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F6U2C

Pirate

 
The story which didn't happen ... outside Atlantic Air Combat
 
 
See also : = Land Variants
 -
Carrier Variants
 -
   

Introduction
By 1951, the US Navy was retiring their F6U-1 Pirate as their performances were way below expectation.  Such was the disapointment that one could say the aircrafts went almost strait from factory to the boneyard.  This didn’t go unnoticed by the Ejercito del Aire (Spanish Air Force) who was looking toward modernizing its equipment.   Then, being some sort of political outcast in Europe didn’t help Spain in their procurement process and their industry would take quite more time to get to level.   While the US, nevertheless being their ally, received their various enquiries with a favourable eye, the ongoing war in Korea didn’t allow for any equipment being turned over to anyone.   But why not the F6U indeed as they were intended to be scrapped anyway.

So, in the course of 1952 all the
surviving F6U, including the two remaining prototypes and the one transformed into a photo-reconnaissance aircraft were handed over to Spain where they were reconditioned by the Construcciones Aeronauticas S.A (CASA) prior entering service with the Ejercito del Aire.  After being reassembled, the Vought Pirates were renamed F6U-1A, while the sole F6U-1P kept its denomination.

  Type Serial IN Fate OUT >Spain

F6U-1A
1952

F6U-1B
1960

F6U-1P
1960

F6U-2C
1960

F6U-2P
1960













1 XF6U-1 33532 1946 - - 1952 532 - - -
2 XF6U-1 33533 1946 - - 1952 533 - - -
3 XF6U-1 33534 1947 Crash 1948 - - - - - -
1 F6U-1 122478 1949 Retired 1950 1952 478 - -  8-17  -
2 F6U-1 122479 1949 Retired 1950 1952 479 - -  8-18  -
3 F6U-1 122480 1949 Retired 1950 1952 480 - - -
4 F6U-1 122481 1949 Retired 1950 1952 481 - - -
5 F6U-1 122482 1949 Retired 1950 1952 482 - - -
6 F6U-1P 122483 1949 Retired 1951 1952 483 - - -
7 F6U-1 122484 1949 Retired 1951 1952 484 - -  8-01  -
8 F6U-1 122485 1949 Retired 1951 1952 485 - -  8-02  -
9 F6U-1 122486 1949 Retired 1951 1952 486 - -  8-03  -
10 F6U-1 122487 1949 Retired 1951 1952 487 - -  8-04  -
11 F6U-1 122488 1949 Retired 1951 1952 488 - -  8-05  -
12 F6U-1 122489 1950 Retired 1951 1952 489 - -  8-06  -
13 F6U-1 122490 1949 Retired 1951 1952 490 - -  8-07  -
14 F6U-1 122491 1949 Retired 1951 1952 491 - -  8-08  -
15 F6U-1 122492 1949 Retired 1951 1952 492 - -  8-09  -
16 F6U-1 122493 1949 Retired 1951 1952 493 - -  8-10  -
17 F6U-1 122494 1949 Retired 1951 1952 494 - -  8-11  -
18 F6U-1 122495 1949 Retired 1951 1952 495 - -  8-12  -
19 F6U-1 122496 1949 Retired 1951 1952 496 - -  8-13  -
20 F6U-1 122497 1949 Retired 1951 1952 497 - -  8-14  -
21 F6U-1 122498 1949 Retired 1951 1952 498 - -  8-15  -
22 F6U-1 122499 1949 Retired 1951 1952 499 - -  8-16  -
23 F6U-1 122500 1949 Retired 1951 1952 500 - - -  9-A 
24 F6U-1 122501 1950 Retired 1951 1952 501 - - -  9-B 
25 F6U-1 122502 1950 Retired 1951 1952 502 - - -  9-C 
26 F6U-1 122503 1950 Retired 1951 1952 503 - - -  9-D 
27 F6U-1 122504 1950 Retired 1951 1952 504 - - -  9-E 
28 F6U-1 122505 1950 Retired 1951 1952 505 - - -  9-F 
29 F6U-1 122506 1950 Retired 1951 1952 506 - - -  9-G 
30 F6U-1 122507 1950 Retired 1951 1952 507 - - -  9-H 












33 - - - - - 32 31+1 5 1 18 8

The above (fantasy) data is based on researchs conducted by Nathan Decker and published on http://www.millionmonkeytheater.com/F6U-1.html 

So not only had the Spanish Air Force something to chew on pending more up-to-date equipment but the purpose of allocating the aircrafts to the Air Force rather than the Navy was also tailored to hide the fact that ongoing works on the ancient USS Sangamon (CVE-26) were not about dismantling but rebuilding her.  To avoid giving any hint in that direction Navy pilots weren't even allowed to train on these jet airplanes

Around the same time, the Navy had been quite impressed by the visit USS Cabot (CVL-28) made in 1952 during it European tour and deployment in the Mediterranea. Since the ship was clearly intended to see the end of its service life soon, Spain sought to purchase it order to deploy ASW helicopters (HSS-1or even aircrafts (TBM-3). But again, the ongoing Korean War did not make it possible to cast a deal. The Spanish Navy was nevertheless delivered with a dozen HSS-1 helicopters for coastal patrols and 17 TBM-3E Avengers.

In 1955 the situation changed completely with the end of the Korean War, and soon US military equipment began to pour toward their allies. Spain wasn't fogotten, and hundreds of F-86F were soon delivered to the Ejercito del Aire, keeping CASA busy all through that year.

As USS Cabot (CVL-28) was now due to enter the reserve, the US accepted to loan the ship to Spain in order to allow them to operate their ASW assets. Had the US known Bazan was working on rebuilding the USS SANGAMON rather than cutting it into pieces the decision might have been different, but Bazan was not really advertizing about their protracted undertaking. Then, with the Ejercito del Aire having plenty of F-86F to play with, they were happy to relinquish their F6U to the Armada.  Anyway, they had had so little use of them that the Air Force didn't even take the trouble to repaint them. The Government might have wanted them for the Navy, but like their American counterpart, the Air Force had not been much impressed by the plane and doubt their naval colleagues would have any practical use of these sluggish airframes.

Being almost through with their work on the Sabre jets, CASA finally had the time to look over the F6U once again at the Navy request. The airframes had hardly been used and CASA found the aircrafts in pristine conditions. The performances were poor but actually the aircraft proved highly reliable, so much that no one airframe had been lost in an accident, a very exceptional record indeed. So CASA's suggestion to the Navy was two-fold. First put the electronic and navigation equipments up to standards, including the two prototypes XF6U which in effect hadn't been flown at all, and bring them to full operational standards. Second, to address the engine issue separately. So, by mid-1956, the Spanish Armada found themselves equipped with their first aircraft carrier, and their first carrier fighters without being able to match the two. At least they could build up their skills, even if only from land. Like their predecessors, they managed not to loose any airframe during this interim period.

As Hispano Aviacion was developping an aircraft of their own design, the HA-200 trainer, including a naval variant, they had been in contact with various engine manufacturers, HA was willing to share contacts with their big competitor in exchange of cooperation relating to a similar project under study for the Portugese Navy.  Among the various engines due to become available, the Bristol Orpheus seemed promising. Not too big, not too heavy, not too thirsty, and intended to power several aircrafts, among them the British Gnat and the Italian Fiat G91, it appeared this engine would be available in sufficient numbers while not becoming a hard fought for "strategic" item.

Engine Power
Dry-Kgp
Power
AFB-Kgp
   Ø   
mm

Length
mm

Weight
Kgs

Consumption
kg/Hr/Kgp

 








J34WE30 1430 1918 686

2850

548 1.040 1.750
Orpheus 1491 - 823

1854

359 1.080 -

But still, its diameter was slightly larger, and CASA wanted to have a bit more time to study the matter without blocking all the planes, keeping only one airfraime while the others were released to the Navy.

As time went on, the Orpheus grew in power. By January 1957 it had jumped from the initial 1.5T to above 2.2T of thrust, which was more than hoped for. The Etendard IV now scheduled to receive a French engine, Bristol was too happy to make a few dozens of engines available to both CASA and Hispano Aviacion for their respective F6U and FJ1 re-engining projects.

CASA had hoped for an afterburning version of the engine, a prototype of which was being bench tested but Bristol finally did not schedule it for production and initially tried instead to sell CASA their 701 variant due to equip the Indian Gnat fighter before finally accepting to deliver engines based on their their 803 version, rated at 5000lbf (2270 kg) for the FIAT G91. More than a favour to CASA, Bristol was probably making their own life a lot easier as they now concentrated on that version, with the 701 being licensed to HAL Industries. Eventually Bristol packed together a specific version for CASA, which they called "804", making it at the time the most economical, the lightest albeit the most powerful version of the Orpheus. Why this version wasn't adopted by the RAF for their own use remains a mystery that only a British mind could perhaps one day untangle.

 

Engine

Power
Dry

Power
AFB

Aircraft

   Ø   
mm

Length
mm

Weight
Kg

Consumption

Kg/Hr/Kgp

Kg/Hr/Kgp

1950

J34WE30

1430

1918

F6U-1

686

2850

548

1.040

1.750

1955

Or.1

1491

-

---

823

1854

359

-

-

1957

Or.2/701

2043

-

Gnat

823

1854

359

1.057

-

1957

Or.3/801

2020

-

Etentard IV

823

1916

375

1.080

-

1958

Or.2/701-01

2234

-

Gnat

823

1854

359

1.057

-

1958

Or.3/803

2270

-

Fiat G91

823

1916

375

1.080

-

1958

Or.3/804

2270

-

F6U-2

686

1916

359

0.964

-

1958

Or.3/805

1816

-

Fuji T1

823

1916

375

1.080

-

1959

Or.4/100-04

1920

-

Gnat

823

1918

409

0.964

-

1959

Or.12

3092

-

---

823

2101

531

0.976

-

1959

Or.12R

3092

3709

---

823

2101

708

0.976

1.620

1960

Or.2/703

2202

-

HF24

823

1854

359

1.057

-

1960

Or.4/101

2052

-

Gnat

823

1918

409

0.964

-

1961

Or.5/500

2610

-

C-119

823

1918

409

0.964

-

Installing the Orpheus in the F6U proved less difficult than initially feared, as the airframe had been designed to cope with a slightly wider engine. So in the end, it was essentially a matter of remanufacturing the engine berth and the exhaust duct to adapt to the much shorter Orpheus 804. CASA could have shortened the fuselage to its original design, but remembering that lengthening it had created aerodynamical problems, they refrained from tinkering with the aircraft aerodynamics.  This partly rebuilding the fuselage internal layout was however the opportunity to implement some weight savings, with the initial aim being to counter the extra weight of the newly installed Martin Baker Mk4 ejection seat.  But CASA did better with a real weight saving in the end - nothing dramatic but nevertheless useful.

Then CASA didn't stop with reworking the engine intallation. As the M3 20mm cannons proved uneliable, they took advantage of their British contacts to secure the purchase of Hispano Mk5 20mm guns made redundant by the UK either switching to 30mm Aden cannons or … missiles in gunless fighters. The guns were second hand naturally but as good as new with plenty of spare barrels and other key parts. Being essentially the same weapon, but a little lighter, the swap from one gun to the other was easy. The rate of fire was slightly higher (750 rpm instead of 700 rpm) but CASA wisely choosed not to modify the ammunition bay, maintaining 150 rounds for each gun.

The wings being stongly built, and the power available being vastly superior, two 1000lbs worth wet hard points were installed under the wings, close to the main landing gear, with an extra two positions initially intended for Sidewinder missiles as these were also made available by their american friends. But CASA calculated that these outer wing stations could be made to carry up to 500lbs of load. Contacted, Vought engineers confirmed that only the lack of engine power had prevented them to test anything of the kind, but as the heavy wingtip tanks indicated, the wings were indeed strong, very strong. And with the weight 189kg (416lb) saved by both the engine switch and some clever work on the fuselage equipement, maximum take-off weight wasn't a problem.

So CASA wired the wing pylons for extra equipment, even being among the first, although the lesser known, to design a double Sidewinder launcher. No doubt their contacts with Vought, themselves designing such a twin launcher for the F8U, were used to good effects. At the end, the Pirate could carry AIM-9B missiles on both the inner and outer pylons, but also at the wingtips offering the Armada plenty of options to arm their little fighters. With the wingtip tanks participating to the (excellent) general balance of the aircraft, this latter option was probably not essential but with all airframes being stripped down, actually being completely rebuilt, a bit of extra wire was not going to make any difference.

And if that wasn't enough, CASA suggested to the Navy to adapt the aircraft to carry a radar. Modifying the nose wasn't even considered, with the British podded EKCO ASV19 radar being the obvious option. Accordingly, the starboard outer wing position was specifically wired to support it. The electrical equipment was adapted to that effect, and with SAAB having had the solve a similar issue adapting the Supermanine Attacker for the Swedish Navy, CASA took advice to avoid facing the same electrical difficulties the German Navy had with their similarly equipped Hawker Sea Hawk.

But not only was the Armada enthusiastic about having their F6U turned into true fighters, they had discovered the prototype F6U-1P which had been part of the initial delivery, back in 1952.  Hardly flown the airframe was as good as new but the same could not be said about the five cameras which weren't functional anymore. They were replaced by three F95 Vinten which stood for their reputation, and so CASA received an order to modify 8 airframes into photo-reconnaissance aircrafts without relinquishing the ability to carry weapons, but for the guns naturally as the weapon and ammunitions bays were used to install the cameras.

Aircraft Engine Thrust
Dry
lbf
Thrust
Reheat
lbf
- Body Motor Main
Fuel
Tips
Fuel
Guns:600
x20mm
Pylons
Outer
500lbs
Pylons
Inner
1000lbs
Pylons
Fuselage
--lbs
Crew
 
(1)
Totals
Weight
Fuel















F6U1A J34WE 3150 4224 Lb

5727

1207

2660

2×  149
1079
2456

379
344
723

-

-

-

200

12973

- - - - L

-

-

1590

644
644

-

-

-

-

-

2878

F6U2C Or804 5000 - Lb

5577

790

2660

2×  149
1079
2456

370
344
714

500
  500

1000

2×  111
  889
2000

-

200

15397

- - - - L

-

-

1590

644
644

-

-

530
530

-

-

3938

As the project now was way further than a "simple" engine replacement, the cost of refurbishing the F6U flotilla went upwards and the Armada had to reconsider their plans. All in all 26 airframes were re-engined, 8 of which as reconnaissance aircrafts, with 6 remaining airframes, and among them the original F6U-1P being re-assembled with their original J34WE30 engine. A strange choice, but while the Armada had been ordered to reduce the number of aircraft to be re-engined, they were not told to scrap these extra airframes… Having been "zeroed" by CASA, rewired for radar and AIM-9B, these were to good to loose, so better have a few more F6U with plenty of spare engines to go by, at least for type conversion or liaison duties.

Besides a different engine nozzle, these re-engined airframes are easily identified as they were repainted in a two-tone grey. Also, as the Orpheus engine running temperature was better controlled, the area around of the engine didn't had to be left bare metal anymore as it remained the case with the J34WE30 version. In the end, with the variety of airframes on hand they were renamed once more and it is with these assets that the Spanish Armada will face the trouble times to come in the North Atlantic :

 

 Name

 Engine

 Details
1950  F6U-1  J34WE30  Initial ex-factory denomination
1952  F6U-1A  J34WE30  31 airframes reconditioned upon delivery
1952  F6U-1P  J34WE30    1 airframe  reconditioned upon delivery
1960  F6U-1B  J34WE30    5 airframes rebuilt but not re-engined
1960  F6U-1P  J34WE30    1 airframe  rebuilt but not re-engined
1960  F6U-2C  Or.804  18 airframes rebuilt and re-engined as fighter-bombers
1960  F6U-2P  Or.804    8 airframes rebuilt and re-engined as photo-reconnaissance aircrafts

F6U-1B

 

 

 

 

 

 

F6U-1P

 

 

F6U-2C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F6U-2P

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors and Markings
The Ejercito del Aire did little in marking their appropriation of the aircrafts, barely covering the US Star with a large Spanish roundels. In a way the Spanish Navy did little more, at least initially, just adding an anchor to the national colors and another one on the tail.

By 1960, the situation looked somewhat different, with all airframes being rebuilt and most re-engined. To mark the difference, the Navy decided to keep the dark blue navy color on the F6U-1B, adding however various conspicuous appropriation markings (8a Escuadrilla for the fighters and a newly formed 9a Escuadrilla for the reconnaissance aircrafts). The re-engined F6U-2 however were given a totally new robe with the fighters being numbered 1-18 and the recce planes identified alphabetically 9-A to 9-H

1950

F6U-1

US Navy
     

1952

F6U-1A

Spanish Air Force

1952

F6U-1P

Spanish Air Force

1956

F6U-1A

Spanish Navy

1956

F6U-1P

Spanish Navy

1960

F6U-1B

8a Escuadrilla

1960

F6U-1P

9a Escuadrilla

1960

F6U-2C

8a Escuadrilla

1960

F6U-2P

9a Escuadrilla

 

___________

 
Real NAS Role        Qty Aircraft 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1a Esc Rota Training 10x Bell47G >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
2a Esc Rota Transport 9x UH19 - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
3a Esc Rota ASW 4x AB204S - - - - - - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
4a Esc Rota Transport 2x PA30 - - - - - - - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>>
5a Esc Rota ASW 12x SH3D - - - - - - - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>>
6a Esc Rota - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7a Esc Rota - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
8a Esc Rota - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9a Esc Rota - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
AAC NAS Role        Qty Aircraft 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1a Esc Rota Training 10x Bell47G >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
2a Esc Rota Transport 9x UH19 - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
3a Esc Rota ASW 8x HSS1 >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
4a Esc Rota Transport 4x TBM3R >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
5a Esc Rota ASW 17x TBM3E >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
6a Esc Rota Training 8x T28D >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
7a Esc Rota AEW 5x TBM3W >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>
8a Esc Rota Fighter 31x F6U1A - >>> >>> >>> >>> - - - - - - - - - -

"

Rota Fighter 5x F6U1B - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>

"

Rota Fighter 18x F6U2C - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>

"

Rota Fighter 1x F6U1P - >>> >>> >>> >>> - - - - - - - - - -
9a Esc Rota Recce 1x F6U1P - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>

"

Rota Recce 8x F6U2P - - - - - >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> >>>

___________