|Scott Van Aken
The last production Corsair was the 'F4U-7, which was built specifically for the French naval air arm, the Aéronavale. The XF4U-7 prototype did its test flight on 2 July 1952 with a total of 94 F4U-7s built for the French Navy's Aéronavale (79 in 1952, 15 in 1953), with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out on 31 January 1953. The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the U.S. Navy and passed on to the Aéronavale through the U.S. Military Assistance Program (MAP). The French Navy used its F4U-7s during the second half of the First Indochina War in the 1950s (12.F, 14.F, 15.F Flotillas), where they were supplemented by at least 25 ex-USMC AU-1s passed on to the French in 1954, after the end of the Korean War.
On 15 January 1953, Flotille 14F, based at Karouba Air Base near Bizerte in Tunisia, became the first Aéronavale unit to receive the F4U-7 Corsair. Flotille 14F pilots arrived at Da Nang on 17 April 1954, but without their aircraft. The next day, the carrier USS Saipan delivered 25 war-weary ground attack ex-USMC AU-1 Corsairs (flown by VMA-212 at the end of the Korean War). During three months operating over Dien Bien Phu and Viêt-Nam, the Corsairs flew 959 combat sorties totaling 1,335 flight hours. They dropped some 700 tons of bombs and fired more than 300 rockets and 70,000 20 mm rounds. Six aircraft were damaged and two shot down by Viet Minh.
In September 1954, F4U-7 Corsairs were loaded aboard Dixmude and brought back to France in November. The surviving Ex-USMC AU-1s were taken to the Philippines and returned to the U.S. Navy. In 1956, Flotille 15F returned to South Vietnam, equipped with F4U-7 Corsairs. French Corsairs were also used during the Suez Crisis, the Algerian War and in Tunisia. The Aéronavale used 163 Corsairs (94 F4U-7s and 69 AU-1s), the last of them used by the Cuers-based 14.F Flotilla were out of service by September 1964, with some surviving for museum display or as civilian warbirds.
Prior to this kit, the only late Corsair in 1/72 was the Matchbox F4U-4. This particular kit cannot be built as the -4 as the -7 had a taller area right behind the cockpit to raise the canopy so that the pilot could have better view beyond that huge forward fuselage. The kit also comes armed with canon.
You get a fair cockpit with seat, stick, and instrument panel. No decals for the panel so you will have to paint them. The kit does provide separate forward cowlings for either the F4U-7 and the AU-1. If you want to install rockets and tanks you need to open holes in the lower wing. Typical of Corsair kits in this scale, you have separate wing radiators. The pitot is molded into one of the upper wing halves.
When building up the landing gear, the builder will need to cut the main gear doors as they are molded in one piece. Wheels are in halves and look OK, but it would not hurt to use resin replacements. Tail gear has the wheel and arrestor hook molded as one piece. It would be useful to attach the antennas as late in the build as you can to keep them from being knocked off. While the canopy is separate from the windscreen, it doesn't appear it can be posed open. Wing guns and exhaust are separate bits, which adds a bit of fiddle factor to the kit. The fuel tank and rocket pylons are separate.
Instructions are well done and use Model Master paint references. Two decal options are provided, both in overall sea blue. My kit had suffered through a flood or something as the box and instructions are badly wrinkled and I got no decals. Not an issue as there are aftermarket options. If you got a good kit, you'll have markings for the box art plane and an AU-1 of VMA-323 in mid 1953.
This is a better kit than the venerable Matchbox offering. It has the expected engraved panel lines and generally has a greater level of detail. I like that you can also do an AU-1 as this type was only kitted by Hawk back in the Pleistocene. Well worth picking up and I'm sure it will make a very nice model.
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