Was the corsair as good a fighter as the spitfire or the FW?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Soundbreaker Welch?, Feb 9, 2006.

  1. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    I was reading this article about best fighter aircraft. Here it is

    http://home.att.net/~historyzone/F4U-4.html


    Chance Vought's F4U-4 came about as a development of the F4U-4XA, which was first flown in early April 1944. It was fitted with an up-rated Pratt Whitney R2800-18W or -42W engine. This powerplant developed 2,450 bhp with water injection. It was also fitted with a four blade hydromatic propeller which provided the necessary efficiency to utilize the greater power. The carburetor inlet was moved from the wing root leading edge to a duct located under the engine. The exhaust stacks had to be re-routed as a result. Armament remained the same as the F4U-1, with six .50 caliber Browning MGs. The limited production F4U-4B was armed with four M3 20mm cannon. Under-wing load capability was substantial. Up to three 1,000 lb. bombs along with eight 5 inch rockets could be carried. Reportedly, it was not unusual to rig the F4U-4 with as much as 6,000 lbs of ordnance. Apparently the robust structure of the Corsair could bear these loads without undue wear and tear on the airframe. Almost certainly, such overloaded Corsairs did not operate from carrier decks, but exclusively from shore bases.

    Let’s compare the F4U-4 to its earlier sibling, the F4U-1 so that we can clearly see the improvements made.

    Maximum speed:
    F4U-1: 417 mph @ 19,900 ft.
    F4U-4: 446 mph @ 26,200 ft.

    The -4 displays a 29 mph speed advantage, but more importantly, does it at a considerably greater altitude. The F4U-4 is actually 10 mph faster than the P-51D at the Mustang’s best altitude.

    Rate of climb:
    F4U-1: 3,250 ft/min.
    F4U-4: 4,170 ft/min.

    While the -4 has a more powerful engine, it also weighs more than the F4U-1. This marked increase in climb rate can be attributed to the more efficient 4 blade propeller as well as the higher power of the up-rated powerplant. The increase moves the Corsair into stellar company with fighters such as the P-38L and the F7F Tigercat. The F4U-4 climbs at a rate 20% better than the P-51D.

    There is little doubt that the Corsair was likely the greatest load carrying fighter of its era. There is little to compare to it except perhaps late-war models of the P-47, which still fall somewhat short in maximum load.






    We now get to the more subjective aspects of the -4’s performance. Rating a fighter’s flight characteristics is never without pitfalls. What one pilot feels is too stiff, another might describe as firm or secure. As a result, opinions may vary. However, empirical data is certainly the most valuable in determining a fighter’s overall performance. The tangible things such as cockpit layout and visibility are also important, as are the intangible things such as confidence in the airframe to get the pilot home. I will do my best to present the subjective data in an unbiased manner.

    In terms of maneuverability, all models of the Corsair were first rate. The F4U-4 was better than the F4U-1 series. Why? More power and better performance in the vertical regime. Very few fighters, even pure fighters such as the Yak-3 could hang with an -4 maneuvering in the vertical. Its terrific climbing ability combined with very light and sensitive controls made for a hard fighter to beat anytime the fight went vertical.

    Ease of flight.The Corsair was much less a handful than the P-51 when flown into an accelerated stall, although it was by no means as forgiving as the F6F Hellcat. Torque roll was no worse than most of its high power contemporaries.

    The F4U also rolled well. When rolling in conjunction with powerplant torque, in other words, rolling left, it was among the very fastest rolling fighters of the war. In the inventory of American fighters, only the P-47N rolled faster, and only by 6 degrees/second.

    In level flight acceleration the F4U-4 gained speed at about 2.4 mph/sec, the P-51D accelerated at about 2.2 mph/sec. The F4U-1 could not keep up with either, accelerating at only 1.5 mph/sec. The real drag racer of American WWII fighters was the P-38L. It gained speed at 2.8 mph/sec. All acceleration data was compiled at 10-15,000 ft at Mil. power settings.

    Turning to dive acceleration, we find the F4U-4 and Mustang in a near dead heat. Both the P-47D and P-38L easily out distance the Corsair and P-51D in a dive. Still, these two accelerate better than the opposition from Japan and Germany. Moreover, both the Corsair and the Mustang have relatively high critical Mach numbers allowing them to attain very high speeds in prolonged dives before running into compressibility difficulty. With the exception of early model P-38’s, it was almost always a mistake to attempt to evade American fighters by trying to dive away. This goes for early war fighters as well, such as the P-40 and F4F Wildcat.

    There is one story recorded by a Luftwaffe pilot who, while flying a Bf-109F over North Africa tangled with several FAA Martlets (the British name for the F4F). Finding himself alone with a Martlet on his tail, he elected to half roll into a steep dive to shake off the slow flying carrier fighter. Hurtling down in a screaming dive, the German looked over his shoulder and was stunned to see the Martlet (Wildcat) closing with guns blazing. Pulling back on the stick, under heavy G loading, the German eased into a zoom climb. The F4F was still with him firing bursts. As the speed bled down, the Bf-109 began to pull away in a steady rate climb. Had the Brit been a better shot, the German was certain he would have been shot down. He had underestimated the diving ability of the American fighter. Indeed, many of his comrades would do the same over Europe and not be as fortunate as he.

    When we look at the turn rates of WWII fighters we stumble upon several factors that determine how well a fighter can turn. Aside from the technical aspects such as wing area and wing loading, we find that some fighters are far more maneuverable at low speeds than at higher velocities. This was very common with Japanese designs. At speeds above 250 mph, the A6M Zero and the Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar) could not roll worth a nickel. But at 150 mph, they were two of the most dangerous fighters ever to take wing. It did not take long for Allied pilots to learn to avoid low speed turning duels with the Japanese. Once this rule was established, the light weight dogfighters were hopelessly outclassed by the much faster opposition.

    Over Europe, things were somewhat different. The Luftwaffe flew fast, heavily armed aircraft that were not especially suited to low speed turning fights. The Allies had in their inventory the Spitfire, which was very adept at turning fights. The Americans had the P-47, P-38 and P-51. All of which were very fast and at least a match for the German fighters in maneuverability. Especially the P-38 which could out-turn anything the Luftwaffe had and could give the Spitfire pilot pause to consider his own mortality. With the exception of these last two, there was nothing in western Europe that could hang with the F4U-4. Even when including the Soviets, only the Yak-3 could hope to survive a one on one with the Corsair. To do so, the Yak would have to expertly flown. Furthermore, the Yak-3 was strictly a low to medium altitude fighter. Above 20,000 ft its power dropped off rapidly, as did its maneuverability. The Yak-3 in question had better be powered by the Klimov M107A engine and not the low output M105. Otherwise, the speed difference is too great to overcome.






    So, perhaps now is a good time to summarize the performance of the F4U-4. Let’s compare it to the aircraft generally believed to be the best all-around fighter of World War Two, the North American P-51D Mustang.

    Speed: The -4 was about 10 mph faster than the P-51D at the altitude where the Mustang developed it’s highest speed.
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Climb: The -4 Corsair was a remarkable climber despite its size and weight. It could out-climb the Mustang by nearly 800 fpm.
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Maneuverability: The F4U-4 was one of the very best. According to Jeffrey Ethell: "Of all World War II fighters, the Corsair was probably the finest in air-to-air combat for a balance of maneuverability and responsiveness. The -4, the last wartime version is considered by many pilots who have flown the entire line to be the best of them all….." Indeed, the F4U-4 had few, if any equals at the business of ACM (air combat maneuvering).
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Armament: Equipped with either six .50 caliber machine guns or four 20mm cannons, the -4 had more than adequate firepower to destroy any aircraft. It was the premier load carrying single engine fighter of the war. It could get airborne with bomb loads exceeding that of some twin engine medium bombers.
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Survivability: There was no other single engine fighter flown during the war that could absorb greater battle damage than the Corsair and still get home. Even the USAAF admitted that the F4U was a more rugged airframe than the tank-like P-47 Thunderbolt. That is a remarkable admission. The big Pratt Whitney radial engine would continue to run and make power despite have one or more cylinders shot off. The P-51D, on the other hand, could be brought down by a single rifle bullet anywhere in the cooling system.
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Useful range: The F4U-4 had roughly the same radius of action as the Republic P-47D-25-RE, which flew escort missions deep into Germany as far as Berlin (the P-47D-25-RE had 100 gallons of additional internal fuel capacity). Yet, the P-51D still maintained a big edge in endurance.
    Advantage: P-51D

    Ease of flight: Despite gaining the nickname of "Ensign Eliminator", the F4U series tendency to roll under torque was no more difficult to handle than any other high powered fighter of the era. Some who have flown both the Corsair and the Mustang state without hesitation that the P-51 exhibited a greater propensity to roll on its back than did the F4U. Moreover, the Corsair was a far more forgiving aircraft when entering a stall. Although it would drop its right wing abruptly, the aircraft gave plenty of advanced warning of an impending stall by entering a pronounced buffeting about 6-7 mph before the wing dropped. The P-51, however, gave no warning of an impending stall. When it did stall, it was with a total loss of pilot control, rolling inverted with a severe aileron snatch. Recovery usually used up 500 ft or more of altitude. It was not uncommon for Mustangs to spin out of tight turns during dogfights. The F4U could also be flown at speeds more than 30 mph slower than that at which the Mustang stalled. In other words, the P-51 could not hope to follow a Corsair in a low speed turning fight.
    Advantage: F4U-4

    Outward Visibility: The Corsair provided for very good visibility from the cockpit. However, few if any WWII fighters offered the pilot a better view than the P-51D. The earlier P-51B was inferior to the F4U. Nonetheless, it was the D model that made up the bulk of Mustang production.
    Advantage: P-51D

    Finally there is an area in which the P-51 cannot compete at all. The F4U was designed to operate from an aircraft carrier. What this provides for is a utility that is unmatched by the better land based fighters of WWII. The ability to operate at sea or from shore can never be over-valued.
    Obvious advantage: F4U-4

    In conclusion, it would be hard, no, impossible to dismiss the F4U-4 as the leading candidate for the "best fighter/bomber of WWII". Furthermore, there is strong evidence that it very well may be the best piston engine fighter (to see combat) period. Certainly, everyone can agree on this: The F4U-4 Corsair was at the pinnacle of WWII piston engine technology and performance. When people debate the relative merits of the great fighter aircraft of WWII, they would be remiss in not acknowledging the F4U-4 as one of the very best, and in the educated opinion of many, "the best" fighter aircraft to fly into combat in World War II.




    I had kinda wondered if it was better than the mustang for manuverability.
    I hadn't realized it was even tougher than the P-47 and of course the P-51 to take hits in battle.
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Thats an interesting post.

    Although for firepower, both were equal. I dont think the Corsair used 20MM untill after the war.

    I dont think the F4U was faster though. Most posts Ive seen here put the P51D/K as the fastest fighter (except for the P47N)
     
  3. wmaxt

    wmaxt Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2004
    Messages:
    1,208
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer/Retired
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    The F4U-4 had a top speed in normal configuration of 446mph.

    One of the things I like about that article is that it points out some of the advantages of the P-38L over even the F4U-4.

    I think the F4U-4 ranks right up there with the top fighters.

    wmaxt
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,208
    Likes Received:
    791
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    This is going to be a good thread, great information there....

    Overall I'm taking the F4U-4....

    I like to look at longevity - the F4U was still being produced as late as 1953. I found this to be interesting...

    "The AU-1 project began life as the F4U-6 but was quickly redesignated by the Navy to reflect its ground attack role. The dash six was never built. The AU-1 was produced solely for the US Marines during the height of the Korean War. Deliveries began in January 1952 and a total of 111 were supplied during the year. The AU-1 was powered by an R-2800-83W Double Wasp with a single stage supercharger, developing 2,300 hp (1,716.4 kW) for take off and 2,800 hp (2,089.6 kW) for War Emergency. Extra armor was added for protection from the small arms fire which would be encountered at the lower altitudes where the AU-1 would be working. It’s ground attack role was underlined by the statistics; max take-off weight was almost 10 tons (9071.9 kg) while the service ceiling was only 19,500 ft (5,943.6 m) and the maximum speed was a mere 238 mph (383 kph)! Ground attack required only enough speed to present a difficult target for ground fire and only enough altitude to properly aim it‘s weapons.

    The AU-1 was armed with 10 rockets or 4,000 lbs (1,814.4 kg) of bombs, in addition to four wing mounted 20 mm cannon with 230 rounds per gun. A fully armed AU was an awesome war machine!"
     
  5. Twitch

    Twitch Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2006
    Messages:
    809
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Occupation:
    historical combat aviation writer
    Location:
    City of the Angels California
    Simply put the Corsair was one of the best! It's all up to each individual to decide if they feel it was THE best. My Corsair pilot friends told me that when they flew mixed missions with squadrons of Hellcats the F6F's could not keep up with the F4U's normal cruise and they always had to throttle back. :( It would have held its own in Europe for certain.
     
  6. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    11,985
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    The Corsair was definately one of the top fighters of World War II - there's no doubt about that. Remember, Joe, that the Spitfire wasn't exactly a one hit wonder - it was still in use in 1954 in the RAF.
     
  7. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2005
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    16
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Teacher
    Location:
    Japan
    There were actually quite a few of the late war prop fighters that were faster than the P-51D:

    P-47M (470mph),
    P-47N (460 mph),
    109K4 (444-452 mph),
    Spitfire XIV (446-448 mph),
    Spitfire 21 (454-460 mph),
    Ta-152 (460 mph),
    F4U-4 (446 mph),
    P-51B/C (448-450 mph),
     
  8. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Just wondering why the FW got the highest rank as top fighter plane of WWII when they say it was outclassed by all the better ally aircraft?

    This article said a P-38 could outurn a FW. I read somewhere the P-38 could never turn as well as a single engine fighter. Did that mean only the corsair and spitfire single engine fighters? Or was the P-38 like the Zero that could turn better at slow speed than fast speed?

    it's likely at high altitudes a FW could turn better than a P-38, because thats when it became less manuverable.
     
  9. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    11,985
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Whoever told you the Fw-190 was out-classed hasn't got a clue. The Fw-190D was equalled in a dogfight by the Spitfire XIV - and in dogfighting terms that's about as good as you're going to get.

    The Fw-190A was never out-classed, but the later Allied fighters were mostly superior in varying degrees. A P-38 was known to out-turn a Fw-190, but it took remarkable pilots to get the best out of a P-38. A P-38 out-turned a Zeke!

    The Spitfire XIV was superior to the Fw-190A ... and I think most people consider all Fw-190s to be 'Antons' that's where the mistake comes that they were "out-classed". Still, the Antons were never out-classed .... but if some of the SturmFw were caught by Allied fighters ... they were easy meat.

    The late-war Allied fighter types in the ETO (Spitfire XIV, Spitfire 21, Tempest, P-51 and P-38 ) were generally equal to, or superior ... to anything the Luftwaffe could field. And more importantly ... they all had fuel, and there were more of 'em (not that it'd matter with the Spitfires ... 'cos anyone with sense knows the Luftwaffe had nothin' that the Spitfire couldn't tangle with)
     
  10. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Just wondering, plan d, did the P-38 out turn the zeke while flying a low speed turn or a high speed turn?
     
  11. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    11,985
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    I believe it was low speed, but it didn't turn inside the Zeke conventionally. The pilot slowed one engine, and speeded up the other ... and literally spun the P-38 almost on the spot!
     
  12. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Still a student
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    That's cool.

    I guess that's one of the benefit of having two engines over one!

    Besides other reasons.
     
  13. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2004
    Messages:
    11,985
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    It was extremely dangerous, any mistiming and he would have put the plane into a spin. But it's the sign of a great pilot - very, very few of the pilots then and now could achieve that.
     
  14. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
    Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2004
    Messages:
    19,419
    Likes Received:
    137
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    Network Engineer/Photographer
    Location:
    Moorpark, CA
    Home Page:
    If I remember correctly, it was Dick Bong that out-turned the Zero. Keep in mind that Dick Bong was a remarkable pilot. While at Luke field, he flew a mock engagement while flying an AT-6 against a P-38 and the pilot of the P-38 couldn't shake him! The P-38 pilot was a seasoned veteran and no slouch.
     
  15. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,208
    Likes Received:
    791
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    From what I understand Dick Bong, Tom Mcguire and Gerald Johnson, all used the "throttle jockey technique" to actually out turn a Zero (or probably an Oscar). I also understand they also used about 10 degrees of flap.....
     
  16. wmaxt

    wmaxt Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2004
    Messages:
    1,208
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer/Retired
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    The P-38s from H on had a "maneuvering flap" at 8 to 12 deg depending on the model.

    P-38 vs Fw-190 below 20,000ft all markes of P-38 were with an average pilot reported as better (even by the 20th FG who hated their 38s). Early models of the Fw-190 didn't do well above 20,000ft, but the P-38s leading edge intercoolers limited it to, The 20th rated them as even.

    The late aircraft of each were better in both areas the Galland Fw-190D/P-38L story is that they had a dogfight that ended in a huge gravel pit Galland couldn't get away and the P-38 could only get in a few potshots until the P-38 ran low on fuel - so was Galland by then and they each went their own ways. The account I read stated Galland turned white and said you about killed me that day as he heard the story being recited. Both pilots were attending a post war fighter confrence with other pilots at the time.

    Art Heiden felt the P-38L was a lot better even up high - but what pilot doesn't belive in the plane he has success in?

    I think that they were very close, each with its own advantages.

    wmaxt
     
  17. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Messages:
    41,772
    Likes Received:
    687
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    A&P - Aircraft Technician
    Location:
    USA/Germany
    The 190 was never outclassed by any allied fighters. Ask any allied fighter pilot and they will tell you that aswell. The 190 was a top of the line fighter to the end.
     
  18. Twitch

    Twitch Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2006
    Messages:
    809
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Occupation:
    historical combat aviation writer
    Location:
    City of the Angels California
    That is pure myth about the thottle jockeying guys. I heard that many years ago and actually asked P-38 pilots that flew with Bong. It is categorically untrue. The P-38 is an energy fighter and no one with experience ever tried to out turn Zeros!! P-38 didn't "spin on the spot" by fiddling with the throttles. Picture that whole thing in your mind and you'll realize how unbelievable it is.

    Ralph Wandrey told me "the only way a P-38 would have been in a favorable position to cut the apex of a Zeke's turn was if the Zeke was at about 350 MPH after a shallow dive since its ailerons normally became very heavy at that velocity.

    If you didn't nail the Zeke then he would have bled off enough speed in the turn for his envelope of high maneuverability again and he'd come around on you."

    Don't want to argue with anyone but don't believe this myth guys... 8)
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,208
    Likes Received:
    791
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Well it's funny - I know that Ralph Wandrey actually flew with Bong and he was his wingman during his second tour. Hmmm.., no one said you could get the P-38 to spin on an instance by doing this, but this "trick" was documented in several publications including a 1945 copy of the Lockheed Star (the first time I ever seen it). My ex wife and I worked with Tony LeVier - he told me about this as well but never mentioned who actually did it.....

    I've heard this spoken about by many old timers I worked with while at Lockheed 1980 - 1990, some were pilots who said this was done but not by very many.....

    Its not unbelivable - I've seen people play with light twins (C-310s) and do similar maneuvers - ever see Bob Hoover!?
     
  20. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,208
    Likes Received:
    791
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    "Among others, Capt. Tommy Lynch and Ist Lt. John "Shady" Lane of the New Guinea-based 39th FS began to experiment with the beneficial effects of adverse yaw. Though the P-38's counter-rotating props largely eliminated the torque common to high-performance aircraft, a left turn (for instance) could be improved by advancing full throttle on the right (outboard) engine and reducing power inboard."

    From P-38 Flight Journal, Winter 2003 by Tillman, Barrett
     
Loading...

Share This Page