When the name “Goodyear” is said, it normally evokes two things – Blimps and Tyres.
And that is deserved, not just from the modern perspective, but from the historical one too. Goodyear was one of the pioneers in developing the modern aircraft tyre, and its products are still widely used today.
But its work with airships is perhaps less well known, and Goodyear originally didn’t just operate airships for advertising purposes, they were a major producer of both non-rigid and rigid airships. This made Goodyear one of the earliest experts in the construction of aircraft quality aluminium structures, which in the 1930s started being applied more and more to aircraft designs. As a result, Goodyear’s expertise was subcontracted by other aero-engineering companies to build specialist parts and components for their aircraft.
All of this meant that when the United States became involved in World War Two, Goodyear was in a prime position to become a major aircraft builder. On top of the company’s expertise in building light alloy structures and aircraft parts, it also had considerable room available in its production facilities.
These, after all, were intended originally to build immense airships, and with minimal demand for those in comparison to aircraft, much of this space was changed over to aircraft production. And the major type built by Goodyear was the Chance Vought F4U Corsair.
With Vought at capacity, Goodyear was granted a licence to produce their own version of the legendary naval fighter – the FG-1.
First being delivered in April 1943, over 4,000 of these aircraft were ultimately built by Goodyear, a substantial proportion of the more than twelve-and-a-half thousand Corsairs built. They would also go onto to have extremely long active lives, fighting in the last dogfight to occur between piston-engine aircraft during the Honduran-El Salvador War of 1969.
The apparent capability of the Corsair meant that there was interest in exploring how far the design could be pushed. Vought were, as already said, completely occupied with existing work and projects. So, the Navy authorised Goodyear to create a new model – the F2G “Super Corsair”.
This was primarily intended to be for the US Marine Corps and would have an emphasis on low level interception, with the ability to act as an attack aircraft.
Of the obvious differences, the F2G was equipped with a bubble canopy to rectify some of the earlier Corsair’s issues with pilot visibility. The F2G also carried a greater fuel load and a redesigned and taller tail that was fitted with an auxiliary rudder to help compensate for engine torque during take-off and landings.
Now, with the basics out of the way, I want to address some issues on the historical record on this aircraft. I’ve found quite a few anomalies in source material, especially and probably unsurprisingly online ones, so fair warning I will be engaging in more speculation in this article than I generally do.
For starters, quite a few sources state the development of the F2G was to counter Japanese kamikaze attacks. That seems unlikely as the Japanese didn’t begin consideration of kamikazes as an official tactic until June 1944, and the first mass attacks didn’t begin until October of that year at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
In reality, Goodyear had been conducting development work on the basic Corsair in late 1943/early 44, and they apparently were the ones who proposed the idea of a Super Corsair to the US Navy. The Navy gave the first orders for the F2G in March 1944 – seven months before kamikazes became a typical threat. And the production order – given before the aircraft had even flown – was for 418 F2G-1s for the Marines. These had manually folding wings and were intended as a land-based variant.
Only ten of the carrier F2G-2s were ordered, which had hydraulically folded wings. This paltry order was obviously just for testing aircraft because in March 1944 the US Navy hadn’t approved the Corsair, in any form, for use from aircraft carriers.
In fact, the older F4U’s wouldn’t start to operate regularly in that fashion until late in that year. And that was in response to the need for a low-level interceptor for tackling Japanese kamikazes, which the older Corsair excelled at.
So, I suspect confused dates and the role of the F4U have led onto some misunderstanding on the original ideas behind the F2G.
Not that it wouldn’t have been great at the role. Because the engine in the F2G was a monster.
The original Goodyear FG-1 were largely powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W Double Wasp engine, which produced a maximum of 2,250hp with water injection and was hardly a slouch as a fighter engine.
But the Super Corsair got the R-4360-4 Wasp Major.
This 28-cylinder radial developed 3,000hp and Goodyear were talking about fitting water injection, which would have raised the power output to 3,650hp. This would have given the fully fitted out fighter an expected top speed of 450mph (724kp/h).
The FG-2 armament would largely be the same as the original Corsairs, with option for either four-or-six .50-calibre Browning heavy machine guns mounted in the wings. But as to bombload, we find another anomaly in sources, and again this might have obscured some of Goodyear’s thinking behind the aircraft.
Most sources, again especially those online, state that weapon load of the F2G was either 8 rockets or a maximum bombload of 1,600lbs (c726kgs). And that is flat out wrong, and I believe a misreading of earlier works, probably William Green’s “War Planes of the Second World War.”
If you haven’t read it, I thoroughly recommend.
Anyway, in that Green says that the weapon load for the F2G is “…eight 5-in rockets or two 1,000-lb or 1,600-lb bombs.” I believe somewhere along the line this has become “1,600lb of bombs”, which is incorrect.
The standard armour-piercing bomb of the US Navy was the AN-Mk.1 – which weighed 1,600lbs.
And so, the F2G was a fighter that could carry two of these anti-warship weapons.
In short, in the F2G you had a hugely powerful land based low-level interceptor capable of scrambling quickly and running down aircraft intruders rapidly. On top of that it had enhanced loitering and range because of its enhanced fuel capacity, perfect for conducting combat air patrols over US Marine landing sites.
It also had formidable anti-shipping capabilities, especially with a low-level performance that would have made it, for the day, extremely fast on attack runs on Japanese ships.
It wasn’t kamikaze attacks on US ships that were in mind when the F2G was proposed. It was Guadalcanal and the Solomon Island campaign.
When the F2G was ordered in early 1944, the United States was giving thought to the next steps in the war in the Pacific – the invasion of the Philippines.
Fighting in the previous two years had shown how adept the Japanese were at suddenly attacking Allied landing zones with both aircraft and warships. The Philippines, a huge target, was likely expected to be particularly hard to take in the face of such attacks.
Remember, this is before the annihilation of the Japanese carrier air corps at the Battle of the Philippines Sea – both the Japanese Navy and Army Air Force were still very much fighting and at some strength.
So, I suspect the idea behind the F2G was to give the Marines the sort of aircraft they had wished they had available at Guadalcanal – one where even if they were cut off for periods, as occurred in that earlier campaign, they had an aircraft that could wreak havoc on enemy attackers.
As I say, this is speculation, and in fact largely irrelevant because the F2G didn’t make it as a service aircraft. Problems with the Wasp Major delayed development, and by the time the first flight was made in July 1945, there wasn’t really any need for the Super Corsair.
The original F4U was performing perfectly adequately and would do so for years to come. Additionally, the US Navy and Marines received two new aircraft that covered the sort of roles the F2G would have performed – Grumman’s F7 Tigercat and F8 Bearcat.
The former was an extremely powerful shore-based fighter-bomber, whilst the latter was an interceptor fighter that had performance not far off that predicted for the F2G.
Additionally, the war was winding down and the Navy was also in the process of developing its first jets. These were obviously the way of the future, so why spend money on the Super Corsair when it wasn’t really needed?
As a result, only ten F2G’s – five -1s and five -2s – were built before the order was cancelled.
And that would be that, except in the post Second World War era, there was a demand for an aircraft with exceptional low-level performance.
This saw competitors race aircraft around a low altitude circuit, something which the F2G was supremely good at.
In fact, Super Corsairs piloted by Cook Cleland won the Thompson Trophy in 1947 and ’49. Indeed, from ten starts over the 1947, ’48 and’49 racing seasons, F2Gs scored two first places, two seconds, and one third-place finish.
This success in racing means that despite the tiny number built, the F2G still remains around until this day. Several were lost either from neglect or in accidents, including one F2G that tragically crashed in 2012, killing legendary display pilot and aircraft restorer Bob Odegaard.
But at least one is reported to still be flying, and another survives at the Museum of Flight in Seattle as static display.