By Tommy H. Thomason
Friday, March 20, 2009
An F4U Corsair?
It's actually an AU-1, a close-air support variant of the F4U-5 developed specifically for the Marines Corps since AD Skyraiders were in short supply. It featured additional armor around the engine and accessories, a single-stage supercharger since only low altitude operation was required, and additional stores pylons. This is BuNo 129325 at Patuxent River in September 1952 making a field arrested landing. (AU-1s had been in combat in Korea since June.) However, the AU probably never flew operationally from an aircraft carrier, much less deployed.
In April 1954, 25 of the 111 built were transferred directly from a Marine Corps squadron to the French Aéronautique Navale to augment its fleet of F4U-7s in Indochina. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu and the withdrawal of French forces, the surviving Corsairs were ferried to NAS Sangley Point in the Philippine Islands and parked until a French carrier was available to transport them back to France. Another five were reportedly transferred to the French in the mid-1950s.
The Marines swapped out AUs for ADs as soon as they could. However, at least a few survived as station hacks through the late 1950s as evidenced by a photo of a gray/white AU assigned to Quantico taxiing out past an early F8U-1, probably at NAS Los Alamitos, CA. (Note that the 'Navy" marking applied in overhaul has been painted over.) These were used to provide ground-based Marine Forward Air Controllers with airplanes to control for close air support training.