Grumman Martlet lands on carrier

Grumman Martlet lands on carrier

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Grumman Martlet lands on carrier

Here we see a Grumman Martlet landing on a British carrier after a reconnaissance flight. This picture gives a good idea of the number of people involved in a safe carrier landing.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

The US Navy’s requirement of 1936 for a new carrier-based fighter resulted in the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation receiving an order for a prototype of its Model 39 under the designation XF2A-1. This became the US Navy’s first monoplane fighter in squadron service, but so tentative was the US Navy in its decision to order this aircraft that it ordered also a prototype of Grumman’s competing biplane design under the designation XF4F-1. However, a more careful study of the performance potential of Brewster’s design, plus the fact that Grumman’s earlier F3F biplane was beginning to demonstrate good performance, brought second thoughts. This led to cancellation of the biplane prototype and the initiation of an alternative Grumman G-18 monoplane design. Following evaluation of this new proposal, the US Navy ordered a single prototype on 28 July 1936 under the designation XF4F-2.

Rolled out of Grumman’s Bethpage, Long Island, assembly shed and flown for the first time on 2 September 1937, the XF4F-2 was powered by a 1,050 hp (783 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp engine, and was able to demonstrate a maximum speed of 290 mph (467 km/h). Of all-metal construction, with its cantilever monoplane wing set in a mid-position on the fuselage, and provided with retractable tailwheel landing gear, it proved to be marginally faster than the Brewster prototype when flown during competitive evaluation in the early months of 1938. Speed, however, was its major credit. In several other respects it was decidedly inferior, with the result that Brewster’s XF2A-1 was ordered into production on 11 June 1938.

Although the new ship was not a true “aerobatic” performer, it was stable and easy to fly and displayed excellent deck-handling qualities. One problem that would remain with the F4F throughout its life, however, was its manual landing gear retraction mechanism. The gear required 30 turns with a hand crank to retract, and a slip of the hand off the crank could result in a serious wrist injury.

Clearly the US Navy believed the XF4F-2 had hidden potential, for it was returned to Grumman in October 1938, together with a new contract for its further development. The company adopted major changes before this G-36 prototype flew again in March 1939 under the designation XF4F-3. These included the installation of a more powerful version of the Twin Wasp (the XR-1830-76 with a two-stage supercharger), increased wing span and area, redesigned tail surfaces, and a modified machine-gun installation. When tested in this new form the XF4F-3 was found to have considerably improved performance. A second prototype was completed and introduced into the test programme, this aircraft differing in having a redesigned tail unit in which the tailplane was moved higher up the fin, and the profile of the vertical tail was changed again. In this final form the XF4F-3 was found to have good handling characteristics and manoeuvrability, and a maximum speed of 335 mph (539 km/h) at 21,300 ft (6490 m). Faced with such performance, the US Navy had no hesitation in ordering 78 F4F-3 production aircraft on 8 August 1939.

With war seemingly imminent in Europe, Grumman offered the new G-36A design for export, receiving orders for 81 and 30 aircraft from the French and Greek governments respectively. The first of those, intended for the French navy, powered by a 1,000 hp (746 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engine, flew on 27 July 1940 but by then, of course, France had already fallen. Instead, the British Purchasing Commission agreed to take these aircraft, increasing the order to 90, and the first began to reach the UK in July 1940 (after the first five off the line had been supplied to Canada), becoming designated Martlet Mk I. They first equipped No. 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, and two of the aircraft flown by this squadron were the first American-built fighters to destroy a German aircraft during World War 11, in December 1940.

Subsequent Grumman-built versions to serve with the FAA included the Twin Wasp-powered folding-wing Martlet Mk II 10 F4F-4As and the Greek contract G-36A aircraft as Martlet Mk III and Lend-Lease F4F-4Bs with Wright GR-1820 Cyclone engines as Martlet Mk IV. In January 1944 they were all redesignated as Wildcats, but retained their distinguishing mark numbers.

The first F4F-3 for the US Navy was flown on 20 August 1940, and at the beginning of December the type began to equip Navy Squadrons VF-7 and VF-41. Some 95 F4F-3A aircraft were ordered by the US Navy, these being powered by the R-1830-90 engine with single-stage supercharger, and deliveries began in 1941. An XF4F-4 prototype was flown in May 1941, this incorporating refinements which resulted from Martlet combat experience in the UK, including six-gun armament, armour, self-sealing tanks, and wing-folding. Delivery of production F4F-4 Wildcat fighters, as the type had then been named, began in November 1941, and by the time that the Japanese launched their attacks on Pearl Harbour a number of US Navy and US Marine Corps squadrons had been equipped, As additional Wildcats entered service they equipped increasing numbers of US Marine and US Navy squadrons. In particular they served with the carriers USS Enterprise, Hornet and Saratoga, being involved with conspicuous success in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the operations in Guadalcanal. They were at the centre of all significant action in the Pacific until superseded by more advanced aircraft in 1943, and also saw action with the US Navy in North Africa during late 1942.

The final production variant built by Grumman was the long-range reconnaissance F4F-7 with increased fuel capacity, camera installations in the lower fuselage and armament deleted. Only 20 were built, but Grumman also produced an additional 100 F4F-3s and two XF4F-8 prototypes. With an urgent need to concentrate on development and production of the more advanced F6F Hellcat, Grumman negotiated with General Motors to continue production of the F4F-4 Wildcat under the designation FM-1. Production by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division began after finalisation of a contract on 18 April 1942, and the first of this company’s FM-ls was flown on 31 August 1942. Production totalled 1,151, of which 312 were supplied to the UK under the designation Martlet Mk V (later Wildcat Mk V).

At the same time, General Motors was working on the development of improved version, designated FM-2 which was the production version of two Grumman XF4F-8 prototypes. Its major change was the installation of 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9 radial engine, but a larger vertical tail was introduced to maintain good directional stability with this more powerful engine, and airframe weight was reduced to the minimum. A total 4,777 FM-2s was built by General Motors, 370 of them supplied to the UK these entering service with the FAA a designated Wildcat Mk VI from the outset.

Combat History
First combat for the F4F was not with the U.S. Navy but with Britain’s Royal Navy, and its first victim was German. The British had shown great interest in the Wildcat as a replacement for the Gloster Sea Gladiator, and the first were delivered in late 1940. On Christmas Day 1940, one of them intercepted and shot down a Junkers Ju-88 bomber over the big Scapa Flow naval base. The Martlet, as the British also called it, saw further action when 30 originally bound for Greece were diverted to the Royal Navy following the collapse of Greece and were used in a ground attack role in the North African Desert throughout 1941.

The Wildcat’s American combat career got off to a more inauspicious start. Eleven of them were caught on the ground during the December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour attack, and nearly all were destroyed. It was with Marine squadron VMF-211 at Wake Island that the Wildcat first displayed the tenacity that would bedevil the Japanese again and again. As at Pearl Harbour, the initial Japanese attacks left seven of 12 F4F3s wrecked on the field. But the survivors fought on for nearly two weeks, and on December 11, Captain Henry Elrod bombed and sank the destroyer Kisaragi and helped repel the Japanese invasion force. Only two Wildcats were left on December 23, but the pair managed to shoot down a Zero and a bomber before being overwhelmed.

Carrier-based F4F3s engaged the enemy soon after. On February 20, 1942, Lexington came under attack from a large force of Mitsubishi G4M1 Betty bombers while approaching the Japanese base at Rabaul. The F4F fighter screen swarmed over the unescorted bombers, and Lieutenant Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare shot down five of them. He was awarded the Medal of Honour and became the first Wildcat ace.

During the Coral Sea battle in May, F4Fs from the carriers Lexington and Yorktown inflicted heavy losses on the air groups from Shokaku, Zuikaku and Shoho but could not prevent the sinking of Lexington. While the air battles were by no means one-sided, they were clearly a shock to many Zero pilots, who had faced little serious opposition up to that time.

By the time of the Midway engagement in June, the fixed-wing F4F-3 had been replaced by the folding-wing F4F-4. Although the new wings enabled the carriers to increase their fighter complement from 18 to 27, the F4F-4’s folding mechanism, coupled with the addition of two more machine guns, raised its weight by nearly 800 pounds and caused a fall-off in climb and manoeuvrability.

Nearly 85 Wildcats flew from Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet during Midway, but it was the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber that was destined to be the hero of the battle, sinking the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu, and dealing the Imperial Navy a disastrous defeat.

When news of the U.S. invasion of Guadalcanal reached the Japanese on August 7, 1942, they launched air strikes from Rabaul. Flying escort was the elite Tainan Kokutai (air group), which counted among its pilots Sakai (64 victories), Nishizawa (credited with 87 before his death in October 1944) and other leading aces. But over Guadalcanal, the Zeros were off-balance from the start. Their first glimpse of the new enemy came when Wildcats of Saratoga’s VF-5 dived into their formation and scattered it. Sakai and Nishizawa recovered and claimed eight Wildcats and a Dauntless between them, but they were the only pilots to score. The Navy F4Fs, in return, brought down 14 bombers and two Zeros.

Although exact Japanese losses over Guadalcanal are not known, they lost approximately 650 aircraft between August and November 1942 and an irreplaceable number of trained, veteran airmen. It is certain that the F4Fs were responsible for most of those losses. During the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, 1942, Stanley W. “Swede” Vejtasa of VF-10 from the carrier Enterprise downed seven Japanese planes in one fight. Marine pilot Joe Foss racked up 23 of his 26 kills over Guadalcanal John L. Smith was close behind with 19 and Marion Carl, Richard Galer and Joe Bauer were among other top Marine aces.

A large part of the Wildcat success was tactics. The agile Zero, like most Japanese army and navy fighter craft, had been designed to excel in slow-speed manoeuvres. U.S. Navy aviators realized early on that the Zero’s controls became heavy at high speeds and were less effective in high-speed rolls and dives. Navy tacticians like James Flatley and James Thach preached that the important thing was to maintain speed, whenever possible, no matter what the Zero did. Although the Wildcat was not especially fast, its two-speed supercharger enabled it to perform well at high altitudes, something that the Bell P-39 and Curtiss P-40 could not do. The F4F was so rugged that terminal dive airspeed was not redlined. The A6M2’s 7.7 mm (0.303 in) cowl guns and slow-firing 20 mm cannons were effective against an F4F only at point-blank range. But F4F pilots reported that hits from their 12.7 mm (0.50 in) calibre wing guns usually caused complete disintegration of a Zero.

The Zero and Wildcat shared one serious liability, though. Neither could be modified successfully to keep pace with wartime fighter development. It was determined that the F4F airframe could not accommodate a larger engine without an almost complete redesign, which ultimately did take shape as the new 2,000 hp (1492 kW) F6F Hellcat. The Wildcat’s air combat role began to wane when the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair arrived at Guadalcanal in February 1943. Nevertheless, the stalwart F4F was still the front-line fighter when Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched Operation I-Go against Allied forces in the Solomons in April, and Marine Lieutenant James Swett shot down seven (and possibly eight) Aichi D3A1 Val dive bombers in a single combat.

As 1943 wore on, the Wildcat gradually was relegated to a support role as the F6F replaced it aboard fleet carriers. The F4F’s small size, ruggedness and range (enhanced by two 58 gallon drop tanks) continued to make it ideal for use off small escort carrier decks. The little warrior, in both US and Royal Navy markings contributed to eliminating the U-boat menace in the Atlantic.

A General Motors­built version of the F4F received a marginal boost when a Wright 1,350 hp (1007 kW) single-row radial was installed in place of the 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney. The first production models of the new variant, designated the FM-2, arrived in late 1943. The FM-2’s new engine, coupled with a 350 pound weight reduction, produced improvements in performance over the F4F. In fact, postwar tests revealed the late-model A6M5 Zero to be only 13 mph (21 km) faster.

FM-2s were normally teamed with TBF Avengers in so-called VC “composite” squadrons on small escort carriers. During the Battle of Savo on 25 October 1944, FM-2s and Avengers from several “baby flattops” aided destroyers in disrupting an overwhelming Japanese battleship task force that surprised the American invasion fleet off the Philippines. The aircraft, although handicapped by a lack of anti-shipping ordnance, so demoralized the Japanese that a potential American disaster was averted.

Although opportunities for air combat were few, FM-2s notched a respectable 422 kills (many of them kamikaze aircraft) by the end of the war. On 5 August 1945, a VC-98 FM-2 from USS Lunga Point shot down a Yokosuka P1Y1 Frances recon bomber to score the last Wildcat kill of the war.

XF4F-1: Grummans biplane design with the Navy designation XF4F-1. This was cancelled in favour of the monoplane design.
XF4F-2: Grummans first monoplane design (Grumman G-18) with the Navy ordering one example designated XF4F-2.
XF4F-3: further development of the XF4F-2 led to the XF4F-3 (Grumman G-36) with many new design changes. Powered by a XR-1830-76 Twin Wasp engine and a two-stage supercharger.
F4F-3: designation given to the production aircraft of XF4F-3 prototype.
F4F-3A: designation given to US Navy aircraft with the R-1830-90 engine with a single stage supercharger.
G-36A: export version which flew as the Martlet Mk I, II, III, IV. Later they all reverted back to the Wildcat designation.
XF4F-4: prototype incorporating changes learned from Marlet combat experiences.
F4F-4: US Navy production aircraft of the above.
F4F-7: final production variant built as a long range reconnaissance aircraft. Only twenty were built.
XF4F-8: two prototype aircraft.
FM-1: F4F-4 aircraft built by General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division. Export aircraft of this type served as the Martlet V (later the Wildcat V).
FM-2: The General Motors built production aircraft based on the XF4F-8 prototypes. Powered by a 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9 radial engine.

Specifications (Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat)
Type: Single Seat Carrier Based Fighter
Design: Grumman Design Team Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and also built by the General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division
Powerplant: (XF4F-2) One 1,050 hp (783 kw) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp 14-cyclinder two row radial engine. (G-36A, Martlet I) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Wright R-1820-G205A Cyclone 9-cyclinder radial engine. (F4F-3) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Wright R-1830-76 Twin Wasp 9-cylinder radial engine. (F4F-4, FM-1) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp radial engine. (FM-2) One 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine.
Performance: Maximum speed 318 mph (512 km/h) at 19,400 ft (5915 m) cruising speed 155 mph (249 km/h) service ceiling 39,400 ft (12010 m).
Range: 770 miles (1239 km) with internal fuel stores.
Weight: Empty 5,785 lbs (2612 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 7,952 lbs (3607 kg).
Dimensions: Span 38 ft 0 in (11.58 m) length 28 ft 9 in (8.76 m) height 9 ft 2 1/2 in (2.81 m) wing area 260 sq ft (24.15 sq m).
Armament: Six 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning-Colt machine guns, and underwing racks for two 250 lbs (113 kg) bombs.
Avionics: None.
History: First flight (XF4F-2) 2 September 1937 (XF4F-3) 12 February 1939 production (G-36 and F4F-3) February 1940 (FM-2) March 1943 final delivery August 1945.
Operators: RCAF, RN, USMC, USN, France, Greece.


* As the F4F-3 emerged, it was a stubby, barrel-like aircraft, with mid-mounted square-tipped wings and a sliding frame-style canopy. There was also a small window on each side of the floor of the cockpit to give a pilot better downward visibility -- though in practice, the belly windows proved nearly useless. Cockpit armor was added after the first few production aircraft. An inflatable life raft was carried in the fuselage behind the cockpit and could be ejected on ditching, but it was later deleted in favor of a raft in the pilot's survival pack. Inflatable flotation bags were fitted under the wings for ditching at sea, but after the bags spontaneously inflated in flight a few times, leading to crashes, they were abandoned. Electronics included a radio and, at least eventually, a radio direction finder and an identification friend or foe (IFF) unit.

Two 12.7-millimeter M2 Browning machine guns were mounted on each wing, for a total of four guns. The guns were mounted inboard, close together on each wing, with the inner gun staggered forward slightly. Ammunition capacity was 450 rounds per gun. The first two production machines had twin 7.62-millimeter Brownings in the engine cowling and a single 12.7-millimeter M2 Browning in each wing as per the prototypes, but that armament was seen as too light, and no full production Wildcat had cowling guns. The Browning guns would prove prone to jamming when the Wildcat finally found itself in combat, even though such problems hadn't been observed during trials. As it turned out, the trials hadn't been conducted with full ammunition loads, and when a full supply of ammunition was provided the ammo belts would shift around in their ammo cases during combat maneuvers, leading to jams. Spacers were quickly fabricated and inserted into the ammo cases, solving the problem.

Early production aircraft had a 1930s telescopic-style gunsight, but in 1941 production shifted to a deflection-type sight. An armor glass windscreen and self-sealing fuel tanks were also added later. The self-sealing tanks led to some problems early on, since they could shed particles of their lining, leading to clogged fuel lines and aircraft losses. There was a stores rack under each outer wing for a 45-kilogram (100-pound) bomb.

Early production aircraft used a P&W R-1830-76 Twin Wasp with a two-stage supercharger, while later production used the R-1830-86 Twin Wasp, which was much the same but had some modifications to improve reliability. Fit of the later engine variant was accompanied by a modified cowling, which eliminated an air scoop in the upper lip, and replaced one wide cowling flap on the upper rear of each side of the cowling with a set of three flaps near the top and a single flap near the bottom -- in sum, replacing two flaps with eight. The Twin Wasp engine drove a three-blade variable-pitch Curtiss Electric propeller. Engine cooling problems during evaluation led to the fit of "cuffs" at the base of the propeller blades to increase airflow to the engine, with production aircraft retaining the cuffs.

The square-tipped wings were fixed and could not be folded. The flight surface arrangement was conventional, with ailerons outboard on each wing, a one-piece wide-span flap under each inner wing, and a tail assembly with elevators and rudder. The main landing gear retracted into the fuselage, and a stinger-type arresting hook extended backward from the tail. The landing gear was manually retracted, with the pilot turning a crank 29 times to tuck the gear into the fuselage. As a result, Wildcats tended to wobble on take-off, since it was hard for a pilot to keep a steady grip on the stick with one hand while spinning the crank with the other.

Pilots were not enthusiastic about the manual landing gear. It was not only laborious -- but if a pilot's hand slipped off the crank it would spin around wildly, possibly injuring the pilot's wrist in the process. The narrow "roller skate" track of the main landing gear was also a problem. It generally didn't cause too much trouble on carrier landings since the arresting cable caught the aircraft before it could wander far, but ground looping was common when landing on airstrips. Pilots were also not happy with the cramped cockpit, which provided poor visibility, and were very unhappy at the lack of a simple mechanism for discarding the canopy so they could get out in a hurry when things got difficult. However, the F4F-3 was rugged and had good performance. The USN liked the F4F-3, ultimately buying a total of 285.

* The subject of Wildcat variants is confusing, since most Wildcat models looked much alike, and the changes followed an odd pattern. Even before the Wildcat had reached formal US Navy service, both the French Navy and the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) had ordered the Wildcat, specifying their own unique configurations:

    The French variant was the Grumman "G-36A", to be fitted with the Wright R-1820-G205A Cyclone 9-cylinder single-row radial engine with 750 kW (1,000 HP), driving an uncuffed Hamilton Standard propeller. The G-36A was fitted with a shortened cowling, with an inlet in the upper lip but no flaps in the rear. It was to have fixed wings and six 7.5-millimeter Darne machine guns, with two in the nose cowling and two in each wing. The guns and other French kit, such as radio and gunsight, were to be installed after delivery. The French ordered 81, plus 10 complete sets of spares.

That was the plan, but wasn't exactly how things turned out. Trials of the French G-36A began on 11 May 1940, but France fell to the Nazis that month and the French never saw these machines. The British took over the order and the machines were delivered to the FAA beginning in late July 1940 under the designation of "Martlet Mark I" -- a "martlet" being a legendary bird, like a swallow but without feet, that never came out of the sky to roost. The ten spares sets were actually provided as finished aircraft ten of the Martlet Is were lost when the freighter carrying them was torpedoed, and so the FAA received a total of 81. They were delivered with four 12.7-millimeter Browning guns in the wings.

The FAA had originally expected to obtain their G-36Bs with fixed wings, but Grumman was working on a wing-folding scheme at the time, which would allow a carrier to handle a substantially larger complement of aircraft. The British amended the contract to specify the folding wings, but the first ten of the order had already been built with fixed wings, arriving in the UK beginning in April 1941. Deliveries of the folding-wing G-36Bs began in August, with 36 shipped to Britain and 54 shipped to the Far East they were designated "Martlet Mark II", with the ten fixed-wing aircraft then designated "Martlet Mark III".

The ten Martlet IIIs were apparently later refitted with folding wings it is unclear if they were then redesignated Martlet Mark IIs. They are informally referred to here with the designation "Martlet III(A)" for convenience, since there would be another set of machines with a different configuration that were also known as Martlet IIIs. Nobody actually used the "(A)" suffix in practice, however.

* In the meantime, the Navy was concerned with engine development, worrying that the P&W R-1830-76 engine with a two-stage supercharger might run into development problems. Grumman built two "XF4F-5" test prototypes with the Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone radial as something of an "insurance policy" the Navy also took out another "insurance policy" by ordering one more test prototype, the "XF4F-6", powered by a P&W R-1830-90 Twin Wasp with a single-stage two-speed supercharger. All three of these prototypes were evaluated in late 1940. Not surprisingly, the XF4F-6 suffered a loss of power at higher altitudes, but the Navy still ordered 95 of them under the designation of "F4F-3A". Except for the engine, the F4F-3A was effectively identical to the early production F4F-3, using the cowling with the air scoop and twin cowling flaps, and the cuffed Curtiss Electric propeller.

30 F4F-3As were to be provided to the Greeks and were being shipped when the Nazis overran Greece. They were taken over by the British in Gibraltar, to also be given the designation of "Martlet Mark III". They are informally referred to here as "Martlet Mark III(B)" to distinguish them from the fixed-wing G-36B Martlet Mark III(A) machines.

In summary, the tangle of deliveries of early mark Martlets ran like this:

    Martlet I: Originally G-36As for France, with fixed wings and Wright Cyclone engine, 81 delivered to the FAA not counting ten lost en route.

The FAA would become an enthusiastic user of the Wildcat, with the type ultimately equipping a total of eleven squadrons.

Grumman Martlet lands on carrier - History

Many of the thumbnails below link to photos on the Navy Historical Center site. That site is an excellent resource for modellers and enthusiasts, covering USN history, ships, aircraft, and some very interesting additional information.

Some photos were also taken off of a thread on Warbird Information Exchange that hosted many Grumman photos.

Additional photos are from Life magazine's online archive. For those photos I have chosen not to crop the photos to remo ve the word LIFE.

* The James Dietz painting above illust rates Joe Foss returning to Guadalcanal after a mission on 25 January, 1943. Leading a flight of eight F4F Wildcats and four P-38s Foss encountered a Japanese force of approximately 100 aircraft. Through superior tactic s the small element was able to convince the Japanese that there were more than a mere dozen aircraft airborne over the "Canal". It was this kind of fortitude that made the United States Navy an effective force to be reckoned with even when often outnumbered during the first half of the war in the Pacific.

A little prelude before we get to the F4F.

The first of the line that was eventually to become the F4F Wildcat started with the (by today's standards) goofy looking FF-1, often referred to as "Fifi". This was followed by the F2F (of which unfortunately there are no survivors) through the F3F. This aircraft starred in at least two movies: 1940's Flight Command and a year later in Dive Bomber. Watching those movies on TV as a kid got me interested in the little fighter. This aircraft evolved into the F4F, which in its earliest design was a biplane.

FF-1 F2F-1 F3F-1 F3F-2 F3F-3
Wingspan: 34' 6" 28' 6" 32' 32' 32'
Length: 24' 10" 21' 5" 23' 23" 1 1/2" 23' 1 1/2"
Power plant: R-1820E R-1535-72 R-1535-84 R-1820-22 R-1820-22
Speed: 198 mph 229 mph 231 mph 256 mph 263 mph
Armament: 3x .30 cal 2x .30 cal 1x .50 & 1x .30 1x .50 & 1x .30 1x .50 & 1x .30
Bureau No.s 9350/9376 9623/9676 & 9997 0211/0264 0967/1047 1444/1470

F4F-3 F4F-3A F4F-4 FM-1 FM-2 Martlet I Martlet II Martlet III Martlet IV

Wingspan: 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0" 38' 0"
Length: 1 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5" 28' 10.5"
Power plant: R-1830-76* R-1830-90 R-1830-86 R-1830-86 R-1820-56** R-1820-G205A R-1830-S3C4-G R-1830-S3C4-G R-1820-G205
Speed: 2 330 mph 306 mph 320 mph 320 mph 332 mph 308 mph
Armament: 4 X .50 4 X .50 6 X .50 4 X .50 4 X .50 4 X .50 6 X .50 4 X .50 6 X .50

1: Though references show the length the same for all models, it would seem that the R-1820 versions should be shorter.
2: Airspeed is dependent upon several factors and these numbers are very subjective.
* Either R-1830-76, or R-1830-86
** R-1820-56, -56A, -56W, -56WA,

The F4F Wildcat entered service during an era of colorful markings, fuselages were painted silver, wing upper surfaces were painted chrome yellow, tails were painted in color to identify the aircraft carrier an aircraft was assigned to and section colors were applied to the nose and chevrons on the upper wings. As World War Two approached the need to better conceal aircraft and ships was identified by the Navy and on December 30, 1940 a directive was issued for combat aircraft to be painted in light gray. This color was similar to light gull gray (FS36440). On October 13, 1941 another directive was issued adding non-specular blue gray to surface viewed from above. This scheme had been in use for patrol planes for some time and was considered to be very effective. February 1, 1943 brought another change when the overall scheme was changed to non-specular sea blue, intermediate blue and white. On March 22, 1944 those colors were all changed to gloss. On October 7, 1944 a final change was made when it was directed that gloss sea blue was to be the color scheme for carrier based aircraft. Two specialized schemes were adopted for Antisubmarine aircraft on July 19, 1943: Scheme I was non-specular gull gray on top[ surfaces, with non-specular light gull gray on sides and gloss white on under surfaces. Scheme II was to be non-specular dark gull gray on top, non-specular white on the sides and gloss white on the lower surfaces. Scheme II became the more prevalent of the two, but in any case all of the above mentioned schemes were applied to Wildcats.

XFF-1 Prototype for FF-1. Bu No. 8878

FF-1 27 Production aircraft. Bu. No.s 9350/9376

This ungainly aircraft would lead to the graceful F3F and eventually to the F4F. FF-1 9351 is shown in the factory at Bethpage.

A Canadian Car & Foundry G-23 Goblin displayed as an FF-1 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. It was sold to Nicaragua in 1937, but was imported to the US in 1966.

The same airplane marked as Bu. No. 9358 at Bethpage, NY in 1966. Note the E-2 in the background.

FF-2 22 FF-1s converted to dual control trainers. Some sources state 25 airframes were converted.

The most noticeable differences from the FF-1 are a collector ring for the exhaust (vs. individual stubs on the FF-1) and the deletion of the tail hook. This FF-2 is in service with a United States Navy Reserve (USNR) unit.

XSF-1 Prototype for a scout version of the FF-1. Bu. No. 8940

SF-1 Scout version of the FF-1 with dual controls. 34 built Bu. No.s 9460/9493.

XSF-2 9493 converted to planned version of SF-2. Not produced.

GG-1 A company demonstrator built from unused FF-1 and SF-1 components. Sold to Canadian Car & Foundry.

G-22 A hybrid airplane with the fuselage of an F3F and the short wings of an F2F.

Delivered to Gulf Oil in 1936 the Gulfhawk II was flown by Major Alford Joseph"Al" Williams as a demonstration airplane until donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1948. It is now on display in the Steven Udvar-Hazy center.

G-23 55 Production aircraft of the GG-1 design built by Canadian Car & Foundry.

The G-23, or Goblin as christened by the RCAF, was an aircraft the RCAF did not want. Those aircraft were part of a "Turkish" order, but were in fact aircraft meant for the Spanish Republican forces. Sixteen were seized in Canada after it was learned their true destination. Those planes was neither desired, nor liked by the RCAF, but they did provide valuable training. Of the flight of six Goblins, four are without their canopies. One must wonder how miserable it would have been to fly in the Canadian winters with only a windscreen for protection.

Delivered in late 1940, the G-23s were painted in the then current RAF Fighter Command scheme of Dark Earth and Dark Green topside with the underside painted half black, half white.

XF2F-1 Prototype for F2F fighter. Bu. No. 9342.

F2F-1 Production version. 55 built Bu. No.s 9623/9676 & 9997.

XF3F-1 Prototype for F3F-1. Bu. No. 9727 (three different aircraft carried this Bureau number, the original and two substitutes, each to replace a previously destroyed one.).

F3F-1 54 production airframes. Bu. No.s 0211/0264

F3F-2 81 Production aircraft. Bu. No.s 0967/1047.

XF3F-4 Test version. One more conversion for 1031.

XF4F-1 Biplane fighter, none built.

The XF4F-1 had not advanced beyond a preliminary design before Grumman realized that a biplane could not off the performance needed to compete with Brewster's F2A Buffalo. The design was then changed to a monoplane that became the XF4F-2. During the late 1960s, or early 1970s, aviation history Lloyd Jones published a set of drawings of the proposed F4F-1. The above artwork is based on those drawings to represent a "what if" of what that airplane might have looked like in service. Even the choice of engine was never finalized, with both the Wright R-1670 and the P&W R-1535 being considered for the design.

XF4F-2 First Wildcat prototype, monoplane. Bu. No. 0383

XF4F-3 0383 converted to the F4F-3 prototype.

The F4F-3 had four .50 caliber machine guns, non folding wings and a straight pitot tube that came out of the leading edge of the left wing. Early aircraft had an air intake on top of the cowl lip, a single double wide cowl flap on each side and a telescopic gun sight. The power plant was a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 engine with a two stage, two speed supercharger. This was a 14 cylinder, twin row radial engine. The propeller used on the F4F-3 and F4F-4 was a three bladed, cuffed Curtiss Electric with a cylindrical hub.

F4F-3 First service version. Bu. No.s 1844/1845, 1848/1896, 2512/2538, 3856/3874, 3905/3969, 3970/4057 and 12230/12329

F4F-3 Bu. No. 1850. When the F4F first entered service the navy paint schemes were still very colorful. This aircraft is assigned to VF-41 aboard the USS Ranger (CV-4). The fuselage is painted silver, the upper wing surfaces are chrome yellow and the tail is painted in the ship's color. In this case willow green for Ranger. This aircraft is assigned to the section leader, second section as denoted by the white cowl and fuselage band. The fuselage code should read "41-F-4", meaning the number four airplane of VF-41. At this time, the national insignia is on the upper and lower surfaces of both wings. (USN)

An F4F-3 (Bu. No. 2526) over Long Island in 1941. As WWII approached, color schemes became more drab, with the first change being to an overall scheme of non-specular light gray, with small national insignia and white lettering. The directive for this scheme was issued in December, 1940. As some aircraft had already been painted silver at the factory, Grumman requested that they be delivered in the silver color, but without yellow wings. (Life)

VF-42 F4F-3 2538 at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) Langley facility in 1941. Of interest is the unique sensor on the tail. The airplane is most likely in a scheme similar to the color photo of 2526. (NASA)

Three VMF-111 F4F-3s in flight during the Louisiana maneuvers. The stars are now on both side of the fuselage and the upper left and lower right wings. The red crosses on the wings and fuselage were for the war games. All three are painted in non-specular light gray overall. (USN)

An early F4F-3 in flight. This aircraft is in the non-specular blue gray over non-specular light gray camouflage that was in use at the time of America's entry into the war. This color combination became the standard for carrier aircraft in August 1941. The rudder stripes came into use on December 23, 1941 and would remain until May 6, 1942. The codes have now changed to simply "F-5", no longer identifying the squadron. (USN)

An F4F-3 taking off from the USS Enterprise. (Life)

A VF-8 F4F-3 aboard the USS Hornet in April, 1942 during the Doolittle raid on Japan. It is usually stated the the Hornet's aircraft where struck below deck to accommodate the B-25s taking part in the raid, but this photo shows otherwise. (USN)

Someone is about to suffer the Chief's wrath! An early F4F-3 is being brought up from the hangar deck aboard the USS Enterprise in late 1941 and something out of the photo is not as it should be. (Life)

A mixture of early and late F4F-3s aboard the USS Enterprise, March, 1942. (USN)

The F4F-3A differed from the F4F-3 in being powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 engine with a single stage, two speed supercharger. With that change in the supercharger the intercoolers were deleted, also deleting the intercooler intakes within the cowling. As far as I can determine that is the only sure-fire way to tell this variant of F4F-3 from the others.

F4F-3A As F4F-3, but with R-1830-90 engine and lesser performance. Bu. No.s 3905/3969

An F4F-3A on display at the NMNA and painted in the blue gray over light gray scheme. Note the large size of the national insignia. In the lower right corner is an A6M-2 Zero-sen, or "Zero", the Wildcat's adversary in the early stages of the war.

The late model F4F-3s were powered by the R-1830-86. This engine had a different carburetor arrangement and the intake on top of the cowl was eliminated. Some aircraft retained the original large cowl flap on the upper part of the cowl (Bu. Nos. 3856-3874) while the cowl flap arrangement was changed to three smaller flaps on the upper half and one smaller one on the lower half, both sides on later aircraft. (Bu. No.s 3970-4057). The gun sight was also the reflector type and the telescopic sight was now gone from USN and USMC Wildcats. (The external scoop atop the cowl lip was reinstated for Bu. Nos. 12230-12329)

An F4F-3 of VMF-121 in the overall light gray scheme sometime in 1941.

A VF-3 F4F-3 (Bu. No. 3982) rides the forward elevator aboard the USS Saratoga in October, 1941. (USN)

Late F4F-3s of VMF-211 cannibalized on Wake Island, December, 1941. These aircraft were originally light gray, but blue gray was sprayed on the top surfaces evident by the way that the light gray crosses the top of the cowl. (USN)

VF-6 F4F-3s aboard the USS Enterprise late 1941. (Life)

Deck crew manhandling a VF-6 Wildcat aboard the USS Enterprise late 1941. (Life)

Two late model F4F-3s, VF-3. Aircraft "F-1" (Bu. No. 3976) is flown by John Thach, while "F-13" (Bu. No. 3986) is flown by "Butch" O'Hare. Both aircraft are in blue gray over light gray, but notice how the tail stripes differ. This was common from aircraft to aircraft as were differences in national insignia. They also both sport the "Felix the Cat" markings, still in use today by VFA-31. (USN)

Though there were many Wildcat aces no person is more closely associated with the F4F than Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare, becoming the first USN ace of World War II and Medal of Honor recipient while serving with VF-3. (USN)

Life photographer Ralph Morse took a series of photos of Lieutenant Edward O'Hare in Hawaii during April, 1942. The first in this group shows O'Hare taxiing in an F4F-3 marked as F-7. (Life)

And climbing out of F-3. It is quite likely these were shot over the period of a few days, though it is possible that some were posed for publicity reasons. Felix the Cat of VF-6 is prominent under the windscreen and was applied to both sides of the fuselage. (Life)

O'Hare climbing down from F-3. (Life)

And walking away from F-7. Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach is walking into the photo from O'Hare's right. Butch O'Hare was later killed in combat, Thach finished the war with six kills and later became an admiral. (Life)

While the fuselage shows the larger insignia that came into use in early 1942, the tail stripes and wing insignia on this F4F-3 are covered with canvas. When aboard ship it was not uncommon for any colorful markings to be covered so as to make the ship less conspicuous. With something as large as an aircraft carrier that seems like a lesson in futility. (USN)

An F4F-3 launches off of the USS Charger sometime in late 1942/early 1943. This underside shot shows the position of the wing guns and ejection slots for spent shell casings. The inboard slots have containers mounted to capture those casings and the gun on aircraft left inboard has a fairing that was common on the F4F-3. This photo was originally reversed giving the impression that the pitot was on the right wing. A censor has also blotted out the ship's radar antenna. (Life)

F4F-3P Photo recon conversion of some F4F-3 airframes.

The F4F-3S was inspired by the A6M2-N Rufe and was meant to serve where forward bases were absent. The floats degraded the performance so badly that it was decided not to continue development. A ventral fin was added during the testing to increases stability.

The Wildcat inflight, with the tail hook down and the survivor on display at Chicago's O'Hare airport both illustrate the final version of the F4F-3. The aircraft in this last group utilize the cowling that was seen on all F4F-4 and FM-1 Wildcats.

The F4F-4 was the first Wildcat with folding wings. Armament was increased to six .50 caliber guns. The pitot tube was changed to one that curved forward from the bottom of the left wing. Powered by a P&W R-1830-86, the cowling was the same as the late F4F-3 with four cowl flaps per side (three on top, one on the bottom).

XF4F-4 Prototype for the folding wing F4F-4 with six gun armament. Bu. No. 1897.
F4F-4 Production version. 1,169 built. Bu. No.s 4058/4098, 5030/5262, 01991/02152, 03385/03544, 11655/12227.

A VF-41 F4F-4 in-flight. This aircraft still has the older style of coding "41-F-8", which remained in use for Atlantic based units long after it disappeared for those in the Pacific. This aircraft also has the six position stars. (USN)

Space is always at a premium aboard ship and the use of folding wings makes sense from that standpoint. These F4F-4s are packed aboard like sardines. Also note that when the wings are folded the ailerons position themselves away from the wing. (USN)

F4F-4s and TBF Avengers stowed aft on an aircraft carrier "somewhere in the Pacific". (USN)

Servicing of a VF-6 F4F-4's guns aboard the USS Enterprise in early 1942. The gun bays are open for all six guns. (USN)

Test firing of guns aboard the USS Ranger just prior to Operation Torch, the allied invasion of North Africa. The yellow circles around the national insignia was applied in preparation for that operation. During the air campaign, F4Fs fought against Vichy French operated Curtiss P-36s. (USN)

This F4F-4 is stated to be Bu. No. 5171, a VF-3 aircraft flown by John Thach on 4 June, 1942 during the Battle of Midway. (USN)

The next two photos show Wildcats at Henderson Field. The F4F was instrumental in routing the Japanese aircraft from the skies over Guadalcanal. The first photo dates from March, 1943 which was near the end of the Battle for Guadalcanal and near the end of the Wildcat's service in the Solomons. The second of the two shows an F4F with 19 kills, which is possibly a unit total. It is from Feb, 1943 (USN)

This flight of F4F-4s is shown airborne sometime in 1943. They are most likely a stateside training unit. (USN)

Rosenblatt's Reply is an F4F-4 aboard the USS Suwanee sometime in late 1942, or early 1943. The remnants of a yellow circle around the fuselage insignia indicate that this aircraft took part in the Torch landings. (USN)

Aircraft recognition has always been a problem during a conflict and at the beginning of World War Two many American aircraft were shot up by our own forces. To help alleviate that more conspicuous markings were applied. This F4F-4 illustrates the larger national insignia and rudder stripes used in the opening phases of WW II.

Two F4F-4s of VF-3 parked in revetments at Kaneohe, Hawaii, May, 1942. The Wildcat on the left is Bu. No. 5167, the one on the right is 5149. (USN)

A VMF-122 F4F-4 in a revetment at Camp Kearney, California sometime in 1942. Camp Kearney would later become Naval Air Station Mirimar. (USMC)

An F4F-4 launching from the USS Ranger (CV-4) during Operation Torch, 8 November, 1942. It appears that a tie down is dangling from the bomb rack under the port wing. (USN)

A VF-41 F4F-4 that nosed over on landing in North Africa during Operation Torch. (USN)

F4F and FM Wildcats operated mainly from Escort Carriers during the latter half of the war. This F4F-4 is carrying the Atlantic camouflage scheme of dark gull gray and light gull gray over white. This scheme is referred to as ASW-1 (or ASW-I) while the two color version of dark gull gray over white is ASW-2 (ASW-II). (USN)

The F4F-4s in this photo are somewhat of a mystery. They appear to be in the three color Atlantic Scheme I of dark gull gray and light gull gray over white. While that scheme was occasionally used on patrol aircraft the two color Scheme II of dark gull gray over white was more common on fighters, yet in these two photos this scheme is shown in use on fighters. The second Wildcat (5) might very well be the same one as in the first photo.

F4F-4A Projected version of the F4F-4 powered by an R-1830-90.

F4F-4B USN designation for the Wildcat IV in Fleet Air Arm (FAA) service. Powered by the R-1820-G205.

F4F-4P Photo recon conversion to at least one F4F-4 Bu. No.03386.

XF4F-5 Two F4F-3s re-engined with R-1820-40 engines. Bu. No.s 1846/1847.

XF4F-6 Prototype for F4F-3A. Bu. No. 7031

F4F-7 Unarmed recon version of F4F-4, with non folding wings. 21 built. Bu. No.s 5263/5283

The F4F-7 was an effort to add a long range photo reconnaissance mission to the Wildcat. Armament was deleted, wings were non-folding and extra fuel tanks were fitted. Though used in the Solomon Islands only twenty one were completed out of an order of one hundred with the balance being completed as F4F-3s. Two identifying features are the curved windscreen and two fuel dump tubes in the tail. These aircraft were Blue-Gray over Light Gull Gray.

XF4F-8 Two F4F-4s with R-1820-56 engines, reduced weight and slotted flaps. Also tested taller fin as used on the FM-2. Bu. No.s 12228/12229.

The two XF4F-8 Wildcats were an attempt to get more performance out of the F4F. Both were fitted with R-1820 engines. While 12228 retained the same fin and rudder as the F4F, 12229 tested the taller fin combination that became standard on the FM-2. Both aircraft also retained a six gun armament and the windows in the belly and 12228 retains the oil cooler fairings under the wings unlike the FM-2 derived from this airplane. (Grumman)

The FM-1 was the first General Motors produced version. Grumman was gearing up to produce F6Fs and needed to free up space, so GM was chosen to continue Wildcat production. The FM-1 differed from the F4F-4 only in the return to a four gun armament.

FM-1 General Motors licensed production of the F4F-4 with only four guns. 1,060 built. Bu. No.s 14992/15951 and 46738/46837.

The first Eastern built FM-1 (Bu. No. 14992) at Anacostia in 1942. With the exception of only carrying four wing guns the FM-1 was a copy of the F4F-4. (USN)

An FM-1 that has suffered some indignities while landing aboard ship. Note that most of the main gear is painted black, while the strut appears to be dull silver with the exception of the telescoping portion, which is bright. This was the standard for Wildcats. The national insignia now has the blue bordered white bars added. Tri color scheme. (USN)

An FM-1 in the three tone scheme of non-specular sea blue, non-specular intermediate blue and non-specular white inflight over North Island, California in 1943.

The FM-2 was the final development of the Wildcat series and was also the most numerous version. The FM-2 was powered by a nine cylinder, single row Wright R-1820-56, -56W, or -56WA engine. The change to this engine changed the shape of cowling, which was now slighter shorter in chord, but a little fatter without an intake atop the cowl. The radio mast that had been raked forward on earlier versions was changed to one that stuck straight out from the spine. Most references list only one type of propeller, but photos indicate at least two types were used: 1. A Curtiss Electric, uncuffed, paddle bladed propeller, which still had the same double cylinder appearance of the earlier prop hubs, or 2. An uncuffed, paddle bladed Hamilton Standard. This last propeller had a distinctive dome shaped hub. The FM-2 also had a taller tail than earlier versions and a four gun armament in folding wings.
A change in the oil cooler system deleted the oil coolers carried beneath the wings on earlier Wildcat types.

FM-2 General Motors built version of the F4F-8. Taller tail, lighter weight and R-1820-56, -56W, -56A, -56WA engine. This version also had an exceptional rate of climb and with 4,127 built was also the most produced variant. Bu No.s 15952/16791, 46838/47437, 55050/55649, 56684/57083, 73499/75158 and 86297/86793.

FM-2 Bu. No. 15953, the second FM-2, undergoes flight testing in late 1943. (USN)

A VC-12 FM-2 operating in ASW duties off of the USS Card in February, 1944. ASW-2. (USN)

VC-4 aircraft aboard the USS Kitkun Bay on 25 October, 1944 during the Battle off Samar when ships, aircraft and men of Task Unit 77.4.3, better known as "Taffy 3", turned back an attack by a much larger Japanese task force. In the background shells are seen splashing close by the USS White Plains. (USN)

Two VC-4 FM-2s operating from the USS White Plains. These aircraft are in the "tri-color" scheme: Sea blue and intermediate blue over white.

Trouble for a young ensign! A nosed over FM-2 aboard the USS Sable (IX-81), one of two carriers built upon paddle steamers whose sole purpose was to train pilots while sailing the Great Lakes. The other carrier was the USS Wolverine (IX-64). Both ships were crucial in training young aviators and the Great Lakes provide a secure area that was not menaced by U-boats, or other Axis threats. Quite a few aircraft were lost in Lake Michigan and several have been recovered over the last couple of decades. (USN)

An FM-2 of VC-13 taking off from the USS Core (CVE-13), having just dis-engaged from the catapult. The catapult bridle is visible just below the left main gear having disengaged from the launching hook on the Wildcat. The colors on this aircraft are dark gull gray over white. This combination was used for airwings operating mainly in the North Atlantic. It was also carried on TBF/TBM Avengers, F4F-4s and FM-1s, PV-1s and several other types.

An FM-2 of VF-26* patrols above the USS Santee (CVE-29) in October 1944. The Santee was knocked out of action later that month. By this time period aircraft were being delivered in an overall gloss sea blue scheme.

While one FM-2 recovers aboard the USS Charger another is making a go-around in the pattern. This was during work-ups in May, 1944. (USN)

An FM-2 at the NACA Langley facility in January, 1945. (NASA)

* Most CVEs operating in the Atlantic specialized in ASW and the make up of the squadron reflected this. They usually carried a Composite Squadron (VC) which comprised Wildcats and Avengers (or "Turkeys" as they have come to be called), while those CVEs in the Pacific normally had conventional fighter (VF) and Torpedo Squadrons (VT), though late in the war they too carried VC units.

A VC-84 FM-2 catapulted from the USS Makin Island in October, 1945. World War II has been over for a month and the Wildcat will soon be gone from navy service. (USN)

Martlet/Wildcat in FAA service

mart-let 1. Brit. Dial. a house martin 2. Heraldry. a representation of a swallow close and without legs, used esp. as the cadency mark of a fourth son. OK, Neither one of these really give an appealing definition to a great fighter. The Wildcat was initially called the Martlet by the Fleet Air Arm, but thankfully the correct name was restored with the Wildcat IV to avoid confusion. Maybe to avoid friction among allies too.

G-36A 81 Export Grumman Wildcats ordered by France. These aircraft were powered by a Wright R-1820-G205A and armed with six 7.5 mm machine guns, two in the cowling and two in each of the fixed wings.

The first G-36A at the Grumman factory in Bethpage, NY. The trough for the cowl gun and the bulge for its breech are visible in this photo. Those would be deleted when the UK took over the order. The wing guns were replaced with four Browning .50 caliber guns as well. The color of this airplane is open to dispute. Some sources state that the aircraft were finished in a light blue, while others call for a light gray. My personal opinion is light gray.

Martlet I 81 Grumman G-36A aircraft were ordered by France, but could not be delivered before the fall of France. Very similar to the F4F-3, but powered by the GR-1820-G205A engine and utilizing an un-cuffed Hamilton Standard propeller with a domed hub. This aircraft had the carburetor scoop atop a cowling that resembled the one used on the FM-2, but lacked cowl flaps. The Martlet I used an F4F-3 pitot tube. The two fuselage guns were deleted and the wing guns were replaced with Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns. Serials AL236/262, AX824/829, BJ507/527, BJ554/BJ570, BT447/BT456 (This last batch was lost at sea when the U46 sank the SS Rupera , so some references only show 71 Martlet Is). Two Martlet I aircraft shot down a Ju88 near Scapa Flow on 25 December, 1940 for the first kill by an American built airplane in British service.

Two shots of a Martlet I at Bethpage, New York prior to delivery to the Fleet Air Arm. The camouflage colors used by Grumman were listed in documents as "Extra Dark Sea Gray, Light Sea Green and Duck Egg Blue.". Those colors are far glossier than the colors used on other FAA aircraft. It is unclear whether the aircraft were repainted at Grumman in a scheme equivalent to the FAA scheme, or if that was done after delivery. The spacing for the four wings guns is different from the Navy F4F-3, with the outer gun being farther outboard on the Martlet I.

A Martlet packed for shipping.

A Martlet I (AL257) of the Fleet Air Arm over the English country side. The color scheme is the standard FAA scheme of extra dark sea gray and slate gray over sky under surfaces This color combination is some times called "Sewage and Slime".

Martlet II (G-36B) Similar to F4F-4, but powered by the R-1830-S3C4-G. 100 built AJ100/AJ153, AM954/AM963 (non folding wings and some sources claim they became Martlet IIIs) and AM964/AM999. The Martlet II was a hybrid aircraft, the first ten aircraft of this one hundred plane order did not have folding wings, but the remainder did. The engine was the P&W R-1830-S3C-G engine, export version of the R-1830-86, the intake on the upper lip was deleted, but the cowl flaps reverted to the single double wide flap per side. As this powerplant utilized a single stage, two speed supercharger intercoolers were not used. Consequently, the intercooler intakes within the cowl lip were deleted. The pitot arrangement started out as the same type as on the F4F-3, but it was too easily damaged when folding the wings. A "kinked" pitot that looked like the number 7 was tried before settling on the type used on the F4F-4. The propeller fitted was a cuffed Curtiss Electric with the domed hub. The cowling resembled the one used on late model F4F-3s but used only one cowl flap per side.

Martlet II (AJ148) in on the ground in Oran, Algeria during Operation Torch. This is the same scheme as above. Note the Fairey Albacores in the background. (USN)

Three Martlet Mk II fighters sit with their wings folded to illustrate how much space is saved with fold-able wings.

Martlet II AJ128 aboard the HMS Formidable in 1942.

AM966 and other Martlet II fighters aboard the HMS Illustrious.

Martlet III (G-36) As Martlet I, but powered by the R-1830-S3C4-G and using a Curtiss Electric propeller as fitted on the F4F-3 and F4F-4. The cowling resembled the type used on the F4F-4 with only a single cowl flap per side, however like the F4F-3A and Martlet II there were not intercooler intakes within the cowl. A straight pitot tube was fitted on the left wing like the F4F-3. 30 built AX724/747, AX753/AX754, AX761, HK840/842 (ex Bu. No. 3875/3904). Originally ordered by Greece. The Martlet III was identical to the F4F-3A and in fact they were the first thirty F4F-3As ordered. Some sources roll AM954/AM963 (Martlet II) into this order as well.

An 805 squadron (FAA) Martlet III landing in North Africa. This aircraft is mid stone and dark earth over azure blue. The aircraft in this block had been earmarked for Greece, but taken over by Great Britain after the fall of Greece. Some sources state that these aircraft were finished in an overall azure blue, but as the comprised the first thirty F4F-3A Wildcats it is more likely that they were painted in the current USN/USMC scheme of overall light gray. Either way 805 sdqn slowly added first the Mid Stone and then the Dark Earth.

Wildcat IV F4F-4B, an F4F-4 powered by an R-1820-G205 engine. 220 supplied to FAA. FN100/FN319 (Name changed to Wildcat to standardize with USN) The Martlet IV is best described as an F4F-4 with an R-1820-G205 engine. The cowling was "shorter and fatter" (sounds like a broken record, huh?) without a cowl intake and the propeller was an un-cuffed Hamilton Standard with a domed hub. F4F-4 pitot tube. This version was designated the F4F-4B by the USN.

FN100, the first Martlet IV. This photo looks like the aircraft is Blue Gray over Gull Gray, but I suspect that that is due to lighting the aircraft is most likely Extra Dark Sea Gray/Slate Gray/Sky. Some of the Martlet IVs that took part in Operation Torch carried U.S. markings. This was an attempt to avoid intimidating the Vichy French, as it was believed that the French would be less hostile to an American invasion versus an English one. (USN)

A Martlet IV taxing aboard the HMS Formidable.

Wildcat V The Wildcat V was the FM-1 in FAA service. 312 to FAA. JV325/JV636 .

A Wildcat V (JV579) of 846 squadron in the standard FAA scheme, but with invasion stripes for Operation Overlord. Most (if not all) Wildcat Vs were delivered in this color combination.

Wildcat VI 370 FM-2s were operated by the FAA as the Wildcat VI. Serials JV637/JV824, JW785/JW836 and JZ860/JZ889.

A Wildcat VI (JV642) in the standard FAA color scheme. Some Wildcat VIs were delivered in the USN scheme of overall glossy Sea Blue.

The story of the Wildcat would not be complete without mention of the -

The photos in my collection started as a way to gain ready reference for model building. In my prime modeling days, there were not any surviving F3Fs to be seen. The ones on display today are either rebuilt from wrecks, or built new from the ground up. They are faithful reproductions and do represent the ultimate 1 to 1 scale model! For many years the only F3F kit widely available was the ancient Monogram F3F-2 in 1/32nd scale. It still has merit, but does require a great amount of work. The model has a unique retractable landing you pull on the prop and then turn it! There are several holes in the fuselage where the gears for the retraction mechanism protrude. The wings were also too short, representing Al Williams' Gulf Hawk rather than an F3F, and in fact at one time had been released as such. Still, all in all it can be built into a beautiful representation of the F3F. Since that time Rareplanes had released a vacuform kit in 72nd , as had Esoteric. Both companies now long gone. MPM currently has an F3F-1, F3F-2 and an FF-1 in 72nd. All three are little jewels in my opinion. They have resin engines and photo etched parts. Lastly, I can not fail to mention the Accurate Miniatures 48th F3F-1 and F3F-2, which are probably the best of the lot.

The first Wildcat kit I ever built was the 1/48th Monogram kit. Let me just say, well, Monogram has come a long way since then. This kit is really for collectors. Since those days most of the Wildcat kits I have built have been 1/72nd. The Revell kit is an old standby and with some added detail can build up very nice. It does need to have the "boiler plate" rivets sanded off though and today modellers also have the choice of building the Hasegawa kit. When I first saw the Hasegawa kit, I actually thought it lacked in detail. This is especially true in the gear area which on the actual aircraft is "chock" full of stuff. Several years ago True Details released a cockpit detail set that also has the gear bay. This adds greatly to the Hasegawa kit. The "Hase" kit has been released as several versions, some requiring some minor modifications. As molded, it represents an F4F-4 and with very minor modifications (filling the outboard gun bays and hole for the guns) can be built as an FM-1 or Martlet V. A quick rundown of the releases: F4F-4 (no modification necessary), Wildcat V (see FM-1), an FM-1 (fill in out board gun ports, there are no gun bay panels molded on the kit) and as an F4F-3 (fill wing fold joint and change cowl flap arrangement for early -3s) Hasegawa has released this kit as a -3 with at least two different sets of markings, one with Thach's aircraft and one as an overall gray a/c. The Martlet V has two choices: JV579 (photo of actual aircraft above) and JV406 of 861 sqdn. The latter is without invasion stripes. The FM-1 kit has markings for an Atlantic scheme VC-12 bird and a VC-33 tri color aircraft. Academy has an F4F that though a little spartan can be built into a good replica (it is one of their first kits). It has only one set of markings: an Atlantic scheme aircraft. Hobby Boss has several versions of the F4F (F4F-3, F4F-4 and FM-1), though all actually represent an F4F-4. AZ Models and Admiral have shared molds for several releases. The way their kits are molded and with the parts in most kits one can build any of the fixed wing Wildcat/Martlet variants. This include the unique gun arrangement for the G-36A and Martlet I.

The FM-2 has four entries in 72nd worth mentioning. The first is the elderly Airfix kit, which though requiring work can be built up very nicely. Probably the biggest drawback is the plethora of rivets. But hey folks, that's what sandpaper was invented for. This kit has been released more times than I can count and has included many different decals. The release I have is from 1986 and contains decals for a USMC squadron CO's aircraft and a rather generic FAA bird in the "sewage and slime" scheme. The second kit is MPM's FM-2. This kit is really an entire Academy kit with a new fuselage with the taller tail, different exhaust ports, etc. It is one of MPM's earlier kits and though it doesn't currently have resin parts it does have etched metal parts. Markings are for an Atlantic scheme VC-12 aircraft and a VC-93 FM-2 off of the USS PetrofBay. The markings for this aircraft are very nice: a large white outline of a shamrock on an over all blue Wildcat. I am in the process (Jan 2016) of building a 1/72nd scale Petrof Bay, so those markings are of great interest to me. Sword introduced a kit in 2004. For the price it is not much better than the MPM version, however it is a very good representation of an FM-2. AZ Modles and Admiral have released the same kit with very fine resin parts and etched metal. These releases make the kit stand out and I would recommend either one of those boxings. Hobby Boss is the most recent, though the wings are from the F4F-4 with six guns and the oil coolers beneath the wings. It also suffers from the compromised way that Hobby Boss created their molds: The cowling looks to be modified from their F4F molds and the engine only has seven cylinders.

Several decals were available at one time in 72nd. A few being Microscale (later Superscale) 72-287 "F4F USN-USMC Aces" (all Blue Gray/Gull Gray) and 72-668 "Pre-WWII F4F-3 Wildcats VF-41 & VF-72 Section Leaders", Aero Master 72-005 "USN & USMC Wildcat Collection" (one overall gray, 3 blue/gray and one tri color) and 72-009 "US Aircraft in FAA Service" (JV579 again and a desert Mk III). Ministry of Small Aircraft Productions released a sheet that had seven aircraft, including two for Torch aircraft. There are certainly more, although certainly not a lot more, but for the most part Wildcats did not carry intricate markings. The exception being the late war escort carrier markings, but those are better painted on anyway. One very unique emblem that appeared on VMO-251 F4Fs was a large octopus, which to the best of my knowledge was only available on a 32nd scale Super Scale sheet. Since I started writing this in 2001 there have been several more decal releases including ones covering FAA use. Also, quite a number of detail sets as well.

In 48th scale Tamiya has a great F4F-4. At one time Kendal had an FM-2 conversion, but that is currently out of production. Hobby Boss has released early and late F4F-3s, F4F-4, FM-1 and FM-2 Wildcats. The 48th scale Hobby Boss kits are very nice kits with the F4F-3, F4F-4, FM-1 and FM-2 very well represented. I have looked at these kits in the box and they hold up very, though I have yet to build any. Aero Master and Eagle Strike have decal sheets available.

For many years the only 32nd scale kit is the Revell kit which is re-released from time to time. This kit is almost as old as I am, but has held up better. It is a little crude, with grapefruits for rivets, it does have folding wings though, but the hinge is really not strong enough. Far better to fix the wings in place. The engine is good and with some detailing would be a model unto itself. For someone up to the challenge this kit is a rewarding project. In 2003 Trumpeter released their version which is a really nice kit Hobbycraft has released the same mold under their label and with the diminutive size of the Wildcat I can see people buying multiples of each.

A quick run down of the most common exterior colors. Not all ANA numbers have an exact match in the FS595a standard and Blue Gray does mot have an ANA number. Trying to correlate ANA numbers to FS numbers also has pitfalls as they are often not the same. The pre war Light Gray is a pure gray whereas Light Gull Gray has a slight brownish cast to it. At best many of these colors simple get one "in the ballpark".

Name ANA number FS595a equivalent
Chrome Yellow (Orange Yellow) 614 13538
Insignia White 601 17875
Insignia Blue 605 35044
Light Gull Gray 620 36440
Dark Gull Gray 621 36231
Blue Gray ? 35189
Non Specular Intermediate Blue 608 35164
Non Specular Sea Blue 607 35042
Semi Gloss Sea Blue 606 25042
Gloss Sea Blue 623 15042
Extra Dark Sea Gray 603 36118
Slate Gray (Really a green) 34096
Sky 610 34424
Dark Earth 617 30118
Mid Stone 615 30266
Azure Blue 609 35231

Some of these titles are currently out of print, but do resurface from time to time:

Wildcat : The F4F in WW II, Barrett Tillman, Naval Institute Press, 1990

United States Navy Aircraft since 1911,Gordon Swanborough, Peter M Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990

F4F Wildcat in action , Aircraft Number 84, Don Linn, Squadron Signal Publications inc., 1988

F4F Wildcat in action , Aircraft Number 191, Richard S. Dann, Squadron Signal Publications inc., 2004

Grumman F4F Wildcat, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 68, Bunrindo Co. ltd, 1998

The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide, Vol 2 1940-1949 , John M. Elliott, Monogram Aviation Publications, 1989

U.S Navy Aircraft 1921-1941/ U.S. Marine Corps Aircraft 1914-1959 , William T. Larkins, Orion Books, 1988 (Recently reprinted by Schiffer)

The American Fighter The Definitive Guide to American Fighter Aircraft From 1917 To The Present, Enzo Angelucci with Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1985

US Fighters Of World War Two , Robert F. Dorr, Arms and Armour Press, 1991

Fleet Air Arm British Carrier Aviation 1939-1945, Ron Mackay, Squadron Signal Publications, 2001

U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials Since 1909 , John Andrade, Midland Counties Publications, 1979

Aircraft Pictorial 4: F4F Wildcat, Dana Bell, Classic Warships Publishing, 2012

prepared by Forest Garner

During the 1930s, Grumman produced a successful series of biplane fighters designed for operation from US Navy aircraft carriers. These included the FF, F2F, and F3F. Each featured an enclosed cockpit, radial engine, and retracting landing gear which folded against the lower sides of the fuselage just forward of the wing.

With such experience behind them, in 1935 Leroy Grumman's team set out to develop an improved biplane fighter for the Navy's forthcoming fighter competition. Called Design 16 by Grumman, it lost to Brewster's Model B-139, which eventually became the Navy's first monoplane fighter. However, the Navy ordered the XF4F-1 prototype from Grumman. Convinced that monoplanes were the way of the future, Grumman persuaded the Navy to abandon development of the XF4F-1 before it was completed (it never flew), and instead embarked on the monoplane Model 18, known to the Navy as the XF4F-2. This aircraft first flew in September, 1937, powered by a 1,050 horsepower fourteen-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp, and proved itself capable of 288 mph at 10,000 ft. This was faster than the fighters proposed by Brewster and Seversky, and the Grumman aircraft was found to be more maneuverable as well. Still, the Navy wished to diversify its base of contractors and, because Grumman already held other development and production contracts, the Navy placed an order for 54 Brewster F2A-1s on 11 June, 1938.

Grumman then redesigned their aircraft, which became the Model 36. Only the landing gear and portions of the fuselage were retained from the earlier model, and the wings were lengthened (span increasing from 34 ft to 38 ft) and given square tips. The most important change was the use of the new Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76, with two-stage two-speed supercharger. First flown on 12 February, 1939, the XF4F-3 soon demonstrated a top speed of 335 mph at 21,300 ft. The importance of the advanced supercharger cannot be overstated, and the high-altitude performance it provided would make the Wildcat America's most effective fighter opposing Japanese naval aggression for months after the Pearl Harbor attack.

The US Navy ordered the F4F-3 into production on 8 August, 1939, with an order for 54 aircraft. The F4F-3 was capable of 328 mph at 21,000 ft. It had self-sealing fuel tanks and a plate of armor glass in front of the pilot. Early production Wildcats lacked armor behind the seat, but such armor was usually added before they saw combat. The F4F-3 also lacked folding wings. The short range was a significant handicap, limiting escort missions to a radius of about 200 miles. Many Wildcat pilots were saved by the Wildcat's ZB homing device, which allowed the pilots find their ships in poor visibility, provided they could get within the 30-mile range of the homing beacon. The four "50 caliber" (12.7mm) Browning machine guns of the F4F-3 carried 400 rounds per gun. Poor design of the installation caused these otherwise reliable guns to frequently jam (a problem common to the wing mounted weapons of many American fighters early in the war).

It was an F4F-3 flown by Lt. Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare that in a few minutes single-handedly shot down five out of nine Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" twin engine bombers attacking USS Lexington off Bougainville on 20 February, 1942. O'Hare's attacks were high side diving attacks employing accurate deflection shooting into the bombers' engines. His shooting was so accurate (even with only the four guns of an F4F-3) that some of the engines were shot completely off of the aircraft. O'Hare was given the Medal of Honor for this action. Contrasting with O'Hare's performance, his wingman was unable to participate because his guns would not function.

The French Aeronavale ordered 100 similar aircraft, known to Grumman as the G-36A. Armed with six French 7.5mm machine guns and powered by a 1,200 hp nine-cylinder Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine, it was capable of 306 mph at 15,000 ft. Its reduced performance was due to use of a single-stage supercharger and the greater frontal area of the engine, which increased drag. First flown on 10 May, 1940, none could be delivered before France surrendered on 23 June. The British Purchasing Commission assumed the order and 91 such aircraft, designated Martlet I, were provided to the Royal Navy. Before delivery in Canada, these aircraft were revised to British specification, including a change of armament to four 50 caliber machine guns. Only 81 survived shipment to Britain, as 10 were lost en route to U-boat attack.

The British Purchasing Commission also placed an original order with Grumman for 100 aircraft of British specification. Production of these had only started when the British learned that Grumman was designing a folding wing for the Wildcat. The British quickly revised their contract, so that the first 10 were delivered without folding wings (but later modified), and the remaining 90 were equipped with folding wings. For a powerplant, the British chose a Twin Wasp with a single-stage supercharger, which reduced high-altitude performance below that of the F4F-3. Six 50 caliber (12.7mm) Browning machine guns were installed in these aircraft, known as Martlet II.

A shortage of two-stage superchargers lead to development of the F4F-3A, which was basically the F4F-3 but with a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 engine with a more primitive single-stage two-speed supercharger. The F4F-3A, which was capable of 312 mph at 16,000 ft, was used side by side with the F4F-3, but its poorer performance made it unpopular. Thirty of these aircraft, ordered by Greece, were in shipment when Greece was conquered by the Nazis, and were thus assumed by Britain as the Martlet III.

The XF4F-4 was first flown on 15 April, 1941, and the resulting F4F-4 replaced the F4F-3 in production in the Spring of 1942. This aircraft used the folding wing and six-gun armament developed for the Martlet II. However, with only 240 rounds per gun, many US Navy pilots were concerned that all ammunition could be expended in less than 20 seconds of shooting. Initially unpopular with pilots because of the extra weight and reduced performance, the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph at 19,400 ft. However, its folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wing allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of fighters carried aboard American fleet carriers.

The Fleet Air Arm took a modified version of the F4F-4 as the Martlet IV. This aircraft, known as the F4F-4B to the US Navy, was powered by the 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-40B. Grumman produced 220 examples of the Martlet IV in 1942, but six were lost en route to Britain.

The F4F-4 was the first Wildcat plumbed for carrying droppable, auxiliary fuel tanks. Although two 58-gallon tanks could be carried, a more typical arrangement in combat conditions was a single 42-gallon unit. This small volume represented a noticeable addition to the F4F-4's 144-gallon internal capacity. Due to the extra weight of the folding wings and revised armament, the practical escort radius of the F4F-4 was only about 150 to 175 miles without the auxiliary fuel tank, and somewhat more than 200 miles with the 42-gallon unit.

The rate of climb, never spectacular in early Wildcats, was noticeably worse in the F4F-4. While Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 feet per minute, in combat conditions at combat altitudes pilots found their mounts capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 feet per minute. This was greatly inferior to the Wildcat's principal opponent in the Pacific, the Mitsubishi A6M, commonly known as the "Zero", but officially called "Zeke" by the Allies. The Zeke could outmaneuver the Wildcat at moderate speeds, had a slight speed advantage at most altitudes, and could range at least twice as far as a Wildcat. The Wildcat was, however, the tougher aircraft, and could outdive the Zeke and could even outmaneuver the Zeke at very high speeds. Unable to dogfight on even terms, Wildcat pilots at Midway and Guadalcanal were forced to develop tactics suited to the performance limitations of the F4F-4, emphasizing weaving to protect each other's tails, diving away in emergencies, and hit and run attacks using the deflection shooting techniques that were emphasized in naval fighter pilot gunnery training.

Officially, production of the F4F-4 ended on the last day of 1942 after Grumman had delivered 1,168 of these aircraft. Production was switched to a contract with General Motors, which produced a very similar aircraft known as the FM-1 Wildcat. A significant difference between the F4F-4 and the FM-1 was that the latter carried only four 50 caliber machine guns, with a generous 430 rounds per gun. The transfer of production of the F4F and TBF to General Motors freed up Grumman's factory space so that they could concentrate on producing the vitally important F6F Hellcat. 312 FM-1s used by the Fleet Air Arm were known as Martlet V, and 748 were delivered to the US Navy.

Grumman first flew the XF4F-8 prototype on 8 November, 1942. This was specifically designed for operation from the small decks of escort carriers. It featured a Wright Cyclone engine rated at 1,350 hp. This prototype lead to the FM-2 series, built by General Motors.

The FM-2 was the last and most numerous major production variant of the Wildcat series. This variant reverted to the Wright Cyclone engine, in this case the R-1820-56 series of 1,350 hp with single-stage two-speed supercharger. Maximum speed was 332 mph at 28,800 ft. The rate of climb was greatly improved over that of all previous Wildcat versions. The FM-2 was about 450 pounds lighter than the F4F-4 empty and, with 150 additional horsepower, was well-suited to operation from the short decks of escort carriers. The FM-2 was virtually never operated from fleet carriers, as Hellcats and, later, Corsairs filled that role in the last 2 years of the war. Strengthened wing racks allowed the FM-2 to carry a 250 pound bomb under each wing. The first of 4,777 examples of the FM-2 was delivered in September, 1943, and production continued until end of the war. 370 were provided to the Fleet Air Arm, which knew them as the Wildcat VI. Several modifications were added during the production run, including water injection, zero-length rails for 5-inch rockets, and increased internal fuel capacity.

Service in the Atlantic Ocean

Best known for their contributions in the Pacific, the Wildcats and Martlets also gave reputable service in the Atlantic. This usually took the form of operating from an escort carrier attached to a convoy or a hunter-killer group. These Wildcats were responsible for intercepting German bombers and, in conjunction with other types, finding and attacking U-boats. The six-gun armaments of the F4F-4, Martlet II, and Martlet IV were particularly effective in suppressing the anti-aircraft guns of the U-boats so that larger, slower bombers could more safely attack with depth bombs or homing torpedoes. The threat of strafing by a Wildcat would often persuade a U-boat to submerge, reducing the chance of catching a convoy. Additionally, the Wildcats could summon bombers and surface escorts to engage U-boats. Known to be rugged and forgiving, the Wildcat's performance limitations were not a significant handicap in the Atlantic, where there were no enemy fighters to contend with.

At the end of the war, the Wildcat was just beginning to be replaced aboard escort carriers by the impressive Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat.

U-boats lost to Wildcat/Martlet aircraft

(When fighting U-boat Wildcat normally shielded her larger sister the Avenger while the latter dropped depth charges or acoustic torpedoes. Both planes were given credit in such cases.).

U-boats sunk by this aircraft type (Wildcat)

Dec U-131 +,

Nov U-331 +,

Jun U-217, Jul U-487 +, U-160, U-509, U-43, Aug U-664 +, U-525 +,
U-185, U-847 +, Oct U-422 +, U-460 +, U-378 +, U-220 +, Dec U-172 +, U-850 +,

Mar U-801 +, U-1059 +, Apr U-288 +, U-515 +, U-68 +, May U-66 +, Jun U-505 +,
U-860 +, Aug U-1229 +,

May U-711 +,

27 U-boats lost to Wildcat aircraft. + means that the Wildcat shared the credit for the sinking.


Francillion, R. J. (1989) "Grumman Aircraft since 1929",
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

Gunston, W. (1986) "American Warplanes"
Crescent Books, New York, NY.

Lundstrom, John "The First Team"
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

Lundstrom, John (1994) "The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign"
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

Selected media links

Photo Release -- Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Complete First Arrested Landing of a Tailless Unmanned Aircraft Aboard an Aircraft Carrier

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – July 10, 2013 – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy have completed the first arrested landing of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) carrier demonstration aircraft on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

The Northrop Grumman-built aircraft landed at 12:23 p.m. Eastern time while the aircraft carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia, and marks the latest and most significant achievement for the program during carrier sea trials, which began in May.

"Today's historic carrier landing and our operations aboard USS George H.W. Bush show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tailless unmanned aircraft can integrate seamlessly and operate safely from an aircraft carrier at sea," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. "Beyond X-47B, this moment in history was made possible by an extremely disciplined and dedicated government-industry team that took a brand new unmanned combat air system from initial concept to highly successful demonstration in one of the most demanding operating environments in the world."

The X-47B aircraft took off from Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., July 10. A mission operator aboard the carrier took control of the aircraft and monitored the flight operations, which included several planned precision approaches in preparation for the first arrested landing.

During today's testing, the X-47B completed the 35 minute journey from Pax River to the carrier and caught the three-wire with the aircraft's tailhook. The arrested landing effectively brought the aircraft from approximately 145 knots to stop in less than 350 feet.

"Although it looks like it could be an easy maneuver, today's successful arrested landings points back to a rigorous test plan focused on software development and system maturity to prove today that an autonomous unmanned system such as the X-47B can safely, seamlessly and predictably integrate into Navy carrier operations," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

The arrested landings aboard the Bush mark the third major aviation achievement by the UCAS-D program since May. On May 14, the X-47B became the first unmanned aircraft to be catapult launched from a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. On May 17, the aircraft performed the first in a series of precision approaches and touch-and-go landings on a carrier by an unmanned system.

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's UCAS-D prime contractor. The company designed and produced the program's two X-47B air vehicles. An integrated test team of Northrop Grumman and Navy personnel executed the rigorous flight test and carrier suitability test sequence that culminated in today's first arrested landing of an autonomous unmanned aircraft.

Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace, Rockwell Collins and Lockheed Martin.

Grumman Martlet lands on carrier - History

There are three different intake arrangements on the F4F/FM series of Wildcats. The first type was used on early and final production F4F-3s as well as the F4F-4. This type had three intakes one on the top of the cowl and two inside the lip of the cowl at approximately the 4 and 8 o'clock position. The upper one was for the carburetor intake, while the other two were for intercooler air. (CB) The second type moved the carburetor intake inside the top of the lip. This was purportedly due to issues with the effectiveness of the intake. In any case, the intake on top was restored in the F4F-3 and used for the entire F4F-4 and FM-1 production runs. (CB) The third type was the version found on the FM-2, where there were four intakes at approximately the 4,5 7 and 8 o'clock positions. The two lower ones were to provide cool air to the oil cooler and the two upper ones were carburetor intakes. (CB)

The windscreen and canopy were pretty much unchanged through out the production of the Wildcat, though some Martlets had additional framing in the windscreen. The Mark 8 gun sight was carried through much of the Wildcat's service life. The FM-1 tail shows the shorter tail used on all versions except the FM-2 (and XF4F-8) and the shot on the right is of the taller FM-2 tail. (CB)

Left: The fairing for the oil coolers on most Wildcat/Martlet airplanes, one under each wing. With the FM-2 the oil cooler was behind the engine and cooling air was ducted through the cowling. (CB)
Middle: The hook under the keel, below and in front of the wheel, is the attachment point for the catapult bridle. When launching from aboard ship the bridle which had a loop at each end would be attached on one end to the catapult shuttle and the other end would slide over this hook. When the catapult shuttle reached the end of its run the hook would slip from the loop as the aircraft was slung into the air. (CB)
Right: An illustration of the arrestor hook in the extended position. (CB)
Far right: The door covering the battery/baggage compartment. Various items such as tool would be stored there. The jury struts to hold the wings in the folded position on later Wildcats were stored in this compartment. (CB)

These shots give a good idea of the appearance of the fabric covered control surfaces and can be used for comparisons to various model kits. (CB)

The R-1830 used in the F4F was rated at 1,200 hp and was the engine most associated with the Wildcat. Used in the F4F-3, -3A, -4, FM-1, Martlet II, III and the Wildcat V the Twin Wasp was a very reliable engine. It also powered other well known aircraft like the C-47 (and R4D) and the B-24 and is considered to be the most produced aircraft engine in history, with 173,618 produced. Pratt & Whitney has always been known for producing dependable engines and in the days of recipes there was a saying: "If you want to be able to fly fast for a short time you want a Wright, but if you want to be able to fly for a long time use a P&W!" This example, an R-1830-92, is on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. While most likely a civilian engine (probably from a DC-3), it does provide reference of the appearance for this great engine. (CB)

An R-1830-90C on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This model is very similar to the ones most commonly used to power the F4F-3, F4F-4 and FM-1 Wildcat. (CB)

Model: R-1830-86
Type: 14-cylinder, air-cooled, twin row radial
Displacement: 1830
Max. RPM: 2,400 (2,700 Military Power)
Max. HP: 1,200
Weight: 1,467 lbs.

The P&W powered Wildcats had two exhausts under the forward fuselage. The third port between the two engine exhaust was to dump waste air from the intercoolers. On the F4F-3A which was only equipped with a single stage supercharger that exhaust was unnecessary.

The Wright Cyclone was another excellent engine, powering the FM-2, Martlet I, IV (F4F-4B) and of course the Wildcat VI. With this engine the rate of climb for the FM-2 Wildcat improved to approximately 3.200 fpm. This engine also provided better takeoff performance making the FM-2 better suited for use from the small deck of CVEs. Some of the final variants of the R-1820 could produce over 1,500 hp. This engine was also widely used powering such aircraft as the B-17, R4D-8 (C-117D) and the S2F (S-2) Tracker . The first photo shows an R-1820-97 that powered the B-17 and is on display at the 390th BW Memorial Museum located at the Pima Air Museum. The second and third photos show an R-1820-103A on display at the War Eagles Museum. (CB)

Model: R-1820-56 and -56W
Type: 9-cylinder, air-cooled, single row radial
Displacement: 1823
Max. RPM: 2,600 (2,700 for -56A and -56WA)
Max. HP: 1,350
Weight: 1,329 lbs

The FM-2 had an exhaust on each side of the fuselage above the wing and two under the forward fuselage. Those two are visible in the second photo forward of the landing gear. The catapult hook used on all versions of the Wildcatis also apparent in that photograph. (CB)

By the time America joined the war in December 1941, the F4F was the most common plane on American aircraft carriers. It was also popular among US Marine Corps units based on land. Until the arrival of the Hellcat in 1943, it was the US Navy’s only carrier-borne fighter. It played a critical role in many of the Navy’s most important actions.

One of the most important land bases that Wildcats operated from was Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The site of the first offensive operations of America’s Pacific war, it was where many Wildcat successes occurred. One eight-plane flight achieved 72 aerial victories in the space of only 16 weeks.

Grumman Martlet lands on carrier - History

Grumman F4F Wildcat

Wildcat Design Features

Before WW2, the US Navy believed that it needed a biplane fighter because a biplane could achieve a shorter take off. In 1935 Grumman Aircraft developed the first all metal single wing plane designed to be able to take off from and land on a carrier.

But by 1940, the Navy&rsquos new plane had morphed into the single-wing Wildcat. This stubby looking plane with a big Pratt & Whitney radial engine proved to be a lethal predator against the Japanese Zero.

Though the Zero was faster, and more agile, the Wildcat was rugged. It could take several hits from enemy machine guns and keep on flying to return home.

Grumman developed the folding wing for the Wildcat. The photo at lower left illustrates how two fixed-wing aircraft take up as much space as five with folding wings. This was an extremely important development for the Navy because it meant that a greater number of planes could be stored on the hangar deck and a greater number could be readied on the flight deck.

Radial engines was generally preferred for carrier planes because they were easier to access and maintain. Despite the stubby appearance of the F4, it was sufficiently aerodynamic.

The first F4F's to see combat had been ordered by the British Navy before the U.S. got into the war. The Brits named it the Martlet. In fact the first American-built plane to shoot down a German plane was a British Martlet on Christmas day in 1940 (almost a year before the Pearl Harbor attack). The victim was a German Luftwaffe Junkers 88 on a bombing mission over England.

The Wildcat was the only carrier-capable plane ready to go at the beginning of the war, and despite the introduction of faster planes further into the War, the Wildcat continued to serve its purpose throughout the war. The more capable Grumman Hellcat and Vought Corsair were not ready for combat until 1943. By the end of the War, the F4F Wildcat, with its sturdy all metal construction, had racked up an overall aerial combat kill ratio of 5.9:1, meaning that for every Wildcat lost in battle, the enemy had sacrificed almost 6 of their planes.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/28/2021 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was the unsung hero of the Allied Pacific Theater campaign in the early years of World War 2. Often overshadowed by the upcoming Grumman F6F Hellcats and Vought F4U Corsair hotrods, the stubby Wildcat with her biplane origins relied as much on the tenacity of her pilots than on the capabilities of this fine machine. For 1936 standards, the Wildcat was a high-performance machine with much to recommend it. The F4F served both the Americans and the British (the latter known as Martlets for a time) during the critical war years, with British Wildcats seeing service up until the end of the war in 1945.

Grumman entered into a 1935 US Navy competition against Brewster to sell the United States Navy its next carrier-born fighter. While Brewster showcased its impressive F2A Buffalo - a speedy, no-frills, single-engine, single-seat monoplane fighter - Grumman set about to impress with its G-16 by-gone biplane design entered into the competition as the XF4F-1. The Brewster F2A Buffalo shined while the USN was less impressed with the Grumman design, eventually earning the Brewster firm the US Navy contract. Some 509 Brewster F2A fighters would be produced.

Despite the US Navy's decision, the G-16 was revised by Grumman into the G-18 design proposal, an aircraft featuring a more conventional monoplane wing arrangement. The US Navy likened the new design - designated as the XF4F-2 - enough to order a flyable prototype. The aircraft achieved first flight in September 1937 and was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp radial piston engine of 1,050 horsepower. Despite the redesign and more powerful engine, the aircraft still did not match the Brewster Buffalo across the many desired fronts the US Navy was looking for.

Grumman made yet another attempt while still keeping US Navy interest, producing the G-36 model design and fitting it with a larger wing with squared-off ends, a redesigned empennage and the Pratt & Whitney XR-1830-76 series engine with two-stage supercharger. The G-36 was completed in February of 1939 and received the XF4F-3 prototype designation while first flight was achieved the following month. This time, the Grumman team got things right in terms of performance and reliability and the US Navy ordered the type into production as the F4F-3. The F4F-3 earned the right to become the Wildcats series first production model. A few further design changes emanated from the XF4F-3 but these were negligible.

Design of the F4F showcased the stout fuselage of its biplane fighter origins. The Pratt & Whitney powerplant was encased in the cylindrical forward portion of the fuselage and featured an exposed air-cooled radial opening. The engine sported a three-blade propeller system with a simple spinner. The canopy was of a two-piece arrangement with the forward windscreen fixed in place and the second aft piece built on two rear-sliding rails. Both sections featured heavy "greenhouse" style framing. The cockpit integrated directly into a "razorback" style upper rear fuselage, no doubt restricting pilot views to his "six". Wings were slightly forward and mid-mounted to each side of the cockpit. The wings contained armament of 2 x 12.7mm machine guns (two guns to a wing) along with 450 round of ammunition to a gun. The undercarriage was conventional for the time, with the aircraft being of a "tail dragger" design, featuring two main landing gears forward and a tail wheel at rear. The forward landing gears were borrowed from previous Grumman interwar aircraft designs and had to be hand-cranked by the pilot within the cockpit when lowering or raising the gears. The undercarriage design was licensed by Grumman from a Grover Loening design with whom Leroy Grumman worked for prior to starting his aviation company. When completely retracted, the exposed wheel sides conformed to the fuselage sides and were distinct identifiers of the F4F Wildcat series. The empennage was of a traditional sort, featuring a single vertical tail fin and horizontal planes. All wing edges were "squared off", owing to the utilitarian look of the aircraft.

Despite the pilot sitting directly behind the engine mount, he was afforded a decent forward view and relatively good views to the sides. Former pilots - particularly FAA pilots - recounted at how "good" the cockpit generally felt, at least to them. As with most American cockpits, it proved spacious for the average man and featured a relatively clean - almost sparse - instrument panel containing basic dials and gauges and adorned with the gunsight at top. A center console region protruded towards the pilot, between his legs, and contained the ADF Automatic Direction Finder. A simple control stick was positioned between the pilots legs. Rudders were controlled via two floor-mounted rudder pedals and the hand-crank for the undercarriage was positioned at the lower right. All controls were within quick reach or vision of the pilot, making it a relatively easy aircraft to keep tabs on. If the Wildcat pilot failed its pilots at all, these failures were rectified in the improved F6F Hellcat still some years away.

By this time, events unfolding in Europe placed an enormous amount of pressure on France. The German invasion of the country was pushing the nation to the brink of collapse as her military defenders were spread out precariously thin and being punished across all fronts. The French looked to more complete outside solutions for the quick fix, finding one in the Grumman G-36 design (F3F-3). The aircraft was ordered by France as a modified G-36A design and featured "French-friendly" instruments, a redesigned engine cowling featuring a Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine, non-folding wings, an armament of 4 x 7.7mm Darne machine guns and a throttle stick designed to be pulled back for power instead of a conventional push-forward approach. Despite the order, France fell before the aircraft could be delivered. As such, the British - already stretched thin in their aircraft ranks - took on the order as the Martlet Mk I.

The French order of G-36A/F3F-3/Martlet Mk I aircraft were naturally revised for British use under modifications provided by the Blackburn company. Martlets had their throttle sticks reworked to a more conventional English push-forward fashion, armament was revised to a 4 x 12.7mm Browning layout and all instrumentation was made "English-friendly". External bomb provisions were 2 x 100lb bombs or 2 x 58 gallon drop tanks their place. The Martlet Mk I was delivered to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) in July of 1940 and entered service relatively quickly by September 8th, 1940, with No.804 Squadron becoming its first recipient. In December of that year, a Martlet Mk I was credited with the downing of its first enemy aircraft - a Junkers Ju 88 over Scapa Flow - in effect becoming the first American-built aircraft to achieve a confirmed enemy kill in World War 2.

At the request of the British, Grumman pieced together a proposal for a G-36B design - an F4F-3 fitting the original Twin Wasp engine under a redesigned cowling. The British originally accepted these aircraft as the Martlet Mk II but the fact that the first ten were delivered without folding wings and the next thirty with, the aircraft was given two further designations in the Martlet Mk III and the Martlet Mk III(A) respectively. It should be noted that the batch of 30 was originally intended for delivery to the Hellenic Air Force in Greece to help stave off the German invasion in that land but events similar to what unfolded in France forced these aircraft to be delivered to British hands instead.

The F4F-3 had entered US Navy service in 1940, ordered in an initial batch of 78 examples, and quickly established itself as its premiere carrier-born aircraft, ironically overtaking the US Navy Brewster F2A Buffalos in the process. By this time, the two-stage supercharger was becoming a hard commodity to find though the need for such a performance gain was as much a requirement as was armament. As such, the revised F4F-3A model emerged with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 radial piston engine of 1,200 horsepower mated to a simpler single-stage, two-speed supercharger. The aircraft actually proved a performance downgrade when compared to the base F4F-3 that many-a-US Navy airman openly disliked flying it. Despite this, the F4F-3A was fielded side-by-side with the base F4F-3 models and was also used by the British in its Martlet Mk III(B) guise. A "one-off" F4F emerged in floatplane form as the F4F-3. The floatplanes were provided by the Edo Aircraft Corporation and replaced the undercarriage. First flown on February 28th, 1943, performance of this "Wildcatfish" proved much worse than the already meager offerings of the base F4F fighter. The design was never furthered nor produced.

In April of 1941, a folding-wing version of the F4F was tested while on October 1st, 1941, the designation of "Wildcat" was officially adopted for the F4F series by the United States Navy.

The Wildcat proved so important to the Allied cause at sea in many ways - both in the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters. Most importantly, it provided the Americans and the British with a capable carrier-born fighter that both nations seriously lacked in their inventories at the outset of the war. The Wildcat finally leveled the playing field in favor of the Allies. The British were already stretched thin in their use of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfires through the Royal Air Force that their navalized types arrival - the Hawker Sea Hurricane and Supermarine Seafire respectively - had to be delayed for some time. Likewise, beyond their Brewster F2A Buffalos, the Americans had little to pit against the might of the Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" scourge in the Pacific. By any regard, the arrival of the Wildcat was of monumental importance to the outcome of the early years of the air war.

September 1942 saw the HMS Audacity set sail with her Fleet Air Arm contingent of six Martlets. On September of that month, two Martlets were credited with the downing of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor spying on the convoy. Not limited to ocean sorties, the British enlisted the Martlet into service over the skies of North Africa, resulting in the destruction of an Italian Fiat G.50 bomber on September 28, 1941.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 pressed the American war machine into action. At its disposal was this stubby, straight-winged Wildcat fighter complete with its bi-plane origins - hardly the stuff of legend. Only a handful of Wildcats were in the Pearl area at the time of the attacks - these belonging to the USMC VMF-211 squadron. Nine were damaged or destroyed in the attack on Oahu.

Wildcats were used in anger the next day in the attempted December7th/8th Japanese invasion of the Wake Island atoll. About a dozen F4F-3's were stationed there - these also belonging to the VMF-211 - to which eight of the twelve fighters were damaged or destroyed on the ground. Four Wildcat fighters did succeed in sinking the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi (Wildcats used as bombers) during the assault. The Japanese destroyer Hayate was also sunk though this was attributed to the defensive coastal guns. Events forced the Japanese to abandon the invasion and retreat, leaving Wake to fight on for another day. Survival of this small island - for the time being at least - was in part due to the heroics of these USMC airmen and their Wildcats, delivering Japan's first major defeat in the war .

1942 saw the introduction of the definitive Wildcat in the F4F-4. F4F-4 models were given 6 x 12.7mm Browning machine guns (upgunned from the 4 x arrangement) and folding wings for improved carrier storage aboard the space-strapped Allied aircraft carriers. The armament change was an upgrade over earlier Wildcat forms and was made at the behest of the British. These changes however, came at a cost. The added machine guns forced the total ammunition count to be spread out across the six gun systems instead of four bringing the total "gun burst" time down from the total of 34 seconds to a measly 20 seconds, effectively supplying Wildcat pilots with less ammunition overall. This limitation essentially forced Wildcat pilots to work harder for their kills as more guns firing did not necessarily equate to better accuracy. To add insult to injury, the guns also had a wicked and deadly tendency to jam forcing many-a-Wildcat pilot to become spectators in dogfights.

These internal changes also made for a much heavier Wildcat, adding some level of diminished performance to content with. The extra armament and folding wing understructure brought the Wildcats top speed down to 318 miles per hour while offering up a slower rate-of-climb. Despite these negatives, the F4F-4 became the most produced aircraft, overtaking the F4F-3 on the assembly lines (it was not common practice to produce two variants simultaneously). The British received their F4F-4 models as the Martlet Mk IV, complete with a Wright Cyclone powerplant and revised cowling. Armament was further enhanced (and one can expect that performance was decreased as a result) by the provision for 2 x 250lb external bombs held under the wings (or 2 x 58 gallon drop tanks as needed). The F4F-4 first flew on April 14th, 1941.

February 20th, 1942 saw Wildcat pilot Lieutenant Edward H. O'Hare best five Japanese bombers over Rabaul.

May 1942 added the Battle of Coral Sea, pitting American carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington against the Japanese carriers Zuikaku and Shokaku along with the light carrier Shoho. The Japanese were targeting Port Moresby on Papau. Wildcat pilot Lieutenant J.G. McCuskey scored five confirmed kills in the ensuing action. Despite it being a tactical victory for Japan by the sheer number of Allied warships it had sunk or damaged, it turned into a strategic victory for the Allies for the Japanese war machine was finally halted from expanding its reach any further in the Pacific any further. For the British, May of 1942 saw their Fleet Air Arm Martlets operating over Madagascar against Vichy French air elements. Similarly, Martlets sparred with Italian bombers while escorting a convoy to Malta in August. Combat experience had evolved the Wildcat into quite the formidable fighter.

June 1942 brought about the Battle of Midway. By this time, the Pacific carrier fleet were all fielding the F4F-4 models with more trained pilots and better tactics. The Japanese intent in this battle was to 1) respond with force to the brazen "Doolittle Raids" of April and 2) lure the American carriers into a final showdown. American intelligence bested Japanese intent here as the American carriers were already lying in waiting off of Midway to ambush the Japanese. The resulting action and subsequent Allied victory secured Midway as a future vital trans-Pacific launching platform and sunk four Japanese fleet carriers in the process (to only one American carrier).

Between August 7th, 1942 and February 9th, 1943, the Allies launched their first full offensive at Guadalcanal, taking the defending Japanese by surprise. Wildcats fought on in nearly daily engagements as ground and sea forces made their moves. The end result netted the Allies use of Henderson Field and the construction of two more runways becoming a strategically important junction for further Allied operations in the Pacific.

Wildcats took action in several of the major Allied amphibious landings as well, partaking in the invasions of North Africa, Madagascar, Italy and ultimately Normandy. Wildcats in this role provided valuable air cover to the vulnerable landing ships and men called to storm the beaches. The F4F also assisted in U-Boat hunts (in cooperation with Fairey Swordfish aircraft) and anti-reconnaissance sorties against German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors.

By late 1942 and into early 1943, Grumman was wrapping up its own production commitment to the F4F-4. General Motor's Eastern Aircraft Division took over and produced the FM-1 Wildcat models. These aircraft brought the armament total back down to 4 x 12.7mm machine guns. In late 1943, GM introduced the improved FM-2 Wildcat. Beyond that, the Wildcat in America was all but done.

The Wildcat was trialed as a photographic reconnaissance platform in the F4F-7. These aircraft, produced to the tune of 21 examples, saw their guns removed in favor of camera equipment and more fuel. As these aircraft featured fuel fitted into their wings, these "wet wings" were of the non-folding variety, reducing effective in carrier storage. Range on these birds was an impressive 3,700 miles.

Total Wildcat production amounted to 7,722 examples. Martlets made up approximately 1,191 of these. Operators were limited to the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

Operationally, the Wildcat was not the perfect answer for these rapidly changing times. Its 1930's decade design was brought to the forefront on many -an-occasion. The Japanese A6M Zero proved to be a vastly superior in performance and firepower when compared to the Wildcat. Despite the early superiority of Zeros, Wildcat pilots gained valuable experience and unparalleled "dive and zoom" tactics that eventually played up the inherent benefits of the Wildcat to offset her shortcomings. Better armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks - two key survival elements that the Zero lacked - meant that the Wildcat could absorb more punishment than her adversary and stay in the fight longer than most. The Wildcat proved to offer "just enough" in every combat-related category that the Pacific Theater was "contained" until better aircraft systems could be produced by the Allies.

Unlike their navy brethren, USMC Wildcats operated almost exclusively from land-bases. USMC Captain Joe Foss lead his VMF-121 squad of eight Wildcats to 72 confirmed air kills. Foss added 26 of that total himself, accounting for at least five of those in a single day. He was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits.

The F4F Wildcat remained the top carrier-born fighter for the US Navy until the arrival of the Grumman F6F Hellcat in 1943. The British dropped the "Martlet" name and accepted the American "Wildcat" designation beginning January 1944. Despite the system being replaced in the American inventory in the latter years of the war, the British Fleet Air Arm Wildcats fought on through to the end of the conflict, netting four more Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters over Norway March of 1945 - making these German fighters the FAA last air kills of the war.

The F4F Wildcat proved to be up to the seemingly insurmountable challenges of carrier operations the world over. Despite aforementioned disadvantages, the Wildcat made up for it in immeasurable terms - pilot training, tactics and instincts. She proved a reliable and rugged ace-making mount for many-a-navy airman. Despite it being superseded by the impressive Grumman F6F Hellcats and Vought F4U Corsairs, the F4F Wildcats would still leave their undisputed marks on military aviation history - effectively setting the stage for the ultimate Allied victory against Axis aggression.

In the end, she became the only America-built aircraft to serve throughout the entire conflict. In the latter years of the war, her light-weight and relatively small size made her a regular aboard the smaller escort carriers that the newer, heavier and larger fighters simply could not operate from.

Watch the video: Grumman Martlet aircraft lands on British aircraft carrier, 1942. Archive film 98977


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