Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Canadians and the Corsair

Corsair II coded "147/P" of 1836 Squadron landing on the USS Essex after an
op on August  9, 1945.  (Photo courtesy of the National Archives via Dana Bell)

The Vought F4U Corsair is one of the most iconic World War Two fighters, well known because of its fame in the Pacific theatre, its unique gull wing, and its screen time on the 1970s television show Baa Baa Black Sheep. Operated by the U.S. Navy, USMC, and the British Fleet Air Arm, the Corsair is the most famous aircraft of the Royal Canadian Navy that was never actually flown by the RCN. (Canadian pilots flew aircraft on strength with the FAA.) Two of Canada’s most remembered naval aviators- Canada’s only Corsair ace Donald J. Sheppard and Victoria Cross winner Robert Hampton “Hammy” Gray - flew Corsairs, but so did many less remembered Canadian pilots, many who made the ultimate sacrifice.

RCNVR pilot Robert Hampton "Hammy" Gray at the New Hotel
Tanga in September 1942 (Photo courtesy of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.)

The Fleet Air Arm operated the “Birdcage” Corsair as the Mk. I, the later blown canopy F4U-1 as the Corsair Mk. II, Brewster built examples were the Corsair Mk. III, and Goodyear built FG-1Ds as the Corsair Mk. IV. While generally identical to their US counterparts, there were a few small detail changes such as a scoop on the rear fuselage and clipped wingtips in order to fit into the smaller hangar bays of Royal Navy carriers.

Corsair IV KD244 of 1842 Squadron from HMS Formidable.  This photo was
taken after Sub Lt Duke landed the airplane on the USS Shangri-La on July 7,
1945, after an op.  The aircraft crashed upon return to the Formidable just hours
after this photo was taken.  (Photo courtesy of the National Archives via Dana

The Corsair in Scale

As expected with such a famous aircraft, there have been a plethora of Corsair kits issued in all the major scales. If you are looking for the best F4U-1 in 1/32, 1/48, or 1/72, just turn to Tamiya; they have the Corsair market cornered.

The large Tamiya 1/32 Birdgcade Corsair build by Tony O’Toole to represent JT132 
of 732 NAS, Brunswick, USA.  This Corsair collied with Corsair JT160 over Lake 
Sebago on May 16, 1944, killing both pilots.  The remains of this Corsair and its pilot, 
Sub. Lt. Vaughan Reginald Gill, have been discovered at the bottom of Lake Sebago.

By all accounts, the Tamiya 1/32 Corsair is a stunning kit. It was issued as a “Birdcage” Corsair in 2013, a F4U-1A in 2015, and many hope that a F4U-1D will be issued in the near future. This is a complex and detailed kit and is certainly in the running for best plastic kit ever. Sadly, it has a high price to match its quality, but if you are looking for one large scale Corsair for the shelf, it is clearly the way to go.

Tony O’Toole’s 1/48 Hobby Boss Corsair build using Fundekals to model an aircraft 
of 1836 NAS flown off the HMS Victorious.

Tamiya has also issued the best Corsairs in 1/72 and 1/48. Both are well-engineered and assemble easily. Again, multiple versions of the -1 Corsair are available, and, in 1/72 at least, the F4U-1A is a value boxing, as it has all the parts necessary to build either a F4U-1A or a F4U-1D.
In 1/48, both the Hobbycraft (also issued by Academy) and Otaki Corsairs offer value alternatives, but neither can match the detail or the ease of assembly of the Tamiya kit. There is a recent Hobby Boss kit that is almost as expensive as the Tamiya kit, but not nearly as nice a model. The Hobby Boss Corsair Mk. 2 boxing does come with the clipped wingtips, but is missing the remaining Fleet Air Arm modifications. While not a bad kit, the Tamiya will provide a more enjoyable building experience and result in a nicer model.

The Revell 1/72 Corsair was built by Tony O’Toole as a Corsair Mk II from
759 NAS based at Yeovilton as part of the Naval Fighter School.

Almost every kit maker has issued a Corsair in 1/72. As stated above, Tamiya is the best kit in the scale, but Academy has a nice 1/72 that is an excellent value at right around $10. Also, the older Hasegawa kit is still competitive, if you can find one at a good price. (It is often reboxed by Hasegawa with new decals at outrageous prices.) Revell AG recently issued a 1/72 Corsair, but while the price is nice, it has accuracy issues and odd engineering choices that make it a less than enjoyable build. I had hoped the kit would offer a budget option compared to the Tamiya kit, but it was a huge disappointment. Hobby Boss has done a F4U-1 in 1/72 as an “Easy Assembly” kit which looks quite nice despite the lack of detail in the engine and the cockpit. Unfortunately, Hobby Boss molded large grooves into the bottom of the wings to fit the rocket rails and for all FAA Corsairs these grooves will need to be filled.

Tony O’Toole’s 1/72 Tamiya Corsair built in the markings of Hammy Gray’s
VC winning aircraft.

1 comment:

David M. Knights said...

Nice article. Swear I read it in a newsletter somewhere.