Royal Navy Aircraft - WW2 Part 5

Chance-Vought F-4UCorsair


Chance Vought F-4U Corsair Mk.1, Roosevelt Field, New York, 1943.

This is essentially the same Hasegawa kit as below, but with a different fuselage to incorporate the "birdcage" canopy.

The summer of 1943 saw a step change in British carrier aviation capability as new ships were matched to a new generation of highly capable US aircraft, developed on the back of bitter war experience and incorporating rapid technological development. Perhaps the most capable of these aircraft was the remarkable Chance Vought Corsair. Based around the immensely powerful P&W Double Wasp rotary engine of 2,000 HP, the Corsair featured distinctive inverse gull wings that allowed the most efficient aerodynamic join between wing and fuselage whilst also shortening the length of undercarriage needed to keep the aircraft's huge propeller clear of the deck.

At first, the Corsair's bad-mannered flying characteristics were deemed too difficult to fly from carriers, so the aircraft were delivered to US Marine units to operate from shore bases. In this role they were highly successful, but in the meantime, the British Fleet Air Arm, who were desperate for more capable aircraft, had developed effective tactics for operating the Corsair at sea including a long sweeping approach pattern that allowed the pilot to see the carrier deck over the Corsair's long nose.

Corsairs began to be delived to FAA units in June 1943. Royal Navy Squadrons conducted initial training and work-up in the US at NAS Quonset Point and NAS New Brunswick, before being ferried to the UK by sea. Initial deliveries of Mk.1 Cosairs, wih their "birdcage" canopy were quickly replaced by later marks with a blown bubble canopy and trimmed wing-tips to allow their stowage in the cramped hangars of the Royal Navy's carriers.

The Fleet Air Arm operated more than 2,000 Corsairs of all types during World War 2, including 95 Corsair I (F4U-1), 510 Corsair II (F4U-1A), 430 Corsair III (F3A-1D) and 977 (Corsair IV (FG-1D)

Chance Vought F-4U Corsair Mk.II, 1836 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS VICTORIOUS

Operation Tungsten, Kafjord, Norway, April 1944.

This is the Hobbyboss kit with some very minor modifications and decals from my spares box. In deference to Vought's apparent use of substitute paints instead of normal FAA colours, I have used a lighter grey and olive drab instead of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey.

The Corsair saw its first combat operations with the Royal Navy on 2 April 1944, when Corsair Mk.III aircraft from 1834 and 1836 Squadons in HMS VICTORIOUS provided fighter cover for Operation Tungsten, a massed air attack by the Fleet Air Arm on the Battleship Tirpitz in Kafjord, Norway.

Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair IV, 1841 Sqn HMS FORMIDABLE, British Pacific Fleet, 1945.

Hasegawa's Corsair is a straightforward and well executed kit. Decals are from the box, although I have substituted Modeldecal roundels since the Hasegawa colours weren't quite right (no roundel blue border).

Mk IV Corsairs were built by Goodyear and supplied directly to Fleet Air Arm units in the Pacific. As such they lacked the normal Temperate Sea Scheme camouflage and were painted in standard US gloss blue.

Vought /Goodyear Corsair IV

Early RN Corsairs had cropped wingtips to allow stowage below decks in the smaller RN carriers.

This aircraft was flown by Lt Robert Hampton "Hammy" Gray VC, of the Royal Canadian Navy, one of 2 FAA recipients of the Victoria Cross during WW2.

Citation for Victoria Cross

"For great bravery in leading an attack to within 50 feet of a Japanese destroyer in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire, thereby sinking the destroyer although he was hit and his own aircraft on fire and finally himself killed. He was one of the gallant company of Naval Airmen who, from December 1944, fought and beat the Japanese from Palembang to Tokyo. The actual incident took place in the Onagawa Wan on the 9th of August 1945. Gray was leader of the attack which he pressed home in the face of fire from shore batteries and at least eight warships. With his aircraft in flames he nevertheless obtained at least one direct hit which sank its objective.

Lieut. R.H. Gray, D.S.C., R.C.N.V.R., of Nelson, B.C., flew off the Aircraft Carrier, HMS Formidable on August 9th 1945, to lead an attack on Japanese shipping in Onagawa Wan (Bay) in the Island of Honshu, Mainland of Japan. At Onagawa Bay the fliers found below a number of Japanese ships and dived into attack. Furious fire was opened on the aircraft from army batteries on the ground and from warships in the Bay. Lieut. Gray selected for his target an enemy destroyer. He swept in oblivious of the concentrated fire and made straight for his target. His aircraft was hit and hit again, but he kept on. As he came close to the destroyer his plane caught fire but he pressed to within 50 feet of the Japanese ship and let go his bombs. He scored at least one direct hit, possibly more. The destroyer sank almost immediately. Lieutenant Gray did not return. He had given his life at the very end of his fearless bombing run."

Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair IV, 1843 Sqn HMS ARBITER, British Pacific Fleet, 1945.

Built in 20 mins (genuinely), painting took another 4 evenings. This is the best of the 3 Hobby Boss kits I have built so far, going together perfectly without the need for any filler at all (even the wing roots). Decals are the left-overs from the Hasegawa kit. A few minor problems; I am not clear whether the RN Corsairs ever actually carried rockets or twin fuel tanks (although the FG-1D was definitely wired/plumbed for them), and the canopy looks too high (at least alongside my Hasegawa one) but apart from that, I think it compares very favourably with the Hasegawa offering, at less than half the price!

The Corsair was supplied to the Fleet Air Arm in 4 distinct batches, the Vought built Corsair I (with "birdcage" canopy) and Corsair II (with raised cockpit and "Malcolm" bubble canopy), the Brewster built Corsair III (which suffered similar quality problems to the Buffalo and was deemed too unreliable to use in combat) and the Goodyear built Corsair IV. A final Corsair V version was cancelled after VJ day.

This particular aircraft of 1843 Sqn was embarked on escort carrier HMS ARBITER, assigned to protect the British Pacific Fleet's essential logistic "Fleet Train". Of particular note is the (partial) reinstatement of proper British red, white & blue roundels, although those on the fuselage still include a white centre to distinguish them from Japanese markings. Just to confuse things, whilst the white X on the 1841 Sqn Corsair above indicates that the Aircraft belongs to the HMS FORMIDABLE Carrier Air Group, the red X on this one is simply an aircraft specific deck code.

Vought /Goodyear Corsair IV

Fleet Air Arm Props - Index The RNAS - 1914-1918 Biplanes 1918-1946 WW2 Monoplanes Post WW2
Top of Page Main Index

Click on the thumbnail below to go directly to the aircraft model, or simply scroll down