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Thread: F4U Corsair vs. P-51 Mustang...IN KOREA

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    Senior Member Clay_Allison's Avatar
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    F4U Corsair vs. P-51 Mustang...IN KOREA

    My question is simple, which one served better in the Korean war, and which would you rather have? My opinion is on the side of the Mustang with its greater range. Both planes had unfortunate oil cooler locations, but IMO you could get out of trouble faster with a Mustang, both from unexpected ground fire and sudden MiG attack.

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    Senior Member renrich's Avatar
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    The Mustang was much more vulnerable to ground fire because of the liquid cooled engine. It could not operate from carriers which was a big advantage for the Corsair. The Corsair was a good dive bomber which made it more accurate in bombing. The Corsair could operate from shorter landing strips with bigger munition loads. Overall the Corsair was a more rugged aircraft.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clay_Allison View Post
    ...IMO you could get out of trouble faster with a Mustang, both from unexpected ground fire and sudden MiG attack.
    What is your basis for this?
    USAF F-51s suffered excessively in Korea, the USMC F4Us on the other hand fared much better; the Army also spoke well of the USMC support and were critical of the often untimely intervention of the USAF.

    Neither aircraft was ever going to fare well against the MiG-15, even with either aircraft going flat-out, the MiG would seem like a blur to them. Someone obviously had the sense to realise this and F-86s started to trickle in theatre where better training saw US forces maintain a very respectable combat record; if WWII hinted at the end of the line for the piston-engined fighter, Korea put it up in big, neon letters.

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    Senior Member drgondog's Avatar
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    I would favor the F4U for Korea.

    My father flew the 51, then A26 in Korea and lost a lot of friends in the Mustang. He loved the airplane but had his share of misadventures with German and NK flak.

    Objectively the F4U could carry a bigger load but operationally they both typically carried 2x1000 pounders or 5" HVA rockets or nape tanks as a tactical load out.

    I'm not sure the carrier capability was very important as the Mustangs were operating out of Kimpo, etc all around Seoul so range for either was not an issue and maybe land based nav aids and a much bigger airfield was an advantage for 51's in lousy weather.

    The F4U was simply tougher in a high AAA environmet and another feature was that they also were somewhat successful in night fighter role (F-82 much better than F4U but we are talking P-51 here)

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    Senior Member DAVIDICUS's Avatar
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    There is research that asserts the following:

    "The Corsair, an air cooled radial engine aircraft, might have been expected to have a higher survivability than the Air Force's liquid cooled (and hence vulnerable) F-51 Mustang. In fact, insufficient oil cooler and engine protection rendered the Corsair just as susceptible as the Mustang to ground fire."

    A Revolutionary War: Korea and the Transformation of the Postwar World, Page 138 (Research presented at the Fifteenth Military History Symposium, held at the United States Air force Academy, 14-16 October 1992)

    You would need to pull the paper and examine the methodology and data to evaluate the claim. I suspect such a comparison would be a difficult undertaking in the absence of an apples to apples control of relevant variables. I myself would prefer to fight in a Corsair
    Last edited by DAVIDICUS; 01-11-2010 at 04:37 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DAVIDICUS View Post
    There is research that asserts the following:

    "The Corsair, an air cooled radial engine aircraft, might have been expected to have a higher survivability than the Air Force's liquid cooled (and hence vulnerable) F-51 Mustang. In fact, insufficient oil cooler and engine protection rendered the Corsair just as susceptible as the Mustang to ground fire."

    A Revolutionary War: Korea and the Transformation of the Postwar World, Page 138 (Research presented at the Fifteenth Military History Symposium, held at the United States Air force Academy, 14-16 October 1992)

    You would need to pull the paper and examine the methodology and data to evaluate the claim. I suspect such a comparison would be a difficult undertaking in the absence of an apples to apples control of relevant variables. I myself would prefer to fight in a Corsair
    AFAIK there really is no specific statistical research behind that statement. It really just means that the USN and USMC were disappointed with F4U AA vulnerability in Korea, and the AF was also disappointed with F-51 vulnerability. The USN/USMC didn't publish anything like our favorite 'Naval Aviation Combat Statisitics' for Korea, unfortunately . No Navy publication or record for Korea AFAIK adds up sorties flown and compares it to losses. My general impression from quotations of loss rates per sortie for sub-periods of the war is that F4U combat loss rates were in the same ballpark as F-51, which were .54% enemy action losses per combat sortie (341 enemy action losses in 62.607 combat sorties), perhaps lower, not a lot lower. Non scientific, and even if we had better stats, unlike the NASC F4U/F6F comparison, the stats wouldn't effectively control for differences in mission profile and tactics, which NASC stats essentially did control for, by quoting rates of a/c *hit* (similar between F4U and F6F) and downed (notably higher for F4U) by AA. In Korea there's no hope of compiling that kind of detail, AFAIK.

    The absolute number of F4U's and F-51's lost was similar, 341 enemy action 474 total for F-51's, USN 145 F4U's to enemy action 267 total, Marines lost 164 to enemy action 206 total, not counting 16 AU-1's to enemy action and 21 total. 3 of those F4U's were lost to MiG's along with around 8* F-51's so that was a (n interesting but) statistically negligible aspect of losses. None of either were lost to enemy prop planes against several claims by the US props (it's possible some night disappearances of USMC F4U-5N's might have been to NK night fighters, whose operational details are not known, a couple of Marine F4U/F7F night intruders were jumped by night fighters now known not to have been Soviet or Chinese, in one case an F4U turned the tables and claimed a night kill v Yak-9). Note that the prop loss ballpark .5% per sortie to enemy action, was low by WWII standards; and moreover the focus in both USAF and USN/USMC tended to be high prop fighter losses compared to jet losses, even in ground strike missions. For example, the F-80's enemy action loss rate was only .15%, and Navy jets (and AD's) likewise suffered much less than F4U's.

    *per the USAF 1953 Statistical Digest, a not entirely reliable table of losses. An internet urban myth claims it greatly understates air combat losses. That's not true, there are errors but sometimes overstatements too. For example it gives two F-51 losses in air combat in the period before MiG-15's appeared, I identified both mistakes: an Australian Mustang loss included in 5th AF stats, which the USAF somehow thought was air combat but Aussie archives clearly say wasn't, and a typo between 'flak' and 'yak' in the another case, original mission report makes clear the a/c wasn't downed by a Yak). But, the numbers in the Stats Digest are fairly close to what detaile records say, where I've checked, but not always exactly.

    Joe

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    Senior Member drgondog's Avatar
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    Thanks Joe. Good data and food for thought.

    PS Col (then major?) Don 'Barrel' Fenton USMC whacked a bed check charlie north of Seoul in an F4U5N

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    I'd also add that the F-51's range was relevant in Korea, but again mainly within the AF and v jets as opposed to in comparison to the F4U. Early in the Korean War, and again when the Chinese pushed the UN forces back below the 38th parallel, secure air bases in South Korea were few. The F-51 could operate from Japan with good loiter time over the front lines in Korea, F-80 with only minimal loiter time. And among bases in Korea, more coould accomodate the F-51. These were major reasons a number of Far East AF fighter units coverted back to F-51D's from F-80C's early in the war; alll the day fighter units in Far East AF were equipped with F-80C's at the start of the war. The F4U was also marginal operating from Japan over Korea, but of course could operate from carriers, not only USN sdns from CV's but Marine sdns from dedicated CVE's (of the relatively large Commencement Bay class of late WWII) and CVL's, either when secure bases were scarce as early in the war, or to extend their reach on interdiction missions in southwestern North Korea in the long static phase of the war later on, with the small carriers (plus RN/RAN carriers) operating on the west coast of Korea, while the big ones operated on the east coast.

    But, comparing a carrier plane to a land based plane brings in bigger questions of having the carriers (the USN in 1950 had all kinds of ships relatively new and 'free' left over from WWII) and costs of constraints of operating them. Also, some of the good press Marine Corps air got early in the Korean War was just that, good press, and as far as the substance of it, it had to do with organizational issues between the new USAF and the Army, v the Marines building on the air close support doctrine they'd build late in WWII. It wasn't really about the type of airplane so much. Later on in Korea a lot of USMC air ops were under 5th AF control anyway, and doctrine for close air support and FAC was pretty well developed for supporting the Army as well. I view it as open question whether the F4U was much better than F-51 as land based close support/interdiction a/c (a lot of both types' missions were interdiction not close support) in Korea. By the standards and expectations of the time, and compared to the limited objectives of the war, both types were viewed as losing too many pilots. The loss of the obsolescent airframes themselves was less of an issue.

    Joe

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