For anyone who grew up in the 1950s, one of the most memorable aircraft was the Chance Vought F7U "Cutlass". With its bat like shape and futuristic design, it seemed the very epitome of an advanced naval fighter. Every model company worth its salt had a version of the fighter and they also appeared as deck candy on carrier kits such as the Revell modernized USS Essex. However, all was not as it seemed. In the days before fly by wire and computers, the Cutlass was a difficult beast to fly and fully one fourth of the aircraft of the production run were lost in accidents. Fortunately the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola Naval Air Station has a copy of this interesting aircraft.

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The plaque for this F7U-3M reads: "The highly unconventional design of the F7U ‘Cutlass’ had its roots in German Aeronautical research data on tailless aircraft, which began to reach the United States after World War II. Pitch and roll controls were combined in elevons on the wing, with fins and rudders located on the wing at the end of the center section. The first production F7U flew in March 1950. The program ended in December 1955, after the design changes and modifications delivered 290 variants. F7U-3M aircraft aboard the USS Lexington (CV-16) first featured Sparrow missiles, still used today. The Lexington was on her first operational deployment after conversion to an angled deck aircraft carrier."

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Manufacturer: Chance Vought Division of United Aircraft Corporation.
Type: Carrier based fighter
Crew: Pilot only
Dimensions: Wing Span 38’8", Length 44’3", Height 14’7"
Weight: Empty 18,210 lbs, Gross 31,642 lbs
Performance: Max Speed 680 M.P.H., Ceiling 40,000 feet, Range 660 miles
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