The first F7U-1 flew on March 1, 1948, and the entire batch of this model was assigned to the Advanced Training Command at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station during 1952. Difficulties with the Westinghouse J34 programme resulted in cancellation of the F7U-2 before completion, while early experience with the F7U-1 airframe led to an extensive redesign for the F7U-3. First flown on December, 20, 1951, the latter model had a new nose shape, redesigned fins and other changes. Four squadrons were equipped - VF-81, VF-83, VF-122 and VF-124 - and production of the definitive version totalled 180.
Basic armament of the F7U-3 comprised four 20-mm cannon in the the upper lips of the intake fairing, with provision for underwing rocket pods or various other stores. Subsequently, provision was made for the Cutlass to carry four Sparrow I beam-riding missiles in the F7U-3M version, of which 98 were built, and 12 examples of a camera-equipped variant, the F7U-3P, also went into service. Production ended in December 1953 when 290 F7U-3 Cutlass variants had been delivered.
(source: United States Navy Aircraft since 1911 by Gordon Swanborough and Peter Bowers)