Author Topic: The Vought F4U-3C  (Read 3245 times)

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The Vought F4U-3C
« on: April 04, 2022, 01:37:41 AM »
Reposting a story hidden away in an old GB.

The Vought F4U-3C

In mid 1943 as planning for Boeing B-29 operations against Japan were first being envisioned, the possible need for escort fighters was raised.  At this stage of the war, the immense ranges being considered raised the spectre of no fighter being available with sufficient range to accompany the bombers all the way to the target.  One possibility mooted was the use of carrier based fighters being used to provide escort.  The idea being that the carriers could operate closer to the Japanese targets then land based aircraft and thus ‘pick up the bombers part way’.  However whilst an attractive idea at first glance, the USAAF very quickly pointed out a concern that no USN fighter then available had satisfactory sustained performance at the altitudes (in excess of 30,000ft) at which the B-29s were planned to operate.

At this stage, both Grumman and Vought were approached to see what they could offer.  Naturally both assured the USN (and in turn the USAAF) that their respective premier fighters (the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair) could handle the altitude.  Vought however went one step further and proposed a new subvariant of the F4U.  This proposal was accepted by the USN and development of what would eventually become known as the Vought F4U-3C was commenced.

Based upon the XF4U-3, an experimental aircraft built to hold different engine variations, this version married the standard F4U airframe and Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W radial engine with an intercooled turbo-supercharger similar to that already in use on USAAF fighters such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.  The most recognisable external difference of the new version was the prominent belly intake feeding the turbo-supercharger.  The resulting combination resulted in the F4U-3C now achieving its highest speed of 447mph at some 32,000 ft rather then the then best achieved of 417mph at less then 20,000 ft.  To account for the increased weight of the new turbosupercharger and associated ducting, the F4U-3C also dispensed with two of the 0.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning wing machine guns.

The first prototype of the new variant first flew on 1 April 1944 with Vought test pilot Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls.  All proceeded well and soon an initial order of 40 airframes was in production.  The first of these entered service in June 1944 with VF-20 “The Jokers”.  However before they could be allocated to a carrier, events in the war had changed the underlying need for these high altitude fighters.  USAAF B-29s had now commenced operations from bases in China and were being escorted by the superlative North American P-51 Mustang.  Soon thereafter, additional bases were established in the captured Mariana Islands with P-51s also operating from these.  Thus the need for USN fighters to ‘pick up the bombers part way’ was greatly diminished.  Moreover, Japanese defences over the target were found to be nowhere near what was predicted only a year beforehand – Japanese fighter developments and production was simply unable to match that of the United States.

The initial 40 F4U-3Cs were followed by one further order of 140. However, this was changed partway through the order to be for F4U-4s instead.  As a result, a total of only 62 F4U-3Cs were completed.  With no operational requirement, these were soon scrapped at the end of the war.  Goodyear was also to have built these high altitude turbo-supercharged aircraft as FG-3s but this never came to fruition.

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