The Vought F6U Pirate was the first fighter jet made by the company and was one of the first naval jets to utilize composite materials and an afterburner.
It was only used by a single squadron due to its lackluster performance and slew of mechanical problems and was retired from service in 1950. Including prototypes, only 33 aircraft were built.
Following a specification for a single-seat naval fighter powered by a jet engine in September of 1944, Chance Vought was awarded the contract for construction of 3 prototypes, internally designated V-340, on the 29 December 1944. These Prototypes were then given the designation XF6U Pirate.
The first test flight was completed on 2 October 1946 with a less powerful Westinghouse J34-WE-22 turbojet engine. It took until late 1947 before the last of the 3 prototypes would take to the sky and shortly thereafter a total of 30 production aircraft were ordered.
The Production aircraft differed to the prototypes, having an ejection seat, a redesigned vertical stabilizer, 2 auxiliary fins and a more Powerful Westinghouse J34-WE-30A turbojet engine with an afterburner.
The production was heavily disrupted because Chance Vought was moved from a factory in Stratford, Connecticut to another facility in Dallas, Texas.
The planes had to make a 2782km road trip because the fuselages were still made in Stratford, then trucked to Dallas to fit them with the engines and then hauled out to Ardmore, Oklahoma for acceptance testing. The first production version, the F6U-1 Pirate, made its first flight in the Summer of 1949 with Air Development Squadron 3 or VX-3, and was deemed unacceptable for operational use.
Towards the end of 1950, Vought was told that “the F6U-1 had proven so sub-marginal in performance that combat utilization is not feasible”. It was operated for a brief time by one Texas-based US Naval Reserve squadron during their transfer to jet aircraft before being used to develop arrestor gear and barriers. The production aircraft totaled a measly 945 flight hours, with some barely flying for more than 6 hours.
Wing Area: 18.9m2
Empty/Loaded Mass: 3’320kg / 5’850kg
Powerplant: 1x Westinghouse J34-WE-30A turbojet, 1429kgf without, 1916kgf with afterburner
Maximum Speed: 959km/h
Surface ceiling: 14’100m
Offensive Armament: 4x 20mm M3 cannons under the nose