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F4U Corsair vs. P-51 Mustang

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by Nathan S., Jun 4, 2003.

  1. wilconqr

    wilconqr Member

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    I would like to see documentation of the F4U being in service prior to the F4F. After all, the F4F was the air seperiority fighter during the Battle of Midway; the turning point of the war against Japan. Furthermore, Midway Island's complement of fighters included F4F's, P-40's, and F2A Buffalo's, but no F4U's. Seems to me if they were in combat service before the F4F there would havce been some stationed on Midway.
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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  3. Smoke286

    Smoke286 Member

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    Why ,did someone say the Corsair was in service before the Wildcat, I thought the argument was wether the Helcat was in service much before the Corsair?
     
  4. Smoke286

    Smoke286 Member

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    IIRC according to Martin Cadin's "Fork Tailed Devil" the P-38 in the Pacific theater eventually achieved a range of over 2000 miles. When I get a chance I will see if I can dig out the reference
     
  5. Smoke286

    Smoke286 Member

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    I do not agree with the statement 'overall the P-51 was a much superior aircraft to the Corsair'
    While the P-51 was undoubtedly superior at high altitude, little air combat occured so high in the pacific theater. The later marks of the Corsair could carry more munitions the the Mustang and the aircraft was much more robust, liquid cooled engines were much more prone to debilitating damage the air cooled models. Tactics used by the Navy and Marine pilots did not require the degree of manouverability that were demanded in Europe.
    The P-51 was the superior aircraft for the kind of air combat that occured in Europe, however the Corsair, Helcat AND P-38 were better suited to action against the Japanese
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I do not agree with the statement 'overall the P-51 was a much superior aircraft to the Corsair'
    While the P-51 was undoubtedly superior at high altitude, little air combat occured so high in the pacific theater. The later marks of the Corsair could carry more munitions the the Mustang and the aircraft was much more robust, liquid cooled engines were much more prone to debilitating damage the air cooled models. Tactics used by the Navy and Marine pilots did not require the degree of manouverability that were demanded in Europe.
    The P-51 was the superior aircraft for the kind of air combat that occured in Europe, however the Corsair, Helcat AND P-38 were better suited to action against the Japanese [/QB][/QUOTE]

    My commentary was based on the opinions of those who flew both aircraft. See for instance, Duels in the Sky by Cptn Eric Brown RN, Combat Profile: Mustang by Roger Freedman, Corsair Aces, The Bent Wing Bird Over the Pacific by Walter Musciano or, testing reports from the Technical Air Intelligence Section at US Naval Station Anacostia Washington DC.
    For instance, the last source recommends that F4U pilots avoid hit and run attacks on Fw 190's in preference to getting into a maneuvering contest due to lack of sufficent dive speed and top speed performance compared to the Fw 190 (the P-51 is rated as superior in all characteristics except initial dive acceleration and rate of roll by comparison).
    Brown doesn't even put it in his "top ten list" but does include both the F6F and P-51.
    As far as tactics, both theaters were similar in fighter tactics. It was just in the Pacific that US tactics were more effective due to the generally lower performance of Japanese aircraft. One point of interest is that the Japanese did not have fighters capable of truly high altitude performance for the most part. As a result, most air combat took place at lower altitudes than in Europe. As the USAAF in the later stages of the war was generally flying at higher altitudes compared to the USN, it left fewer opportunities for action than the USN pilots often found.
     
  7. Smoke286

    Smoke286 Member

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    It is not true that tactics used by fighter units were the same in Europe as in the Pacific, partially because of lower altitudes, but mostly because US aircraft were incapable of dogfighting with the much more nimble Japanese marks, instead they relied on heavier firepower and speed, pouncing and powering away when possible. You say that the Corsair only out performed the Mustang in two catagories (btw it is my understanding that for some reason the F4U had a greater rate of roll the any other aircraft in WW II) You have missed the third, most important factor in which the Corsair out perfomed its Air Force competitor, it was much more robust. As a side note the Mustang was not all that well thought of in Europe, some fighter pilots complained about having their P-47's taken on them and being re-equiped with Mustangs, Why? because the only discernable reason they could see was for the move was that the Mustang was much cheaper to produce. I know this view was stated in Len Deighton's novel "Goodbye Mickey Mouse" and I believe also in Robert Johnson's "Thunderbolt"

    [ 01. September 2003, 08:54 PM: Message edited by: Smoke286 ]
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Actually Smoke your reference about the change in equipment from P-47 to P-51 was from the 354th archiv's, the Pioneer Mustang group who hated the P-47 ! They were told to take it in the fall of 44 as the P-51's were needed for the 8th AF fighter boyz. The 354th of the 9th AF seeked vengence as fighter bomber missions were not their cup of tea and when they got new P-51D's back in january of 45 they ripped the Luftwaffe up every chance they got. 9/10ths of the 9th AF was equipped with the P-47 and it stayed that way and only the 8th AF 56th fg. Hub Zemke told me that he loved the P-47 but thought the P-51 was even more so while he commanded the 479th. It's funny because I had to seperate Gabby Gabreski when it came to which US a/c was better, they both flew in the 56th of course but Gabby never had the pleasure of the P-51 under his butt......and of course thought the Jug was king.

    two cents

    ~E
     
  9. InTheWind

    InTheWind recruit

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    I actually had the opportunity to fly both in combat, in my opinion both were far superior to anything the enemy had and the P51 was beautiful to look at and fly but I have to cast my vote for the Corsair, for me, I always had the feeling of up most confidence that I would win.
     
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Tell us more about your experiences, InTheWind
     
  11. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I would be interested in how someone could be able to fly both in combat? What were the circumstances? What with them being used by different services during the war.
     
    Thumpalumpacus and Skipper like this.
  12. Mortman2004

    Mortman2004 Dishonorably Discharged

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    In a dogfight id run with the mustang,,,, On a Close air support strike id run with the Corsair... Corsair took more ordinance and could handle ground fire a lot better...
     
  13. surfersami

    surfersami Member

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    Hi all, new here. A lot of which plane is better depends on the series of the aircraft. There are few if any single engine fighters that could hang with the F4U-4. Read this and then give your thoughts. Given the facts you will find the P-51D was only superior in some minor catagories, and one major catagory (visibility). I have spoke to pilots who have flown both aircraft, and the two I spoke to would would take the later model Corsair over the P-51D hands down.
    The P-51 was a great escort fighter, range, manuverability, and speed. But the -4 was faster at the P-51s best altitude, and with the airframe stressed for the war loads it carried I would bet the wings would stay on longer than the mustangs. They were both great aiplanes, I'm glad they were on our side. In the immortal words of Herman Georing, "When I saw Mustangs over Berlin I knew the Jig was up!".

    Check this and comment. http://home.att.net/~historyzone/F4U-4.html
     
  14. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I'd give it to the P-51. Much of what Gardner stated, and add the better range of the P-51. In the Pacific, range was god.

    Concerning the Hellcat. Being carrier based, the Hellcat got to go where the Japanese were. The Corsairs and P-38 were pretty much stuck with what was left of the Japanese air forces on the islands they could reach.

    That's a good way to compare the P-51 and the Spitfire. The Mustang (because of it's range) went where the Luftwaffe was, and the Spitfire was stuck with what Luftwaffe was left within it's small range.

    Back to the topic at hand. If you want to compare late model Corsairs to the P-51, then compare it to a P-51H. Otherwise, make it a major model comparison, like F4U-D to P-51D.
     
  15. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I wonder about the Corsair being "not carrier based" position you took here, since:

    Corsairs were built for more than ten years, and they remained in service until 1965; total production was 12,681 aircraft. The Vought F4U Corsair was the best carrier-based fighter of World War II and in some respects was an even better plane than the superlative North American P-51 Mustang. Yet, despite these fine qualities, the Corsair spent nearly half its wartime career at land bases. For almost a year the naval authorities considered it unsuitable for carrier duty. This formidable plane racked up an impressive number of victories. In the Pacific theater alone, in the course of 64,051 missions, Corsairs downed 2,140 enemy planes while only 189 Corsairs were lost - a ratio unmatched in the history of air warfare.

    The Corsair was developed early in 1938, at the request of the U.S. Navy, which ordered the construction of a prototype on June 30. The head Vought designer, Tex B. Beisel, set to work with the idea of building the smallest body compatible with the most powerful engine available. He chose Pratt & Whitney's XR-2800 Double Wasp, a new 2,000-h.p. 18-cylinder radial then receiving some finishing touches. This powerful engine required a large-diameter propeller to absorb the power, and this in turn led to the inverted gull-wing that characterized the Corsair. Thus the propeller disk was at a safe distance from the ground, and the landing gear struts were reduced in length. This last feature was extremely important for safe landing on carrier decks. The prototype, the XF4U-1, first took to the air on May 29, 1940. It was an outstanding success from its first test flights. On October 1, during a transfer flight, it became the first American fighter to break the 400-m.p.h. barrier.

    The finishing touches, however, took a long time. To begin with, the armament was increased, and this required repositioning the fuel tanks and adding one on the fuselage. This in turn meant that the cockpit had to be moved back almost three feet, creating problems of visibility for the pilot. It was the question of visibility that made authorities hesitate to use the plane on carriers. Nevertheless an initial contract for 584 F4Us was signed on June 30,1941, and the first production model was ready a year later. By the end of 1942 the navy had received delivery of 178 aircraft, but the planes were not considered suitable for use on carriers until April, 1944. The Corsair became operational first with the Marine Corps, which used Corsairs at Guadalcanal on February 13, 1943. Subsequently they were used as land-based planes by the Navy.

    The subseries F4U-1A had a different hood for improved visibility, while the 1944 F4U-1D had a more powerful engine and heavier armament. The Corsair F4U-1 was the largest production series. A total of 4,102 were built by Vought; 3,808 by Goodyear, which called them FG-1; 735 by Brewster, which called them F3A-1. Great Britain received 2,012 Corsairs, and New Zealand received 370. The final version produced during the war was the F4U-4, which had a 2,450-h.p. engine. Only a few of these went into service before the Japanese surrender. Nevertheless, a total of 2,356 planes of this model were built by August 1, 1947, and these were followed by 509 F4U-5s (with more powerful engines, heavier armament, and some structural modifications), 110 AU-1s (a version designed expressly for low-altitude tactical support), and 94 F4U-7s (built for the French to use in Indochina).

    (Source: Enzo Angelucci & Paolo Matricardi, in; World War II Airplanes, Volume 2)


    See:

    American Aircraft of WWII

    Just wondering, since it (Corsair) was carrier based in the last year of the war?
     
  16. surfersami

    surfersami Member

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    We could go to the fg-2 but that wouldn't really be fair as there were only a few of those made.

    Even if the performance was dead even most pilots would tell you the Corsair could take a lot more punishment than the P-51.

    Many liked the Jug simply because it had great performance, but could take a beating. a lot of AAF types would agree the corsair could take as much or more punishment than the P-47. The mustang was no where close in surviability especially down low where people tend to shoot up into the cooling system.

    I love these posts where there is no absolute right answer. I did not fly these aircraft in combat and can only go by what people who have can tell us. Thankfully, like I mentioned before, they were both on our side.

    A retired Navy test pilot once told me he flew every fighter the Navy had in combat in WWII, and most of the AAF planes in testing. He went to war again in Korea and requested the Corsair. (I think he was bias though!):)
     
  17. surfersami

    surfersami Member

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    PS - Range was only critical if you were protecting bombers or Island hopping. Late war corsairs were used on carriers and it is great when your airfield follows you around.
     
  18. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    As a pure fighter i think you are quite right. The F4U was the second best US naval fighter in the war (Hellcat #1) because it was very fast, very rugged, and packed heavy armament including bombs for ground attack. However the Corsair was also a compromise in alot of ways whereas with the Mustang you had to compromise nothing.

    The gull wing definitely affected performance vs. the Mustang's superior wing shape (it was concave instead of flat on the bottom like wings of other fighters - this little design trick is what helped give it the long range of over 1,000 miles). The gull wing on the Corsair was a necessary compromise, for two reasons: to give the landing gear more travel and to allow the ground to clear the gigantic 4-blade prop that made it so fast.

    Also not to be under rated, in the mustang, with the later 2 piece bubble canopy, pilot visibility was outstanding. Because of the long nose, pilot visibility in the corsair was poor - and of course this is a major problem when you are trying to land your fighter on an aircraft carrier. As a result the rate of corsair crashes was very high at first.

    For a while no one could think of a work-around until some corsairs were given to the British for them to try on their own carriers. A British pilot devloped a different flight approach to the carrier, a sort of descending turn where the pilot kept the carrier in sight on his left shoulder and set up his approach, which was essentially blind. This new technique seemed to work better than anything anybody else had thought of, so the Americans adopted it and started teaching it to their pilots- and the Corsair crash rate went down somewhat.
     
  19. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    The Corsair wasn't carrier based (as a rule) until 1944, and then in small quantities compared to the F6F. A year after the Hellcat was romping and stomping through the Japanese aerial forces.
     
  20. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    And, as much as I admire the British and the Royal Navy, the British "inventing" the curved approach with the F4U is a bit of a myth, and perpetrated by that bogus "History" channel quite often. Don't trust them for "history".

    The standard approach to the carrier’s deck (from the time of biplane fighters) was a constant 180 degree turn started when abeam the fantail. The aircraft rolled out of the turn with just a brief straight segment before receiving the 'cut' to land order from the landing officer.

    The USN placed operation F4U-2 night fighters on the big deck carriers in January '44, several months before the British’s RN even received the Corsairs so they could put them into operational service aboard any ship (here is a post by another guy with the username "mcoffee" from the old THC forum).

    The Corsair had many developmental problems. Some major, some minor, some related to carrier operations, others were not. VF-17 exerted major influence in solving many of the problems dogging the Corsair. VF-17s engineering and maintenance department under Lt. Butch Davenport did much to solve the oleo problem. They were also responsible for the air flow spoiler on the right wing which became standard to tame the vicious left wing drop at stall. VF-17 had unmodified F4U-1s when they completed their carrier qualification aboard Bunker Hill in the Summer of '43. There were many blown tires and broken wheels and one F4U was written off. It caught a wire as it initiated a high bounce and was slammed back to the deck. VF-17 had F4U-1As with all the major modifications by the time they embarked for transit to the war zone. The order pulling them From Bunker Hill was more for supply logistics reasons than for operational concerns.

    At the time they would have been the only carrier based Corsair squadron. The logistics of supplying an additional type of fighter on the carriers, especially in the forward areas would put an additional burden on the already stretched supply system. They were supplying F6Fs on the big decks and F4Fs on the jeeps. As pointed out, the Hellcat was certainly accomplishing the mission, and there was need to replace the Marines F4Fs that were still operating as front line fighters. So the decision to keep the F4U land-based was more logistical than operational.

    The 'change of heart' occurred because of changing conditions in the war. By October '44, the Hellcat was comprised about 60% of the aircraft on the fast carriers. They were doubling extensively as attack aircraft when not needed in the traditional fighter role. With the advent of the kamikaze threat, even this preponderance of fighters was deemed insufficient to deal with the new threat and the authorized fighter strength was increased from 54 to 73 aircraft. This caused an immediate shortage - not of Hellcats - but of pilots. The navy training pipeline that had been scaled back earlier in the year because of excesses now faced a sudden shortage. At the same time, the land areas supported by the Marines were shrinking as the front moved closer to Japan. So the Marines had pilots available and the Marines had Corsairs. Ten F4U squadrons were authorized for immediate carrier qualifications and deployment.

    All other problems aside, the operational loss rate of the F4U remained a problem through the end of the war. In U.S. service, 189 Corsairs were known lost to enemy aircraft. An additional 513 were lost to enemy ground fire. 922 Corsairs were lost in operational accidents. American pilots destroyed more Corsairs than did the Japanese. Additionally, the F4Us operational loss rate was 50% higher than that of the F6F.

    The British were starting work-ups with the Corsair about the time VF-17 deployed on Bunker Hill's shakedown cruise. The British profited from VF-17s experiences and adopted the modifications they pioneered. While I am quick to give the British credit where due, I don't feel that the oft quoted line that the Brits taught the Americans how to operate the Corsair from the carriers is supported by the historical record. One modification the Brits alone made was to clip 8 inches off each wing tip to provide clearance for the folded wings in the lower overhead of the British hanger decks. This modification provided an additional benefit of reducing the F4Us tendency to float in ground effect on landing.


    (me again) I agree with "mcoffee", the Brits deserve credit where credit is due, but not for the approach style for the F4U Corsair landing discipline. Clipping that 16" off the wing length was a great idea, and the huge engine and prop on the Corsair easily made up for the lack of wing surface!
     

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