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United States' Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter


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


Originally Grumman designed the F3F, a biplane, that was to be used in case the monoplane F2 Buffalo failed.4

The US Navy chose the Buffalo over the Wildcat in June 1938.1,4 However, the Wildcat was still considered a good plane and another prototype was ordered in September 1938.4 This resulted in the XF4F-3 prototype.4 By December 1941 the decision was reversed to use the Wildcat over the Buffalo.1


Visibility wasn't very good and was cramped.1


Initially the two-stage blower caused problems and was later replaced by a one-stage blower.1


The wheels retracted half way to fit against the fuselage.1


Was first flown on September 2, 1937 by Robert L. Hall.1,2,3,4

The second prototype, XF4F-3, was well liked and 54 were ordered.4

The first F4F-3 flew in February 1940.3 The first F4F-4 flew on April 14, 1941.4

The FM-1 first flew in August 1942.3 The FM-2 flew in November 1942.3


In August 1939 44 were ordered.2 22 of these were delivered by the end of 1940.2

Production of the F4F moved from Grumman to General Motors in 1942.3 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.6

  • Grumman F4F-3: 2853
  • Martlet I: 1003
  • Martlet II: 903
  • Grumman F4F-3A / Martlet III: 953
  • Grumman F4F-4: 1,1683, 1,1692
  • Grumman F4F-7: 213
  • Grumman Wildcat IV: 2203
  • FM-1 / Wildcat V: 1,0603, 1,1276, 1,4624
  • FM-2 / Wildcat VI: 4,7773,4,6
  • Total: 7,8083, 7,8251, 7,8852, ~8,0004
    • Grumman: 1,9881
    • General Motors FMs: 5,2372, 5,8371, 5,9046
      • Manufacturing location: Detroit, Michigan6


  • Grumman XF4F-2: The first prototype to be flown.2 Had Twin Wasp engine (1,050 HP).3
  • Grumman XF4F-3: Had the two stage supercharged XR-1830-76 installed and could go 333.5 mph / 537 kph.2 Appeared in February 1939 / February 12, 1939.3,4 Had changes to wings and tail.3
  • Grumman F4F:
  • Grumman F4F-3:
  • Grumman F4F-3A: Had R-1830-90 installed.2
  • Grumman F4F-4: Main production model.4 Wings could be manually folded.3,4
  • Grumman F4F-7: Long range reconnaissance developed but was replaced by F6F.1,2,3 Its range was 3,500 miles / 5,633 km.2
  • FM-1 / Wildcat Mk V: Produced by General Motors.2,6 License built F4F-4.6 Had a taller tail fin.2 Had a Wright R-1820 engine.2
  • FM-2 / Wildcat Mk VI: Produced by General Motors.2,6 Based on the XF4F-8.6 Had a taller tail fin.2,6 Had a Wright R-1820 engine.2,6 Had four 12.7 mm machine guns and could carry two 250 lb / 113 kg bombs or six 5" / 127 mm rockets.2 Intended for use on escort carriers.2 Deliveries began in September 1943 and ended in August 1945.6


Early Delivery

The first 22 were delivered to the VF-4 and VF-7.2

United States

The first used of the F4F Wildcat by the United States Navy was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.4 The Navy had 183 F4F-3s and the Marine Corps had 65 F4F-3As.4

The first US Navy ace was Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, who shot down five Japanese bombers in five minutes.1

With a score of 19 Japanese warplanes shot down, Major John L. Smith was the top Wildcat ace.1


The French ordered 81 Wildcats in 1939.2 These were later transferred to the Royal Navy and called the Martlet.2

United Kingdom

Was initially named the Martlet4 but was later changed to the Wildcat in early 1944.1,3 There were 81 Wildcats that went into service with the Royal Navy in the summer of 1940.4

Orders of F4Fs by France and Greece were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm.1,3 These were received in July 1940.3

The Wildcat was the first American fighter in British service to shoot down an enemy plane, a Ju 88 over Scapa Flow in December 1940.3,4

The Fleet Air Arm received 312 FM-1s6 and around 700 FM-2s.4

Royal Canadian Air Force

The RCAF also used the F4F Wildcats.1

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.2

FM-2s were usually paired with TBMs on anti-submarine patrols.6


  Grumman F4F Wildcat
Type Carrier based fighter3
Crew 13
Engine (Type)  
Propeller blades  
Span 38'3
11.58 m3
Length 28' 9"3
8.76 m3
Height 11' 10"3
3.61 m3
Wing area  
Cruising speed  
Service ceiling  
  Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat
Type Fighter4,5
Crew 14
Engine (Type) 1: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp3
1: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 Twin Wasp4
1: Wright Cyclone5
Cylinders Radial5, Radial 143,4
Cooling Air4,5
HP 1,2003,4
Propeller blades  
Span 38'4,5
Length 28' 9"4, 28' 10"5
Height 9'5, 11' 10"4
Wing area  
Loaded 5,875 lb5, 7,000 lb4
Speed 350 mph5
Speed @ 21,300' 331 mph4
Cruising speed  
Service ceiling 37,500'4
Range 845 miles4
Armament 4: MG4,5
Wings 4: 0.5" MG3
Bombs 200 lb4
  Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat
Type Carrier based fighter1,2, Fighter4
Crew 11,2,4
Engine (Type) Wright R-1830-36 Cyclone piston1, Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp4
OR Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 piston2
Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp3
Cylinders Radial1,2, Radial 143,4
Cooling Air4
HP 1,2001,2,3,4
Propeller blades 31
Span 38'1,2,4
11.58 m2, 11.6 m1
Length 28'1, 28' 9"2,4
8.5 m1, 8.76 m2
Height 11' 10"2,4, 12'1
3.6 m1,2
Wing area 260 ft2 1,2
24.15 m2 1,2
Empty 5,746 lb1, 5,895 lb3
2,612 kg1, 2,674 kg3
Loaded 7,406 lb4, 7,935 lb1
3,607 kg1
Speed 317 mph1
512 kph1
Speed at sea level 274 mph3
441 kph3
Speed @ 18,800' /
5,730 m
320 mph3
515 kph3
Speed @ 19,400' /
5,915 m
318 mph2,4
512 kph2
Cruising speed 154 mph1, 155 mph3
249 kph1,3
Climb 1,950'/minute2,3
594 m/minute2,3
Service ceiling 34,900'2,3,4, 39,400'1
10,064 m2, 10,637 m3, 12,010 m1
Range 768 miles1, 770 miles2,3,4
1,239 km1,3, 1,240 km2
Armament 6: MG4
Wings 6: 12.7 mm Browning air cooled MGs1
6: 0.5" MG3
Rounds 240 per MG1
Forward firing 6: 12.7 mm MGs2
Bombs 2: 100 lb1
200 lb4
2: 250 lb3
2: 45 kg1
2: 113 kg3
  Grumman FM-1 Wildcat
Engine (Type) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76/86 Twin Wasp3
Cylinders Radial 143
HP 1,2003
Propeller blades  
Wing area  
Cruising speed  
Service ceiling  
Wings 6: 0.5" MG3
Bombs 2: 250 lb3
2: 113 kg3
  Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
Type Fighter bomber6
Crew 16
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone3,6
Cylinders Radial 93,6
HP 1,3506
Propeller blades 3 constant speed6
Span 38'6
Length 28' 11"6
Wing area 260 ft2 6
Empty 5,448 lb6, 5,542 lb3
2,514 kg3
Loaded 8,221 lb3, 8,271 lb6
3,729 kg3
Speed @ 28,800' 332 mph6
Cruising speed 164 mph6
Service ceiling 34,700'6
Range - loaded 900 miles6
Range - max 1,310 miles6
Wings 4: .50 cal MG6
6: 0.5" MG3
Bombs 500 lb6
2: 250 lb3
2: 113 kg3
Rockets 6: HVAR6


  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