KIT #: 61046
PRICE: $26.00 MSRP
DECALS: One Option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


     The Chance-Vought Corsair was intended as the U.S. Navy's standard fleet defense fighter for the war everyone in the Navy knew was coming.  When it flew in 1940, it was the first American fighter capable of speeds in excess of 400 mph, and might have been the first fighter anywhere to accomplish that.  It was the first carrier-based fighter to have a performance that at equaled its potential land-based opponents.

      Unfortunately, because of such problems as the relocation of the cockpit even further aft than it had been in the prototype to allow more fuel in the main tank severely restricted pilot view during a carrier landing, coupled with overly-stiff landing gear that had a propensity to bounce severely when landed aboard by less than an expert pilot, the Navy decided that as good as the airplane was, it was too much of a handful for the average wartime-trained Navy fighter pilot to safely and consistently operate from the restricted deck of an aircraft carrier. Yet, surprisingly enough, a squadron of these aircraft, with all the faults listed, would be the first to operate in combat from fleet carriers, and they would do so at night.

      The development radar equipped night fighters changed the possibility of fleet defense, if radar could be adapted to use in a carrier-capable airplane.  While land-based night fighters were all multi-engine, multi-seat airplanes, it was not possible to adapt such an airplane to carrier operation. Thus was born the requirement for a single-seat night fighter, in which the pilot would not only operate the airplane but operate the radar.

      Development of radar based on British A.I. Mk.IV began in 1942.  By 1943, development had moved on to centimetric radar, which was small enough to be carried in a single-engine fighter. Both the Corsair and the Hellcat were used in these initial developments, with VF(N)-75, VF(N)-101 and VMF(N)-532 using the F4U-2, a modified early F4U-1 “birdcage” Corsair.

     The first F4U2 flew on January 8, 1943, and differed from the F4U-1 day fighter with the inclusion of a microwave XAIA radar unit, mounted in a bulbous fairing on the front edge of the starboard wing, with a rudimentary 3-inch radar scope in the center of the main instrument panel, and the deletion of the outboard .50 cal. machine gun to compensate for the extra weight of the radar. This weight reduction meant that the top speed of the F4U-2 was only slightly less than the F4U-1. The production AIA radar unit had a useful search range of a bit more than a mile and a half at an altitude of 2,000

      VF(N)-75, the first Corsair night fighter squadron, was formed in January 1943, but was not deployed in the Pacific until October, 1943, when the unit arrived at Guadalcanal.  VMF(N)-532 first entered combat flying from Tarawa, and moved on across the Central Pacific until they were based at Saipan in the summer of 1944.  VF(N)-101 went aboard the USS Enterprise in January 1944, and provided night air defense for the fast carriers between the Truk raid in February and the landings in the Marianas in June, despite the fact their Corsairs were not “de-bounced” and did not have the stall warning strip on the left wing that had been found essential for carrier operation of the Corsair.

      Regardless of the technical success of the AIA radar, the night Corsairs scored few victories. VF(N)-101 scored a total of 5 confirmed, 4 damaged and 1 probable between January 1944 and their disbandment in July of the same year, while VMF(N)- 532 scored three victories.

      In addition to its work as a night fighter, the three units also used the F4U-2 in the role of night and dawn harassment bombing and strafing of enemy bases, with VMF(N)-532 becoming particularly adept at this. The F4U-2s and their pilots were successful pioneers of night-fighting tactics in the Pacific.

      Despite its relatively brief operational service, the F4U-2 was significant because it spawned a new generation of US Navy night fighters. The night fighter versions of the Hellcat were very effective once they went into operation in 1945, due to what had been learned with the F4U-2.  Additionally, the F4U-2s direct descendant, the F4U5N, was used with great success in Korea, primarily in the night heckler role developed by the Marines in the Pacific.


     What can be said about the Tamiya Corsairs that hasn't already been said?  This is one of the best model kits ever released in terms of overall accuracy, fidelity of detail, and good production design that leads to ease of assembly, allowing the modeler to concentrate on the ultimate result, rather than merely slogging through the construction phase.  The only real complaint anyone has been able to level at the kit is the fact it should not have the cutout step in the right-wing flap, which was apparently an entirely post-war phenomenon.  For those who are sticklers for accuracy, fixing this is very easy.

      The kit includes the radome for the F4U-2, and markings for an F4U-2 operated by VMF(N)-532.  I used an Aeromaster sheet to do one of the VF(N)-101 F4U-2s.


      Construction presents no difficulties.  One thing I have discovered in making several of these kits is that - if one wishes to assemble the wing in the unfolded position - it is a good idea to glue in some Evergreen strip inside the wing joint, to provide additional surface for the joint and thereby strengthen it.

      The main thing to be concerned about in construction of an F4U-1 is getting the cockpit colors right.  While acknowledging that there is likely no one "completely right" way to paint the cockpit, the modeler who paints it this way can rest easy in the thought that it is most likely that most F4U-1 were painted this way: 

     The "hell hole" - that area of the lower fuselage beneath the pilot's seat and side consoles - should be painted Yellow Zinc Chromate; this includes the foot guides for the rudder pedals, the pedals themselves, and the area immediately under the instrument panel, as well as the forward cockpit bulkhead.  One can also paint the rear cockpit bulkhead this color, or it can be painted Interior Green, along with the rest of the cockpit - there is precedent for both. This is also true for the seat.

      The side consoles, the control stick, and the sides of the fuselage above the consoles, should be painted Interior Green. The various instrument panels should be painted Semi-gloss Black, with the various buttons and switches on the side consoles drybrushed with aluminum to make them more visible. 

     The interior of the windscreen, and the area of the fuselage immediately below it, should be Flat Black.  The interior of the sliding canopy can be either Flat Black or interior green.

      Other areas of painting to do during construction are the interior of the engine cowling, which should be Yellow Zinc Chromate, and the wheel wells - which can be either Yellow Zinc Chromate or the lower camouflage color; it would appear that the airplanes came out of the factory with the wheel wells and interiors of the gear doors in Yellow Zinc Chromate, and may have been later painted the lower color in the field as repairs were done there.  There are also reports of Corsairs with the wheel wells in "Salmon."  This is a primer that goes on before the Yellow Zinc Chromate, and is exactly that: the color of cooked salmon.  I have seen it on F4U-1D and F4U-4 aircraft that were undergoing restoration.  It is not thick enough to be used as a substitute for any other paint.


 Exterior Painting:

      The F4U-2s used by VF(N)-101 were delivered in the Tri-Color Scheme of white lower surfaces, Intermediate Blue lower outer wings and fuselage sides and fin, and Sea Blue upper surfaces.  The squadron later painted the intermediate blue areas on the fuselage with flat black.  I used Gunze-Sangyo “Navy Blue,” for the Sea Blue, and Intermediate Blue and White for this model. Once the Sea Blue and Intermediate Blue colors were applied, I added in white and went over the painted area to fade the paint as it would be from sun and salt water.  Since this was an early F4U-1, I painted the wheel wells and gear door interiors with Gunze Interior Green, with the gear legs and wheel hubs painted with SNJ Aluminum.


      I used the Aeromaster sheet to do one of the VF(N)-101 Corsairs flown from the Enterprise in the Spring of 1944. 


      After the overall sealer coat of Future had dried, I applied several thinned coats of Testor's Dullcote, until the model had a very "flat" finish, associated with sun-faded paint.  Then I “dinged” the upper wing and other areas of the model with Testor’s ModelMaster Aluminum, and then airbrushed some Testor's Metalizer Sealer very lightly over the exhaust stains, to give them the slightly-shinier finish associated with oil. 


    The F4U-2 is the rarest of the World War II Corsairs, other than the cannon-armed F4U-1C.  For any modeler who wants a complete collection of “bent-wing birds,” it is a must-have. 

  Review Kit Courtesy Of My Wallet

Tom Cleaver

April 2006

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