire war. So, this is not necessarily a contradiction, even though the numbers have different sources with a time gap of 33 years (1946 and 1979).

To review whether both numbers might be correct, we need more detailed information on how many aircraft of what type were deployed by the Navy and the Marine Corps, respectively, and to what success.
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#7 Takao

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 01:34 AM

Here is the source for the 56% claim, the quote can be found on page 15. http://www.history.n...wnload/nasc.pdf

Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of Barrett Tillman's book "Hellcat: The F6F in World War II.", so I can't read the exact quote, how it is quantified, or it's context. However, Mr. Tillman is a well respected author and researcher, and he would not have made such a statement without having the proof to back up.

Although, by looking at the tables in the "Naval Aviation Combat Statistics - World War II", it is probable that the quote pertains to carrier-based F6Fs, which were responsible for 75%-76% of the victories by carrier-based aircraft.

#8 TiredOldSoldier

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:43 AM

As far as I know the USN wanted the F4U but initially had big doubts about it' s suitability for carrier ops, IIRC the firs carrier based USN FAU to go into combat came well after the FAA had started operating them from their carriers. Of course pilots used to carrier landing the narrow tracked and high stall speed Spitfires are less likely to complain too much about lack of downwards visibility ;). Were there any land based USMC units operating the F6F? if not the 76% statistic looks awfully high unless it's just carrier based planes.

Edited by TiredOldSoldier, 22 May 2012 - 06:20 AM.
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#9 mcoffee

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 12:38 PM

The USN asked Grumman to work on an improved version of the Wildcat in June '41 as a hedge on the F4U. Bureau of Aeronautics soon determined they wanted more firepower, range and armor than an improved Wildcat could support. Grumman then went to work on an entirely new design and the contract for the XF6F-1 was signed in January '42. The XF6F-1 flew six months later.

Takao has provided a link to "Naval Aviation Combat Statistics - World War II" which is the primary source for US Naval aviation and is where Tillman's numbers come from. I'm not sure what quote is being refered to though.

As far as I know the USN wanted the F4U but initially had big doubts about it' s suitability for carrier ops, IIRC the firs carrier based USN FAU to go into combat came well after the FAA had started operating them from their carriers.


First carrier-based combat usage of the Corsair was with the USN, and by night fighters no less! VF(N)-101 took their F4U-2's aboard Enterprise and Intrepid (four plane groups on each boat) in January '44 and began combat operations with the fast carriers. First British combat use of carrier-based Corsairs was April '44.

Were there any land based USMC units operating the F6F? if not the 76% statistic looks awfully high unless it's just carrier based planes.


There was some use of the F6F by land-based Marines, but not much relatively speaking. NACS - WWII breaks its data down by aircraft, USN or Marine and carrier-based or land-based and is really the go-to source for US Naval Aviation.
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#10 mcoffee

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 12:47 PM

I'm interested in that, but failed to find it. Can you help me pls?


It is here:
http://www.ww2f.com/...7-v-b-24-a.html
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#11 KnightMove

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 02:31 PM

Thank you... I should not have searched for "Liberator". :)
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#12 USMCPrice

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 07:51 PM

First off I didn't mean to question the statistic itself, I am sure it is correct, I meant to question the big difference between the two. The rest of my statements were point out that there are reasons both statistics are irrelevant to the discussion. I however, did a very poor job of it. My bust. Let me try again. (BTW, thank you Takao for the very good link).

None of the statistics the 75-76% whatever, the 56%, nor the 19:1 kill ratio of the Hellcat or the 11:1 ratio for the Corsair, are really relevant when evaluating the two aircraft's capabilities. The reason these statistics are irrelevant when determining the quality of the aircraft is because they do not take into consideration the real world reasons behind the data used to arrive at them.

The Hellcat also had a total of 5,163 kills by US Naval Aviators, (Marine Corps pilots are also Naval Aviators). The Corsair had 2140, 1,560 or 73% of which were shot down by land based squadrons (1400 Marine-160 USN). The Hellcat also flew 75% of carrier fighter sorties so it only makes sense that it has 75% of the kills. If the two planes were reversed I am sure the Corsair would have a similar record. Of the Hellcats 5163 kills, one out of ten happened at the Battle of Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot). What was the big factor in this victory? The lack of quality Japanese Naval aviators because of the Midway losses.

Carrier based sorties-Hellcat: 62,240 Corsair F4U, FG: 6,488
Total Carrier Fighter Aircraft sorties were: 82,755 (F6F-62240, F4U/FG-6488, FM-12925, F4F-1102). What percentage of the sorties did Hellcats fly? You guessed it 75% (actually 75.2%).
The Marine Corps flew an additional 3241 Carrier Fighter aircraft sorties, but the majority were close air support missions. You can verify this by looking at the amount of ordinance dropped.

I could go on and on, but the reason these numbers are relevant are because of the underlying reasons I mentioned earlier. The Corsair first saw action while Japan still had an experienced and proficient air arm. The Corsair came at a critical time for the US effort in the Pacific. The Corsair went to land based squadrons first because of it's problems with suitability for carrier ops. Actually a good thing for the war effort, overall, because if it hadn't had the problems they would have gone to carrier squadrons first. There was somewhat of a pause in carrier operations for about a year, from November '42 until November 1943 (and carrier operations had been greatly reduced due to losses and damage for some months prior). It was during this period, in conjunction with their Midway losses, that the the Japanese had their pilot quality totally eroded. When the new Essex class carriers with their Hellcats resumed carrier operations again late in 1943 it was against a different Japanese pilot, one severely lacking in training and experience. It was as much, if not more, due to this factor, as to any aircraft superiority that led to the large Japanese losses the Hellcat inflicted prior to the Kamikaze threat. When the Kamikaze threat emerged the Navy increased the number of fighters deployed upon each carrier. Due to a shortage of pilots they re-embarked most of their land based squadrons (Navy and Marine Corps). The Corsair which most of the Marine pilots flew drew the vast majority of carrier based fighter, close air support missions, because this was an area they had additional training and expertise in. The Hellcat filled the primary fighter role with the Corsair being called upon when the situation required. A large number of the Hellcats kills came during this period and not to split hairs, but both the Hellcat and Corsair were during this period filling a role more akin to an interceptor than a true fighter due to the nature of the air combat at the time. You will also note if you study the statistics that the Hellcats kill ratio dropped significantly when compared to KI-84 or J2M. Why was this? Because what few experienced pilots Japan still had were given the most capable aircraft the Japanese had. Even then the US pilots were extremely well trained and many had extensive experience. The rest of the poorly trained, and I'm being generous calling them that, Japanese pilots were in effect, simply steering a guided bomb. Any US aircraft given the skill US pilots had at the time would have had an overwhelming level of success. US pilots needed to meet them, and kill them before they broke through to the fleet. Not much classic dogfighting there. Now, after running my mouth all this time there wasn't a great deal of difference in the performance of the two aircraft. If the Hellcat had been fielded first and had gone to the land based squadrons in the Solomons, it would have performed just as well as the Corsair. If the Corsair had been required to fly the majority of the later war carrier fighter missions like the Hellcat was, it would probably have similar statistics as the F6F.


TOS, by the time the Navy deployed the Corsair to it's carriers they had been modified with an anti-stall strip on their starboard wing and the excessive strut rebound dampened by the addition of a bleed valve. These two mods corrected most of their carrier use issues.
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#13 lwd

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:16 PM

MInor quibble.

... . Of the Hellcats 5163 kills, one out of ten happened at the Battle of Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot). What was the big factor in this victory? The lack of quality Japanese Naval aviators because of the Midway losses.
....

From what I've read the IJN didn't loose all that many aviators at Midway. It was the Solomons where IJN avaitors suffered the greatest attrition. See:
Title

#14 brndirt1

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 04:53 PM

I know I should stay out of this, but I cannot resist. Alongside the pilot losses at Midway was something else that really changed the picture. The loss of those who serviced the planes, the mechanics and armorers who went down with the carriers also take a good length of time to train up to full "snuff". Not as long as pilots, but still a pilot is only as effective as his plane is ready to fly without flaw. Just a minor point that sometimes it is the "crew" back on the ship or the ground has an effect on the overall picture as well.
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#15 USMCPrice

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 07:31 PM

MInor quibble.

From what I've read the IJN didn't loose all that many aviators at Midway. It was the Solomons where IJN avaitors suffered the greatest attrition. See:
Title


Not a minor quibble, a very good point as I once again didn't give a fuller explanation. Japanese Carrier based and land based air are two separate entities. Japanese carrier pilots initially were limited to pretty much the airgroup each carrier carried. There really wasn't a good replacement system. Midway and Coral Sea decimated the Japanese Carrier borne squadrons, which were very experienced but, the Japanese had failed to set up a training program to make good their losses (IIRC, @300 at Midway and percentage wise this was a huge number). The early battles around Guadalcanal finished off the carrier air arm. First you had the Battle of the Eastern Solomons involving Shōkaku, Zuikaku and Ryujo, carrier strikes were exchanged and aircraft and crews lost. Then the Battle of Santa Cruz the Shōkaku, Zuikaku, and Zuihō, traded airstrikes with the Americans and again they lose aircrews they cannot replace, the South Dakota alone downed 26 Japanese aircraft during this engagement. These losses were not able to be made good. Then you have the Naval and Army land based air, this is what was essentially destroyed during the Solomons campaign, especially during the 600 mile, one way trip, over water from Rabaul to Guadalcanal and then the return and losses due to lack of fuel, battle damage, wounds, navigational errors, etc. The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot involved both Japanese carrier based air units and army/navy land based units. The greatest losses were to the untrained carrier pilots. Clint is also right as far as the carriers were concerned, the loss of experienced mechanics and aviation support personnel was critical to the deterioration of the Japanese air forces as well.

From the Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: "By 1944, Japan's supply of skilled pilots was so limited that many flight instructors were reassigned from training units to Ozawa's Mobile Force at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, in an all-or-nothing effort to stop the American counteroffensive. The outcome was the slaughter of the Japanese pilots in what the Americans dubbed "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."
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#16 Takao

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 12:17 AM

USMCPrice,

Perhaps, in the beginning of the Pacific War, carrier-based & land-based air were two separate entities. However, once the decision was made to engage in an all out strugle for control of the Solomon Islands, Japanese carrier-based & land-based air became one entity.

As the Solomons Campaign turned into a campaign of attrition, carrier pilots on both sides soon found themselves based on terra firma. As the land-based component of the Japanese Naval Air Force began losing this war of attrition(by the beginning of 1943, an estimated 15% of the aviators that had begun the campaign remained), they first called upon the carrier bretheren, however this request was turned down by the Japanese high command(they, correctly, thought that the carrier component would be vital in their planned "Decisive Battle" to take place early in 1944. Instead, the Japanese Army Air Force was sent to help out. Unfortunately, the JAAF pilots were unskilled in the "art" of navigation over open water, and their planes were soon found to be lacking in the necessary range that their missions required. While the JAAF did make a contribution to the Solomons Campaign, it was a relatively minor one.

Once, the JAAF proved inadequate for combat in the South Pacific, requests were again made for their carrier pilots, the need for combat capable replacements was now much more dire than it had been, so the request was granted. Thus, early in 1943, the aircraft of the rebuilt Carrier Divisions 1 & 2 entered the fray, but this time, they flew from "unsinkable" aircraft carriers. However, strong Allied resistance and deteriorating logistics & operational maintenance combined in an equation that equaled heavy losses for Carrier Divisions 1 & 2, and they were finally withdrawn. Thus, the rebuilt Carrier Divisions were again in desperate need of rebuilding.

As the final acts began to play out in the Solomons, Japanese need for combat aircraft again went out, this time, only the re-rebuilt Carrier Division 2 was sent...This time, Carrier Division 2 would not return to their carriers, rather, it was merged with the 26th Air Flotilla. A new Carrier Division 2 was formed, but it also wound up in Rabaul by November, 1943. There it engaged in a harsh two week long battle with the Allies, and it suffered some 30% casualties before it was withdrawn to Singapore for reorganization and training.

So while the losses that the Japanese suffered in the "early" carrier battles of the Pacific War, they were made good, albeit, not as quickly as the Japanese had hoped, but they were made good. However, it was the "meat-grinding" attrition warfare of the Solomons Campaign, that kept them from increasing or even making good on their large losses of land & carrier-based pilots during said campaign. By the end of the Solomons Campaign, the continuously rebuilt Carrier Divisions were but a shadow of their former selves, and many of the land-based Air Flotillas, due to a lack of trained pilots, had been reduced to near impotence.

Eric M. Bergerud covers this topic very well in his book, "Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific."
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#17 USMCPrice

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 01:34 AM

I stand corrected and thank you for the excellent post Takao. I had gathered a different understanding from my readings, I have however, not read "Fire in the Sky", but am headed for Amazon right now to correct that oversight.
"I come in peace, I didn't bring artillery. But I am pleading with you with tears in my eyes: If you f**k with me, I'll kill you all."Marine General James Mattis, to Iraqi tribal leaders
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#18 dobbie

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 09:54 AM

As I understand it, there was advantages both ways. The Hellcat was an easier fighter to both fly and land on a carrier deck. The Corsair took a lot longer to mature due to a lot of innovations introduced. There were early problems with the way the aircraft handled at low speeds, and tended to violently drop off on one wing in a stall. Visibility was not as good on the F4U, but for an experienced driver, the Corsair could do more.

#19 DaveBj

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:27 AM

I know that "sexy" doesn't win dogfights or deliver bombs accurately on target, but the F4U Corsair was one heck of a sexy airplane. Not that the Hellcat was ugly or anything, but the Corsair was just . . . plain . . . sexy. I used to love watching the takeoff/landing scenes in "Black Sheep Squadron."

#20 donsor

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:09 PM

Had the war lasted much longer the F4U would've been the Navy's fighter of choice oer the F6F. There was another Navy fighter (F8 Bearcat) which saw action towards the end but I have not heard much about how it performed.

#21 mcoffee

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 03:13 PM

The higher powered F4U-4 and the F8F Bearcat would have replaced the F6F.

Vought continued to improve the F4U airframe. Grumman took a different approach and built the F8F Bearcat with the smallest airframe they could wrap around the R2800-34W engine. The Bearcat's performance was spectacular - it was fast, had great maneuverability and an outstanding climb rate.

A highly modified Bearcat "Rare Bear" holds the closed course speed record for piston-engined aircraft as well as some time-to-climb records.
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#22 lwd

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:57 PM

Didn't the F8F have a relatively short range? If it's the one I'm thinking of it was designed as an interceptor. There was also a two engine fighter in the works for the navy wasn't there?

#23 Old Schoolr

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:40 PM

...There was also a two engine fighter in the works for the navy wasn't there?

Grumman F7F Tigercat.

#24 mcoffee

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:57 PM

F4U - 1,000 miles
F8F - 1,100 miles
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#25 lwd

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:41 PM

F4U - 1,000 miles
F8F - 1,100 miles

These two web sites mention a range of 1,500 mile or so for the F4U:
http://www.history.n...st-ac/f4u-4.pdf
Vought F4U Corsair
But the corresponding numbers for the F8F from:
The Grumman F8F Bearcat
is almost 2,000 miles.
Thought I might have been confusing it with the F7F but it's got range comparable to the F8F in the sites I looked at such as the following:
http://www.history.n...t-ac/f7f-3n.pdf

Thanks for the correction.




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