In 1945 the USN issued a request for a high performance jet fighter, capable of speeds of 970 km/h (515 kts/600mph) and able to reach altitudes of 12200 m (40000 ft). Chance Vought won the contract in June 1946. The new fighter was described by the Navy as an "experimental, tail less fighter designed for carrier operations and equipped with two 24C turbojet engines."
The design featured swept wings, tricycle landing gear, a pressurized cockpit, and four twenty millimeter cannons. The requests for the four cannon and the tricycle landing gear were radically new; in 1946, very few aircraft a nose wheel. Most aircraft still had a tail wheel, straight wings and were unpressurized. Much of the technology used in this new design evolved from allied technical evaluations of German aircraft following World War II.
The F7U was the first USN aircraft designed with swept wings. Its delta wing featured radically different control surfaces than any seen before. Ailerons joined with horizontal stabilizers to form "elevons." The F7U featured twin tails and rudders. Since the tailless design demanded a critical center of gravity, an unusually long nose strut was applied to the aircraft to give it a very high angle of attack during takeoff and landing. However, the unusual design produced the highest roll rate of any of the USN's jets - up to 576 degrees a second! Also, the pilot was provided with a ejection seat and a pressurized cockpit.
The F7U was designed for more powerful engines than it ever reveived, and the afterburning Westinghouse J34-WE-32 jet engines, which were installed in the side by side in the read fuselage and which powered the prototype, didn't provide enough power to make the F7U safe to fly. The design was quickly changed to use the more powerful J46 jet engines. Although the F7U-3 version first flew in December 1951, a lack of J46 engines kept the first F7U-3's from reaching service until fall, 1954. Even the initially promising J46 design proved a disappointment - the J46 design promised 10,000 lb in afterburner, but in reality the thrust was less than half that. The J46's also had a very high maintenance to flight time ratio and they wore out quickly, which meant a lot of maintenance time for the aircraft; but altering the design again to adapt to more powerful engines was out of the question - Turbojet technology was evolving too quickly for airframe designers to keep up.
The Blue Angles received two F7U-1's, which they only used in the 1951 season. The F7U's new pressurized hydraulic system was unreliable, and if it went out, it took 11 seconds for the manual override to activate. This made airshows dangerous. During 1955, production was canceled in favor of the newer and far superior F8U Crusader, also made by Vought and still used today by France.
F7U-3s equipped 13 fleet squadrons, four test squadrons, and one reserve attack squadron, VA-212 at NAS Moffett Field, California. The "Rampant Raiders" of VA-212 made a six month cruise aboard the carrier "Bonne Homme Richard", returned early in 1957, and traded their "Cutlasses" in for F9F-8 "Cougars." One VA-212 "Cutlass" survives today, restored and on static display at the US Navy's National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. The Marines operated only two F7U-3's from NAS Miami, now Coast Guard Air Station, Opalocka.
|Chance Vought F7U Specifications|
|Powerplant||Two Westinghouse J34-WE-32 turbojets||Two Westinghouse J34-WE-8A turbojets, 4600 lb thrust each|