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Modelling the Vought AU-1 Corsair

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 models

Wing Club Series 2While 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.

Model description

Bandai F4U-1The model comes partly assembled with a choice of parts to allow it to be finished in either flying or landed configurations. As a result, only the main landing gear doors, tail wheel doors, forward radio antenna, canopy and seated pilot need to be glued to the airframe. As for dimensions, the length to wingspan ratio is accurate although the model itself is a little big.

Surface detail is excellent throughout with thinly scribed panel lines that throw old Crown models back in the stone age. Surprisingly for such a detailed model, the leading edge oil and intercoolers are simplified to the extreme and the wing slots back in such a way as to suggest that Bandai has possibly omitted a couple of parts to reduce costs.

Dimensions: Wingspan Length
Plane (m) 12.27 10.15
Model (cm) 8.56 7.15
Scale 1/143 1/142

Required modifications

Oil cooler and intercooler inletsIn 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 cooler 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.

Wing armament and pylons The next area is the engine cowling shape which has the perfectly circular cross-section appropriate for an early Corsair while the AU-1 had a cheek fairing on each side. However, this is frankly not very noticeable and correcting it is a rather difficult undertaking that is best avoided. 

Four wing guns sleeves made from 1 mm plastic rod will need to replace 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 plastic card should be added along with stores from the spares box.

Canopy developmentWhile the pre-painted canopy is obviously not the raised model found on the F4U-5 and later marks, at least, it is a frameless canopy and makes a very passable rendition although adventurous types may undertake a full conversion to an AU-1 canopy.

Finally, the forward radio antenna mast should be removed, along with the stub mast on top of the rudder, and a broad triangular antenna should be added aft of the rear antenna mast which itself should be shortened.

AU-1 Front viewAU-1 Side view

Colours and markings

Since 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.

Click on the thumbnails below for full size images
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Proof that hard and fast rules are few and far between with regards to Corsair markings: the three closest aircraft have roundels with yellow surrounds while the next two have none. Note that the same "fishhook" stencil has been used for the roundels and the rudder bands on the second aircraft.
A poor quality photograph, this nevertheless shows the very weathered appearence of the battered Korean war veterans briefly used by Flotille 14F.
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Some very varied markings on display: the aircraft in the foreground has the anchor stenciled over its roundels and work has started on the rudder with a lone red band ; the second aircraft still wears its original roundels but seems to sport an overall red rudder; further along is a Corsair wearing a full tricolour rudder while to the right is the aircraft portrayed in the profile at the top of this page. Not the best quality photo, this shows the very rough appearance of the stencil used to add the Aéronavale's anchor to the original roundel. The roundel appears to have a yellow surround (barely) apparent on the higher resolution image. Opposite the AU-1 is a C-47 of G.T. 1/64 Béarn wearing the black undersurfaces adopted for night flying over Dien Bien Phu.
A trio of Corsairs on their way to Dien Bien Phu display the variety of markings worn: the first aircraft has had both anchors and tricolour rudder added, the second only has anchors over the roundels and the third only has a tricolour rudder.
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This photograph shows to good effect the original roundel worn by the aircraft in the background; it is also interesting to note that 14F-5 has its centre wing section pylons loaded asymetrically with one 150 gallon tank and one 1,000 lbs bomb.
Morroccan tirailleurs load up 14F-12's wing pylons with 500 lbs bomb.  This photo of 14F-9 undergoing final preparations before a mission offer a good view of the big Hamilton Standard 4-blade propeller.


  • Patrick MARCHAND & Junko TAKAMORI, Les Corsair français : F4U-7 & AU-1 (Les Ailes de la Gloire n.12), Editions D'Along, Le Muy, ISBN 2-914403-14-8. Quite simply the most detailed work on French operated Corsairs
  • Jim SULLIVAN, F4U Corsair in Action (Aircraft Number 145), Squadron/Signal Publications, 1994, ISBN 0-89747-318-3
  • Bert KINZEY, F4U Corsair Part 1: XF4U through F2G (Detail and Scale Vol. 55), Squadron/Signal Publications, 1998, ISBN 1-888974-08-7
  • Bert KINZEY, F4U Corsair Part 2: F4U-4 through F4U-7 (Detail and Scale Vol. 56), Squadron/Signal Publications, 1998, ISBN 1-888974-08-7
  • Barrett TILLMAN, Vought F4U Corsair (Warbird Tech Series Vol. 4), Specialty Press, 1996, ISBN 0-933424-67-1
  • René BAIL, Indochine, 1953-1954: les combats de l'impossible, Charles-Lavauzelle, 1985, ISBN 2-70250-089-7
  • René BAIL, Il était une fois la 14 F, in Air Fan magazine n.72, 73, 74 and 76, October 1984 - February 1985
  • Jean-Jacques PETIT, Des Corsair et des hameçons, in Air Fan magazine n.137, April 1990
  • Jean-Marc Poincin's Vought F4U-7 Corsair Walk Around on the Fanakit website (useful as the F4U-7 shared the AU-1s fuselage)

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