White Ensign Corsairs

Tom Spencer outlines the Chance Vought Corsair’s short but pivotal combat service in Royal Navy colours

When Chance Vought’s radical looking XF4U-1 flew for the first time on May 29, 1940, it was the fastest naval fighter then produced. Boasting a top speed of more than 400mph, the adoption of Pratt & Whitney’s 1,1850hp XR-2800-4 Double Wasp engine resulted in the type featuring an inverted gull wing to accommodate the large diameter propeller.

However, following deck trials in 1942, the US Navy (USN) deemed the new fighter, dubbed the F4U Corsair, unsuitable for carrier operations – its tendency to bounce on landing and vicious stalling characteristics among the reasons given. With issues continuing to plague its introduction to carrier service, the type was bloodied in combat for the first time by land-based US Marine Corps squadrons in February 1943.

Despite the problems, the Royal Navy (RN) showed huge interest in the Corsair – its versatility, performance and range surpassing the likes of the Hawker Sea Hurricanes and Supermarine Seafires then in Fleet Air Arm (FAA) service.

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