Originating from a 1938 requirement for a second-generation monoplane fighter for the US Navy, the XF4U was a massive, powerful machine, built around the new P&W R-2800 Double Wasp. In order to maintain ground clearance for the big three-bladed Hamilton Standard prop, while still keeping the main gear legs a reasonable length, the large wing was of inverted gull configuration.
Although the Corsair was huge and heavy for the time (it was heavier empty than a loaded Wildcat) it was also quite maneuverable, thanks to the large wing. The airframe was also rugged, as was demonstrated on an early test flight when the prototype was severely damaged after a forced landing on a golf course - despite the Corsair ending up on its back, the pilot survived, and the aircraft was later rebuilt.
F4U-1: First production variant, ordered in June 1941 and flown a year later. Powered by an R-2800-8, this model had the cockpit moved several feet aft in order to accommodate more internal fuel in self sealing tanks. A challenge for pilots of production Corsairs was the limited visibility over the long nose. This was perhaps not ideal even on the prototype, but production models had the cockpit moved aft by some three feet, making matters worse. This had to be done in order to accomodate more fuselage fuel, after space in the wings had to be opened up to fit in .50-caliber MGs. Even worse was the Corsair's tendency to bounce badly on landing, and poor directional control just as the large fighter was touching down.
VMF-214 was the initial operational user, taking delivery of its first Corsairs in September 1942, with the unit deploying to Guadalcanal in February of the following year.
F4U-1A: Pneumatic tires, frameless canopy. 510 examples to the Royal Navy as the Corsair II.
F4U-1C: 200 Aircraft armed with 4 x M2 20mm cannon.
F4U-1D/FG-1D/F3A-1D: R-2800-8 with water injection.
F4U-2: Twelve -1s fitted as night fighters with radar in a wing mounted pod; equipped VFN-75 and -101.
XF4U-3: Testbed aircraft with an XR-2800-16(c) driving a four-bladed propeller. This was to have led to the Goodyear FG-3 high altitude variant, which was not built.
F4U-5: While development, and even production, of piston engined fighters virtually ceased the world over in the fall of 1945, the Corsair still had development potential, especially as the first generation of naval jets were really service test machines that were not really suitable for combat operations. The postwar F4U-5 had the fabric covered surfaces of the wing and tail replaced with metal skinning, and was fitted with the R-2800-32W, which at 2,850hp was a 1,000hp more powerful than the -4 engine fitted to the XF4U.
In the early days of the Korean fighting, F4U-5s were critical in providing UN forces with close air support as they were pushed southwards. Particularly vexing were North Korea's heavily-armored T-34 tanks, and the standard 5-inch HVAR rockets had to be modified with 6.5-inch warheads to deal with this threat.
Argentina was supplied with F4U-5/5N/5NLs in 1956-58, and these were the last Corsairs to go to sea operationally, flying from the carrier Indepencia until late 1965.
AU-1: Originally the F4U-6, this model reflected the Corsair's postwar transition from fighter to ground attack, with the turbocharger being removed and extra armor and hardpoints being installed. Some two dozen AU-1s were supplied to the Aeronavale for use in Indochina, and other examples were later turned over postwar and saw use in Algeria.
F4U-7: First flown in July 1952, the F4U-7 was the ultimate new-build Corsair, combining the AU-1's airframe with the -4's engine. Just under 100 aircraft were completed for the Aeronavale before the line was finally shut down in late 1952. French Corsairs would see post Indochina combat over Suez and Algeria in the 1950s, and would again be in action in the summer of 1961, striking at Tunisian forces beseiging the French base at Bizerte. Flottille 14F finally retired its last aircraft in the fall of 1964.
Bill Gunston Aircraft of World War II p.38-39 color 5-view of an F4U-1D from the USS Franklin. There are also two pages of color profiles, including Fleet Air Arm, RNZAF, Salvadoran, Argentinian, and French Corsairs
"Vought F4U Corsair" Military Aircraft Visual Encyclopedia p.220-221 Color profiles include F4U-2 Shirley June, F4U-1D, Reserve F4U-4C, French F4U-7; p.242: VMA-312 F4U-4B, P.247 F4U-5N of VC-3
W. Wayne Patton Aces 3, Squadron/Signal Publications 2004 p.55 color profile of a VF-17 F4U-1A flown by Frederick Streig
Robert Lawson, Barrett Tillman Carrier Air War in Original WWII Color p.137 overhead photo of a VMF-511 F4U-1D with gun panels opened for servicing
David Donald editor American Airplanes of World War II ISBN 0-7607-2274-9 p.246-247: Color profile of a VF-17 F4U-1A
Mark Styling Corsair Aces of World War 2 includes 1/72 scale F4U drawings
Ad for Champion Spark Plugs, depicting an F4U launching from a carrier Aviation December 1943 p.42
3-view profile: F4U-5NL Flight 14 August 1953 p.196
F4U-7 scale 3-view with cross sections and a cutaway RAF Flying Review Vol XVI No.6
"Corsair Portfolio" Scale Modeler November 1971 scale side-view and detail drawings, fuselage cross sections
Richard Marmo, Ed Roberston "Bent Wing Racer" Converting Revell's 1/32 F4U-1A to a postwar air racer Scale Modeler February 1973
Larry R. Teteak "Bent Wing Birds" Building the 1/48 scale Minicraft/Hasegawa F4U-4 as an aircraft of VF-52 aboard USS Essex during the Korean War. Scale Modeler June 1982
"A very different Corsair" Air International January 1983 nice color views of the Budweiser Super Corsair
"Preservation Profile: Vought F4U-1A Corsair NX83782" Aeroplane Monthly December 1988 p.752-753 Includes a large color image of the aircraft in VMF-314 markings.
Christopher Cowx "Quick Build: Bent-Wing CAG Bird" Scale Aviation Modeller International July 2005 The Hasegawa 1/48 F4U-5 kit
Joseph Hegedus "Corsair Correction" FineScale Modeler October 2005 p.30-34 Turning the Hasegawa 1/72 scale F4U-1D into an F4U-4.
Cesare Pigliapoco "Wonder Corsair: Part 1 Assembly" Skymodel 9/06 p.4-16. A detailed look at building the 1/32 F4U-1A kit from Trumpeter
Brian Cull, David Nicolle "Mousqetaires in action" Aeroplane October 2006 Aeronavale Corsair operations during the Suez Invasion.
Cesare Pigliapoco "Wonder Corsair Part 2: Painting" Skymodel 10/06
Review of the 1/72 Hasegawa RNZAF F4U-1A kit. Skymodel January 2006 p.64
David Morris "Beauty or a Beast?" Aeroplane July 2006 Flying the Corsair with the Fleet Air Arm
Review of the Skymodels 1/72 F4U decal set Skymodel 8/06 p.54
Preview of the 1/72 Tamiya F4U-1A kit Skymodel 14/07 p.65
Jan Maes "Hudner's Bent-Wing Bird" Airfix Model World #27 Building the 1/48 Hasegawa F4U-4 as Tom Hudner's Corsair.
Howard Carter "Race 94" Warbirds International May/June 2011 p.56-57: FG0-1D BuNo 92050/N194G; includes a large color side view of the aircraft as now displayed
"Corsair back on gear after 50 years" Aeroplane Winter 2013 p.11 FG-1D BuNo 92460 restoration
Photo: large color side view of F4U-4 81415/N5219V in remnants of USN scheme Warbirds International December 2013 p.62-63
Andy Brook "F4U-4B Corsair" Scale Aviation Modeller International December 2013 p.1120 The 1/48 scale HobbyBoss kit.
Jezz Coleman "Whistling Death" Model Aircraft February 2017 The Academy F4U-4B Korean War Variant in 1/48