Modelling the Vought AU-1 Corsair
| At the height of the battle of Bien Bien Phu, the
exhausted Hellcat pilots of Flotille 11F were grounded for a month by
medical staff. The French high command scrambled to dispatch urgent
reinforcements and secured the loan of 25 USMC AU-1 Corsairs to be
flown by pilots of Flotille 14F, then working up in North Africa on the
Aéronavale’s newly-delivered F4U-7s. Flown to Indochina by
commercial charters, Flotille 14F’s aircrews took delivery of the
Korean veterans on May 25 and flew missions over Bien Bien Phu and the
Red River Delta until the ceasefire.
Available modelsWhile no AU-1 exists in 1/144 scale, it is possible to convert an earlier F4U-1 into a pseudo AU-1, i.e. something that will look close enough outside of an IPMS contest. Until recently, the choice of 1/144 Corsairs was limited to the Crown or Mitsuwa F4U-1 models in their various reincarnations. While the Mitsuwa is less difficult to find, it is of very dubious shape and portrays a very early aircraft with the birdcage canopy while the much better Revell issue of the Crown kit is long discontinued, much sought after and expensive. Things have now improved thanks to the craze for 1/144 scale gashapon and the release by Bandai of a F4U-1D in its Wing Club Series 2 line of pre-built collectible planes. Because this is the most easily available one (an Internet search should rapidly unearth one), this article will focus on the Bandai model.
comes partly assembled with a choice of parts
to allow it to be finished in either flying or landed configurations.
a result, only the main landing gear doors, tail wheel doors, forward
radio antenna, canopy and seated pilot need to be glued to the
As for dimensions, the length to wingspan ratio is accurate although
the model itself is a little big.
Required modificationsIn order to make this model look somewhat like an AU-1, several features would need to be modified: propeller, engine cowling, armament, canopy and aerials.
Besides the propeller which needs to be
replaced by a
4-blade propeller to portray the Hamilton Standard unit, the main area
that should to be addressed is the oil
and intercooler inlets. Should you choose to proceed with this, the
best way is probably to restore the leading edge profile with
putty, imprint the inlet into the still soft putty then file to shape
when set. The lazy way out is to leave it alone and simply paint the
inlets at a later stage.
Four wing guns sleeves made from 1 mm plastic rod
will need to
the existing armament, which is
strangely enough portrayed by three vertical slots on the leading edge
and not even close to anything seen on any Corsair wing. In addition,
ten 5 mm x 2 mm underwing pylons cut from thin
should be added
along with stores from the spares box.
forward radio antenna mast should be removed, along with the stub mast
on top of
rudder, and a broad triangular antenna should be added aft of the rear
antenna mast which itself should be shortened.
Colours and markingsSince the AU-1 had a very short operational life in Indochina, options are limited to an overall Gloss Dark Sea Blue (ANA 623, FS15042) machine of Flotille 14F. However, because they were hastily repainted by the US Navy and delivered under a crash program before being thrown straight into the fray, no two Corsairs wore similar markings.
Upon delivery, tricolor roundels were hastily painted, initially without the regulation yellow surround. While fuselage roundels were universal, wing roundels appear to have been worn under the wings only on some aircraft while others sported full markings in all four wing positions. Additional markings, such as the Aéronavale's trademark "fishhook" anchor stenciled over the cockades and the usual tricolour rudder, were painted as and when time permitted and photographs show aircraft flown with these at various stages of completion. Note that the Corsair profile at the top of this page portrays an aircraft that came unusually close to full markings since it is only missing the yellow surround to the cockades and the individual aircraft number after its "14F-" flotilla markings.
As usual, decals will have to come from the spares box and rummaging among 1/72 national markings for modern aircraft.