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United States' Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter

Photos

Grumman F4F Wildcat on a carrier off of Casablanca on the USS Ranger:
United States' Grumman F4F Wildcat on a carrier off of Casablanca
United States Army in World War II, Pictorial Record, The War Against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and Adjacent Areas, 1951, pg 22
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter:
United States' Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter:
United States' Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighter
Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook
Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter:
United States' Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter

Design

Originally Grumman designed the F3F, a biplane, that was to be used in case the monoplane F2 Buffalo failed.

The US Navy chose the Buffalo over the Wildcat in June 1938. However, the Wildcat was still considered a good plane and another prototype was ordered in September 1938. This resulted in the XF4F-3 prototype. By December 1941 the decision was reversed to use the Wildcat over the Buffalo.

Cockpit

Visibility wasn't very good and was cramped.

Engine

Initially the two-stage blower caused problems and was later replaced by a one-stage blower.

Undercarriage

The wheels retracted half way to fit against the fuselage.

Prototype

Was first flown on September 2, 1937 by Robert L. Hall.

The second prototype, XF4F-3, was well liked and 54 were ordered.

The first F4F-3 flew in February 1940. The first F4F-4 flew on April 14, 1941.

The FM-1 first flew in August 1942. The FM-2 flew in November 1942.

Production

In August 1939 44 were ordered. 22 of these were delivered by the end of 1940.

Production of the F4F moved from Grumman to General Motors in 1942. It was decided to continue production of the FM-2 concurrently with the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsairs as the FM-2s were more suitable for escort carrier operations.

  • Grumman F4F-3: 285
  • Martlet I: 100
  • Martlet II: 90
  • Grumman F4F-3A / Martlet III: 95
  • Grumman F4F-4: 1,168, 1,169
  • Grumman F4F-7: 21
  • Grumman Wildcat IV: 220
  • FM-1 / Wildcat V: 1,060, 1,127, 1,462
  • FM-2 / Wildcat VI: 4,777
  • Total: 7,808, 7,825, 7,885, ~8,000
    • Grumman: 1,988
    • General Motors FMs: 5,237, 5,837, 5,904
      • Manufacturing location: Detroit, Michigan

Variants

  • Grumman XF4F-2: The first prototype to be flown. Had Twin Wasp engine (1,050 HP).
  • Grumman XF4F-3: Had the two stage supercharged XR-1830-76 installed and could go 333.5 mph / 537 kph. Appeared in February 1939 / February 12, 1939. Had changes to wings and tail.
  • Grumman F4F:
  • Grumman F4F-3:
  • Grumman F4F-3A: Had R-1830-90 installed.
  • Grumman F4F-4: Main production model. Wings could be manually folded.
  • Grumman F4F-7: Long range reconnaissance developed but was replaced by F6F. Its range was 3,500 miles / 5,633 km.
  • FM-1 / Wildcat Mk V: Produced by General Motors. License built F4F-4. Had a taller tail fin. Had a Wright R-1820 engine.
  • FM-2 / Wildcat Mk VI: Produced by General Motors. Based on the XF4F-8. Had a taller tail fin. Had a Wright R-1820 engine. Had four 12.7 mm machine guns and could carry two 250 lb / 113 kg bombs or six 5" / 127 mm rockets. Intended for use on escort carriers. Deliveries began in September 1943 and ended in August 1945.

Usage

Early Delivery

The first 22 were delivered to the VF-4 and VF-7.

United States

The first used of the F4F Wildcat by the United States Navy was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. The Navy had 183 F4F-3s and the Marine Corps had 65 F4F-3As.

The first US Navy ace was Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, who shot down five Japanese bombers in five minutes.

With a score of 19 Japanese warplanes shot down, Major John L. Smith was the top Wildcat ace.

France

The French ordered 81 Wildcats in 1939. These were later transferred to the Royal Navy and called the Martlet.

United Kingdom

Was initially named the Martlet but was later changed to the Wildcat in early 1944. There were 81 Wildcats that went into service with the Royal Navy in the summer of 1940.

Orders of F4Fs by France and Greece were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm. These were received in July 1940.

The Wildcat was the first American fighter in British service to shoot down an enemy plane, a Ju 88 over Scapa Flow in December 1940.

The Fleet Air Arm received 312 FM-1s and around 700 FM-2s.

Royal Canadian Air Force

The RCAF also used the F4F Wildcats.

Escort Carrier Duty

As the F4F Wildcats became obsolete during the last two years of World War II, they were still used on Escort Carriers as they had a small size with the folded wings.

FM-2s were usually paired with TBMs on anti-submarine patrols.

Specifications

  Grumman F4F Wildcat
Type Carrier based fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
HP  
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span 38'
11.58 m
Length 28' 9"
8.76 m
Height 11' 10"
3.61 m
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
  Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) 1: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp
1: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 Twin Wasp
1: Wright Cyclone
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,200
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span 38'
Length 28' 9", 28' 10"
Height 9', 11' 10"
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded 5,875 lb, 7,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 350 mph
Speed @ 21,300' 331 mph
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling 37,500'
Range 845 miles
Armament 4: MG
Wings 4: 0.5" MG
Bombs 200 lb
  Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat
Type Carrier based fighter, Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Wright R-1830-36 Cyclone piston, Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp
OR Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 piston
Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,200
Propeller blades 3
Dimensions  
Span 38'
11.58 m, 11.6 m
Length 28', 28' 9"
8.5 m, 8.76 m
Height 11' 10", 12'
3.6 m
Wing area 260 ft2
24.15 m2
Weight  
Empty 5,746 lb, 5,895 lb
2,612 kg, 2,674 kg
Loaded 7,406 lb, 7,935 lb
3,607 kg
Performance  
Speed 317 mph
512 kph
Speed at sea level 274 mph
441 kph
Speed @ 18,800' /
5,730 m
320 mph
515 kph
Speed @ 19,400' /
5,915 m
318 mph
512 kph
Cruising speed 154 mph, 155 mph
249 kph
Climb 1,950'/minute
594 m/minute
Service ceiling 34,900', 39,400'
10,064 m, 10,637 m, 12,010 m
Range 768 miles, 770 miles
1,239 km, 1,240 km
Armament 6: MG
Wings 6: 12.7 mm Browning air cooled MGs
6: 0.5" MG
Rounds 240 per MG
Forward firing 6: 12.7 mm MGs
Bombs 2: 100 lb
200 lb
2: 250 lb
2: 45 kg
2: 113 kg
  Grumman FM-1 Wildcat
Type  
Crew  
Engine (Type) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling  
HP 1,200
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span  
Length  
Height  
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
Wings 6: 0.5" MG
Bombs 2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
  Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
Type Fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling  
HP 1,350
Propeller blades 3 constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 38'
Length 28' 11"
Height  
Wing area 260 ft2
Weight  
Empty 5,448 lb, 5,542 lb
2,514 kg
Loaded 8,221 lb, 8,271 lb
3,729 kg
Performance  
Speed @ 28,800' 332 mph
Cruising speed 164 mph
Climb  
Service ceiling 34,700'
Range - loaded 900 miles
Range - max 1,310 miles
Armament  
Wings 4: .50 cal MG
6: 0.5" MG
Bombs 500 lb
2: 250 lb
2: 113 kg
OR  
Rockets 6: HVAR

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  6. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site