Flying the F4U Corsair
Here is "Sensei" Fletchman’s comprehensive tour de force about flight and combat operations in the F4U Corsair. Variously known as the "Hog"or "Hawg", or "Big Blue", the Corsair was one the most widely used (and misused) aircraft in Air Warrior, and presumably in other air combat games. As with all our training articles, the basic concepts and physics involved in operating the aircraft should bear out across most well-developed and physics-realistic air combat games. This master level article covers the plane in flight and combat situations.
However, a cautionary note: as Sensei Fletchman points out, the flight modeling of the aircraft discussed in this lecture may be different that that of the games the reader currently plays. Please take this differences into account and modify your tactics accordingly.
All that said, though, the serious combat pilot will find this lecture by Fletchman to possibly be the finest study of the Air Warrior F4U around. Bravo, Fletchman!
Flying the F4U Corsair v.2a: Revenge of the Hog!
By Fletchman, 9/12/1995
Preface to this Second Edition
This second edition contains clarifications and updates as well as ideas that I just plain forgot to put in the first edition! Also included a new section on dealing with the N1K1 "George". Version 2a resulted from actually carefully proof reading the document.
Several people mentioned to me that they wanted to learn how to fly the F4U effectively in Air Warrior. For reasons that remain unclear, several have asked me for advice on this matter. While not an Air Warrior Old Timer by any means, I have flown the Corsair for some time and gained considerable experience flying the Big Hog. For this reason I thought I would share some of my thoughts on how to exploit the F4U’s many outstanding qualities on-line. Also, it is perhaps the most mishandled plane in the PTO. Beginners in particular take the plane up, do terrible in it, and the immediately cast it aside for planes like the Hellcat and KI-84. The F4U is a plane with many subtle nuances. As with most fighters which rely mostly on energy tactics, it takes quite a bit of tactical acumen and heads-up situational awareness in order to get the most out of the plane.
Flight and Combat Operations
For the benefits of all I will start at the beginning and work up. The experienced pilot is requested to bear with me. Since the F4U is an Energy (E) Fighter, my thoughts on that realm of endeavor is also heavily covered.
With a couple notable exceptions all the Air Warrior fighters can be flown successfully, provided the pilot learns to exploit the strong points and avoid the weak points of any plane which he chooses to fly. The key to success is to be true to the planes characteristics. Don’t push the plane into a situation which it is ill suited. The F4U has many outstanding traits that can be exploited by the schooled pilot, and these can be used to fly it with great success for many victory.
Important Note: This text is written considering the AW planes and gunnery as they are currently (July 1995) modeled. Future changes in the Kesmai software might result in subtle or even dramatic changes in some of the planes mentioned. These changes should be considered when reading this guide in the future. However, the general doctrine should apply to almost any flight simulation where the F4U is reasonably modeled.
Also, I have tried to avoid Air Combat Maneuver techno- babble whenever possible. One, I hardly understand it myself, and second, dropping fancy phrases is more likely to confuse than teach. An understanding of the bare bones basics of ACM is assumed however. Undoubtedly some of the maneuvers I describe go by fancier names in some other source. I prefer to coin my own (sometimes colorful) descriptions, and keep them simple.
The F4U Corsair is without question the outstanding Energy Fighter in the Pacific theater. Indeed, among those who have flown it extensively, many believe it is the finest overall prop plane available in the Air Warrior W.W.II Arena. The more I fly the plane and begin to understand its subtleties, the more I agree with that assessment. While I fly almost all the Air Warrior Fighters, I return again and again to the F4U.
Fly to a planes strengths to succeed!
1. Speed: The F4U is fast. It is the third fastest plane in the pacific theater.
2. Climb Rate: The F4U climbs quickly. Only the P-38, George and Hellcat approach the F4U excellent climb rate in the PTO. Equally importantly, the F4U can out climb both the PTO planes which can catch it in level flight - the P-51 and KI-84.
3. Retains Energy: The F4U keeps its energy very well. The ability of a plane to retain energy factors very heavily into making the it an acceptable candidate for energy fighting. The F4U shines in this department.
4. Ammo Load: The F4U’s ammo load is the stuff of legend. The F4U pilot hardly ever has to look down with apprehension on his Ammo Load indicator needle on the Air Warrior Dash. A stingy and patient Hog pilot can easily land multiple kill missions on a consistent basis.
5. Durability: The Hog can take some heavy hits and keep flying. It is the second most durable fighter in Air Warrior. With the sometimes bizarre nature of the Air Warrior gunnery model, the F4U’s durability adds a bit of a "comfort zone".
6. High Altitude Capability: The Hog’s performance holds up well at high altitude. The higher the fight the more the F4U likes it. In fact in the 20K plus arena where angle fighting begins to lose its relevance, the F4U energy fighting skills are enhanced, and the Hog becomes doubly deadly.
7. Dive: The F4U dives like an aerodynamic brick. The dreaded effects of compression set in slowly, and the Hog accelerates well in a dive, enabling it to overhaul almost any plane in a power dive.
8. Roll Rate: The F4U has a decent roll rate. Although this is not a godsend it allows the F4U to flip around quickly. Like its distant energy fighting cousin the FW-190 (which has the best roll rate of all), the F4U can use its roll rate to keep its more maneuverable foes at bay for short periods of time, especially at high speed. Mostly I try to exploit the roll rate when caught in a defensive situation, and hopefully confuse my opponent enough with a few quick rolls to either turn the tables, or gain enough separation to extend out of range. The good roll rate can also be exploited in a dog fighting situation against the few planes that the F4U can compete with in that department.
9. High Speed Handling: The F4U handles well at high speed. Also, since the F4U retains energy better than almost all PTO fighters, as long as the Hog keeps the fight fast, the F4U can hang in there even with planes that are more maneuverable at slow speeds.
10. Zoom Climb: Because of its powerful engine, the Hog can "go ballistic" with the best of them. In the vertical the hog will usually leave others hanging on their prop well before it has to level its wings.
11. Its Big and Blue and its "gull-wings" look really cool: While these factors add few features to the planes flight characteristics, man does not live by bread alone.
The F4U’s weak points
1. Its not a stall fighter: The F4U is a poor "turn and burn" dogfighter. Frankly, once its airspeed drops much below 200 knots, it handles terribly. In a stall fight 150 knots IAS is usually the kiss of death for the big plane. Its sustained turn rate at low speed is terrible, and it has a tendency to stall itself into a vicious spin given even the slightest excuse.
The only fighters that it can try to outfly in a stall fight are the P-51, P-47, and N1K2, and that’s not saying much. If you want to mix it up low in the eternal furball over the PTO central Atoll, take another fighter. A sustained flat energy bleeding turn in the horizontal plane is about the last maneuver you want to do in an F4U. Indeed, such turns will probably be the last thing you do, quite literally, before you are shot down.
2. Lethality: The F4U has no cannon, so its lethality is only average. Luckily this is offset by a couple of factors in the F4U’s favor. The F4U’s massive ammo load does a lot to make up for this, and many of the planes in the PTO, specifically the numerous KI-84’s and Zero’s are not particularly durable. However when facing F6F’s or other Corsairs the F4U pilot needs to be mindful that he’s going to have to dish out a lot of punishment on those fighters to down them. . The P-38 is still a pretty big target, but it can soak up the hits so it still takes many "pings" to down it.
3. Stall: The F4U’s spin is vicious, and quick recover (which isn’t easy) is required in order to save the engine from oil deprivation (i.e. "porked"). Standard stall recover will usually bring the big bird back, but it might also be necessary to throttle down to cut engine torque. AW also allows you to cut the engine completely, this being a handy trick to keep the engine from becoming "porked". Stalling below 1000 feet is generally fatal, although a hard punch on the rudder might pop the Hog out of the spin provided that the spin isn’t too severe. If you manage to survive the spin without augering in there is another worry. Once that oil gauge drops below 50, your flying a wounded bird for the rest of your flight. If you see the oil gauge dropping towards 50% - cut the engine. Also the Hog isn’t particularly polite in regard to giving you warnings of an impending stall.
One of the less complementary nick-names the F4U assumed historically was "The Ensign Eliminator" due to its unforgiving flight characteristics. The F4U needed an experienced hand at the stick. In that at least, AW models history pretty well. The current version of AW does not model torque, which is just as well since that would make it even harder to handle at low speed. If AW ever does model torque it will be necessary to apply firm rudder on take off, as well as being gentle with the throttle on take off. Suddenly fire walling the throttle would cause the big bird to flip because of the massive torque of the engine. This was the fatal mistake that many trainees made and gained the Hog the aforementioned nick-name.