Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat”
USN single-engine single-seat carrier-borne monoplane fighter (United States)
Archive Photos ¹
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N29FG, BuNo 74560) on display (c.2000) at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 2000 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Airshow, MCAS El Toro, California (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2000 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (c.1992) at the 1992 Hawthorne Air Faire, Hawthorne, California (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2000 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (4/29/1995) at the 1995 Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Airshow, MCAS El Toro, California (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2000 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (4/23/1988) at the 1988 Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Airshow, MCAS El Toro, California (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2001 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (6/19/1999) at the 1999 Camarillo Airshow, Camarillo, California (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 2001 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (8/19/2006) at the 2006 Camarillo Airshow, Camarillo, California (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 2006 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N5833, BuNo 86819, c/n 5877) on display (8/18/2007) at the 2007 Camarillo Airshow, Camarillo, California (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 200? Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N47201, BuNo 55627) on display (c.1999) at the Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, California (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 2001 Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (NL1PP, BuNo 86581, c/n 5635) on display (9/29/2003) at the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, Portage, Michigan (Photos by John Shupek copyright © 200? Skytamer Images)
Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (N58918, BuNo 86754, c/n 5812) on display (4/1/2004) at the Tillamook Air Museum, Tillamook, Oregon (Photo by John Shupek copyright © 2004 Skytamer Images)
- Grumman F4F “Wildcat”
- Role: Fighter
- National origin: United States
- Manufacturer: Grumman
- First flight: 2 September 1937
- Introduction: December 1940
- Retired: 1945
- Primary users: United States Navy; United States Marine Corps; Royal Navy; Royal Canadian Navy
- Number built: 7,885
The Grumman F4F “Wildcat” was an American carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy (as the “Martlet”) in 1940. First used in combat by the British in Europe, the “Wildcat” was the only effective fighter available to the United States Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during the early part of World War II in 1941 and 1942; the disappointing Brewster “Buffalo” was withdrawn in favor of the “Wildcat” and replaced as units became available. With a top speed of 318 mph (512 km/h), the “Wildcat” was outperformed by the faster 331 mph (533 km/h), more maneuverable, and longer ranged Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”. But the F4F's ruggedness, coupled with tactics such as the Thach Weave, resulted in an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 5.9:1 in 1942 and 6.9:1 for the entire war.
Lessons learned from the “Wildcat” were applied to the faster Grumman F6F “Hellcat” which, with the exception of range, could outperform the “Zero” on its own terms. The “Wildcat” continued to be built throughout the remainder of the war to serve on escort carriers, where larger and heavier fighters could not be used.
“I would still assess the “Wildcat” as the outstanding naval fighter of the early years of World War II ... I can vouch as a matter of personal experience, this Grumman fighter was one of the finest shipboard aeroplanes ever created.”
Eric M. Brown, British test pilot
Design and Development ²
Grumman fighter development began with the two-seat Grumman FF biplane. The FF was the first U.S. naval fighter with a retractable landing gear. The wheels retracted into the fuselage, leaving the tires visibly exposed, flush with sides of the fuselage. Two single-seat biplane designs followed, the F2F and F3F, which established the general fuselage outlines of what would become the F4F “Wildcat”. In 1935, while the F3F was still undergoing flight testing, Grumman started work on its next biplane fighter, the G-16. At the time, the U.S. Navy favored a monoplane design, the Brewster F2A-1, ordering production early in 1936. However, an order was also placed for Grumman's G-16 (given the navy designation XF4F-1) as a Backup in case the Brewster monoplane proved to be unsatisfactory.
It was clear to Grumman that the XF4F-1 would be inferior to the Brewster monoplane, so Grumman abandoned the XF4F-1, designing instead a new monoplane fighter, the XF4F-2. The XF4F-2 would retain the same, fuselage-mounted, hand-cranked landing gear as the F3F, with its relatively narrow track. The unusual landing gear design was originally created in the 1920's by Leroy Grumman for Grover Loening. It was on all of Grumman's fighter biplanes from the FF-1 through the F3F of the 1930's and on the J2F “Duck” amphibious flying boat as well. Landing accidents caused by failure of the gear to fully lock into place were distressingly common.
The overall performance of Grumman's new monoplane was felt to be inferior to that of the Brewster “Buffalo”. The XF4F-2 was marginally faster, but the “Buffalo” was more maneuverable. It was judged superior and was chosen for production. After losing out to Brewster, Grumman completely rebuilt the prototype as the XF4F-3 with new wings and tail and a supercharged version of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 “Twin Wasp” radial engine. Testing of the new XF4F-3 led to an order for F4F-3 production models, the first of which was completed in February 1940. France also ordered the type, powered by a Wright R-1820 “Cyclone 9” radial engine, but France fell to the Axis powers before they could be delivered and the aircraft went instead to the British Royal Navy, who christened the new fighter the "“Martlet”." The U.S. Navy officially adopted the aircraft type on 1 October 1941 as the "“Wildcat”." Both the Royal Navy's and U.S. Navy's F4F-3's, armed with four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns, joined active units in 1940.
On 16 December 1940, the XF4F-3 prototype (BuNo 0383, c/n 356) modified from XF4F-2, was lost under circumstances that suggested that the pilot may have been confused by the poor layout of fuel valves and flap controls and inadvertently turned the fuel valve to "off" immediately after takeoff rather than selecting flaps "up". This was the first fatality in the type.
Operational History ²
Even before the “Wildcat” had been purchased by U.S. Navy, both the French Navy and the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) had ordered the “Wildcat”, with their own configurations.
The F4F “Wildcat” (known in British service as the "“Martlet”") was taken on by the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as part of an interim replacement for the Fairey “Fulmar”. The “Fulmar” was a two-seat fighter with good range but at a performance disadvantage against single-seater fighters; navalized Supermarine “Spitfires” were not available because of the greater need of the Royal Air Force. In the European theater, the “Wildcat” scored its first combat victory on Christmas Day 1940, when a land-based “Martlet” destroyed a Junkers Ju.8 bomber over the Scapa Flow naval base. This was the first combat victory by a US-built fighter in British service in World War II. The type also pioneered combat operations from the smaller escort carriers.
Six “Martlet”s went to sea aboard the converted former German merchant vessel HMS Audacity in September 1941 and shot down several Luftwaffe Fw.200 “Condor” bombers during highly effective convoy escort operations. These were the first of many “Wildcats” to engage in aerial combat at sea.
The British received 300 Eastern Aircraft FM-1's as the “Martlet V” in 1942/43 and 340 FM-2's as the “Wildcat VI”. In total, nearly 1,200 “Wildcats” would serve with the FAA. By January 1944, the “Martlet” name was dropped and the type was identified as "“Wildcat”".
In March 1945, “Wildcats” shot down four Messerschmitt Bf.109's over Norway, the FAA's last victory with a “Wildcat”.
U.S. Navy and Marines
The “Wildcat” was outperformed by the Mitsubishi “Zero”, its major opponent in the early part of the Pacific Theater, but held its own partly because, with relatively heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, the Grumman airframe could survive far more damage than its lightweight, unarmored Japanese rival. Many U.S. Navy fighter pilots also were saved by the “Wildcat's” ZB homing device, which allowed them to find their carriers in poor visibility, provided they could get within the 30 mi (48 km) range of the homing beacon.
In the hands of an expert pilot using tactical advantage, the “Wildcat” could prove to be a difficult foe even against the formidable “Zero”. After analyzing Fleet Air Tactical Unit Intelligence Bureau reports describing the new carrier fighter, USN Commander “Jimmy” Thach devised a defensive strategy that allowed “Wildcat” formations to act in a coordinated maneuver to counter a diving attack, called the “Thach Weave.”
Four U.S. Marine Corps “Wildcats” played a prominent role in the defense of Wake Island in December 1941. USN and USMC aircraft formed the fleet's primary air defense during the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway, and land-based “Wildcats” played a major role during the Guadalcanal Campaign of 1942–43. It was not until 1943 that more advanced naval fighters capable of taking on the “Zero” on more even terms, the Grumman F6F “Hellcat” and Vought F4U “Corsair”, reached the South Pacific theater.
The Japanese ace Saburo Sakai described the “Wildcat's” capacity to absorb damage:
“I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7 mm machine guns. I turned the 20 mm cannon switch to the "off" position, and closed in. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd—it had never happened before—and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman's rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A “Zero” which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now.”
Grumman's “Wildcat” production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F “Hellcat”, but General Motors continued producing “Wildcats” for both U.S. Navy and Fleet Air Arm use. At first, GM produced the Eastern FM-1 (identical to the F4F-4, but with four guns). Production later switched to the improved Eastern FM-2 (based on Grumman's XF4F-8 prototype) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine, and a taller tail to cope with the increased torque.
From 1943 onward, “Wildcats” equipped with bomb racks were primarily assigned to escort carriers for use against submarines and attacking ground targets, though they would also continue to score kills against Japanese fighters, bombers and Kamikaze aircraft. Larger fighters such as the “Hellcat” and the “Corsair” and dedicated dive bombers were needed aboard fleet carriers, and the “Wildcat”'s slower landing speed made it more suitable for shorter flight decks.
In the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944, escort carriers of Task Unit 77.4.3 (“Taffy 3”) and their escort of destroyers and destroyer escorts found themselves as the sole force standing between vulnerable troop transport and supply ships engaged in landings on the Philippine island of Leyte and a powerful Japanese surface fleet of battleships and cruisers. In desperation, lightly armed “Avengers” and FM-2 “Wildcats” from Taffy's 1, 2 and 3 resorted to tactics such as strafing ships, including the bridge of the Japanese battleship Yamato, while the destroyers and destroyer escorts charged the enemy. Confused by the fierce resistance, the Japanese fleet eventually retreated.
U.S. Navy “Wildcats” participated in Operation Torch. USN escort carriers in the Atlantic used “Wildcats.”
In all, 7,860 “Wildcats” were built. During the course of the war, Navy and Marine F4F's and FM's flew 15,553 combat sorties (14,027 of these from aircraft carriers), destroying 1,327 enemy aircraft at a cost of 178 aerial losses, 24 to ground/shipboard fire, and 49 to operational causes, an overall kill-to-loss ratio of 6.9:1). True to their escort fighter role, “Wildcats” dropped only 154 tons of bombs during the war.
“Wildcat” Variants ²
U.S. Navy Variants
Grumman F4F-1/F4F-2 “Wildcat”
The original Grumman F4F-1 design was a biplane, which proved inferior to rival designs, necessitating a complete redesign as a monoplane named the F4F-2. This design was still not competitive with the Brewster F2A “Buffalo” which won initial U.S. Navy orders, but when the F4F-3 development was fitted with a more powerful version of the engine, a Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-76, featuring a two-stage supercharger, it showed its true potential.
Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat”
U.S. Navy orders followed as did some (with Wright “Cyclone” engines) from France; these ended up with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm after the fall of France and entered service on 8 September 1940. These aircraft, designated by Grumman as G-36A, had a different cowling from other earlier F4F's and fixed wings, and were intended to be fitted with French armament and avionics following delivery. In British service initially, the aircraft were known as the “Martlet I,” but not all “Martlets” would be to exactly the same specifications as U.S. Navy aircraft. All “Martlet I's” featured the four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns of the F4F-3 with 450 rpg. The British directly ordered and received a version with the original “Twin Wasp,” but again with a modified cowling, under the manufacturer designation G-36B. These aircraft were given the designation “Martlet II” by the British. The first 10 G-36Bs were fitted with non-folding wings and were given the designation “Martlet III.” These were followed by 30 folding wing aircraft (F4F-3A's) which were originally destined for the Hellenic Air Force, which were also designated “Martlet III's.” On paper, the designation changed to “Martlet III(A)” when the second series of “Martlet III” was introduced.
Poor design of the armament installation on early F4F's caused these otherwise reliable machine guns to frequently jam, a problem common to wing-mounted weapons of many U.S. fighters early in the war. It was an F4F-3 flown by Lieutenant Edward O'Hare that in a few minutes shot down five Mitsubishi twin-engine bombers attacking the USS Lexington off Bougainville on 20 February 1942. But contrasting with O'Hare's performance, his wingman was unable to participate because his guns would not function.
A shortage of two-stage superchargers lead to the development of the F4F-3A “Wildcat”, which was basically the F4F-3 “Wildcat” but with a 1,200 hp (890 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 radial engine with a more primitive single-stage two-speed supercharger. The F4F-3A “Wildcat,” which was capable of 312 mph (502 km/h) at 16,000 ft (4,900 m), was used side by side with the F4F-3 “Wildcat,” but its poorer performance made it unpopular with U.S. Navy fighter pilots. The F4F-3A “Wildcat” would enter service as the “Martlet III(B).”
At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, only the USS Enterprise had a fully equipped “Wildcat” squadron, VF-6 with F4F-3A's. The USS Enterprise was then transferring a detachment of VMF-211, also equipped with F4F-3 “Wildcats,” to Wake Island. The USS Saratoga was in San Diego, working up for operations of the F4F-3 “Wildcats” of VF-3. Eleven F4F-3 “Wildcats” of VMF-211 were at the Ewa Marine Air Corps Station on Oahu; nine of these were damaged or destroyed during the Japanese attack. The detachment of VMF-211 on Wake Island lost seven “Wildcats” to Japanese attacks on 8 December, but the remaining five put up a fierce defense, making the first bomber kill on 9 December. The destroyer Kisaragi was sunk by the “Wildcats”, and the Japanese invasion force retreated.
In May 1942, the F4F-3 “Wildcats” of VF-2 and VF-42, onboard the USS Yorktown and USS Lexington, participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The USS Lexington and USS Yorktown fought against the Zuikaku, Shokaku and the light carrier Shoho in this battle, in an attempt to halt a Japanese invasion of Port Moresby on Papua. During these battles, it became clear that attacks without fighter escort amounted to suicide, but that the fighter component on the carriers was completely insufficient to provide both fighter cover for the carrier and an escort for an attack force. Most U.S. carriers carried less than 20 fighters.
Grumman F4F-3S “Wildcatfish”
This floatplane version of the F4F-3 was developed for use at forward island bases in the Pacific, before the construction of airfields. It was inspired by appearance of the A6M2-N “Rufe,” a modification of the Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zeke.”. BuNo 4038 was modified to become the F4F-3S "“Wildcatfish.” Twin floats, manufactured by Edo Aircraft Corporation, were fitted. To restore the stability, small auxiliary fins were added to the tailplane. Because this was still insufficient, a ventral fin was added later.
The F4F-3S was first flown 28 February 1943. The weight and drag of the floats reduced the maximum speed to 241 mph (388 km/h). As the performance of the basic F4F-3 was already below that of the “Zero”, the F4F-3S was clearly of limited usefulness. In any case, the construction of the airfields at forward bases by the “Seabees” was surprisingly quick. Only one was converted.
Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat”
A new version, the F4F-4 “Wildcat”, entered service in 1942 with six machine guns and folding wings which allowed more aircraft to be crammed on a carrier, increasing the number of fighters that could be parked on a surface by more than a factor of 2. The F4F-4 “Wildcat” was the definitive version that saw the most combat service in the early war years, including the Battle of Midway. The Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat” was replaced by the Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat” in June 1942, during the Battle of Midway only VMF-221 still used “Wildcats” at that time.
This version was less popular with American pilots because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time. With the F4F-3 “Wildcats” four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) guns and 450 rpg, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rpg, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes. Jimmy Thach is quoted as saying, “A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight.“ Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 “Wildcat” was capable of only about 318 mph (512 km/h) at 19,400 ft (5,900 m). Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4 “Wildcat,” while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 “Wildcat” could climb at a modest 1,950 ft (590 m) per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4 “Wildcats” capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 ft (150 to 300 m) per minute. Moreover, the F4F-4 “Wildcat's” folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4 “Wildcats” to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3 “Wildcats.” In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of “Wildcats” carried aboard U.S. fleet aircraft carriers. A variant of the F4F-4 “Wildcat,” designated F4F-4B “Wildcat” for contractual purposes, was supplied to the British with a modified cowling and Wright “Cyclone” engine. These aircraft received the designation of “Martlet IV.”
General Motors (Eastern) FM-1 and FM-2 “Wildcats”
General Motors/Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM variants of the “Wildcat.” Grumman's “Wildcat” production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F “Hellcat,” but General Motors continued producing “Wildcats” for both U.S. Navy and Fleet Air Arm use. Late in the war, the “Wildcat” was obsolescent as a front line fighter compared to the faster (380 mph/610 km/h) F6F “Hellcat” or much faster (446 mph/718 km/h) F4U “Corsair.” However, they were adequate for small escort carriers against submarine and shore threats. These relatively modest ships carried only two types of aircraft (along with the GM-built “Avengers”). The “Wildcat's” lower landing speed and ability to take off without a catapult made it more suitable for shorter flight decks. At first, General Motors produced the FM-1 “Wildcat,” identical to the Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat,” but reduced the number of guns to four, and added wing racks for two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs or six rockets. Production later switched to the improved Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” (based on Grumman's XF4F-8 prototype) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine (the 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) Wright R-1820-56), and a taller tail to cope with the torque.
Tasked with supporting ground forces off Leyte, sorely under-armed aircraft from escort carriers such as USS Gambier Bay in the “Taffy” task groups found themselves up against a major surface fleet, which they helped turn Back in the Battle off Samar. Four Eastern FM-2 “Wildcats” from the USS Shamrock Bay's Composite Squadron 94 (VC-94) helped shoot down a number of Kamikaze aircraft attacking Laffey off Okinawa before running out of ammunition.
Grumman F4F-7 “Wildcat”
The Grumman F4F-7 “Wildcat” was a photo-reconnaissance variant, with armor and armament removed. It had non-folding “wet” wings that carried an additional 555 gal (2,101 L) of fuel for a total of about 700 gal (2,650 L), increasing its range to 3,700 mi (5,955 km). A total of 21 were built.
Eastern F2M “Wildcat”
The Eastern F2M-1 “Wildcat” was a planned development of the FM-1 “Wildcat” by General Motors/Eastern Aircraft to be powered by the improved XR-1820-70 engine, but the project was cancelled before any aircraft were built.
Royal Navy “Martlets”
Grumman “Martlet Mk.I”
At the end of 1939, Grumman received a French order for 81 aircraft of model G-36A, to equip their new Joffre-class aircraft carrier: Joffre and Painlevé. The main difference with the basic model G-36 was due to the unavailability for export of the two-stage supercharged engine of Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat.” The G-36A was powered by the nine-cylinder, single-row R-1820-G205A radial engine, of 1,200 hp (890 kW) and with a single-stage two-speed supercharger.
The Grumman G-36A had also French instrumentation, radio, and gunsight. The throttle was modified to conform to French pre-war practice: the throttle lever was moved towards the pilot, (i.e., Backward), to increase engine power. The armament which was to be fitted in France was six 7.5 mm (0.296 in) Darne machine guns (two in the fuselage and four in the wings). The first Grumman G-36A was flown on 11 May 1940.
After the defeat of France, all contracts were taken over by Britain. The throttle was modified again, four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) guns were installed in the wings, and most traces of the original ownership removed. The “Martlets” were modified for British use by Blackburn, which continued to do this for all later marks. British gunsights, catapult spools, and other items were installed. After initial attempts to fit British radio sets, it was decided to use the much superior American equipment.
The first ones entered service in August 1940, with 804 Naval Air Squadron, then stationed at Hatson in the Orkney Islands. The “Martlet Mk.I” did not have a wing folding mechanism, and was therefore only used from land bases.
In 1940, Belgium also placed an order for at least 10 “Martlet Ml.I's.” These were to be modified with the removal of the tailhook, however, after the surrender of Belgium, none were delivered and by May 10, 1940, the aircraft order was transferred to the Royal Navy.
Grumman “Martlet Mk.II”
Before the Fleet Air Arm took on charge the “Martlet Mk.I's” it had already ordered 100 Grumman G-36B fighters. The British chose the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G engine to power this aircraft; this too had a single-stage, two-speed supercharger. The FAA decided to accept a delay in delivery to get folding wings, which were vitally important if the “Martlet” was to be used from British carriers with their small hangar decks. Nevertheless, the first 10 received had fixed wings. The first “Martlet” with folding wings was not delivered before August 1941.
In contrast to USN Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat”, the British aircraft were fitted with armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. The Grumman “Martlet Mk.II” also had a larger tailwheel. For carrier operations, the “sting” tail hook and attachment point for the American single-point catapult launch system were considered important advantages. Nevertheless, the “Martlets” were modified to have British-style catapult spools. The FAA had ordered Grumman G-36B's with fixed wings, but wing-folding allowed a carrier to handle a larger number of aircraft, so the contract was amended to specify the folding wings, but the first 10 of the order had already been built with fixed wings. Deliveries of the folding-wing G-36B's began in August 1941, with 36 shipped to UK and 54 shipped to the Far East; they were designated "“Martlet Mk.II.” Mark II"
The Grumman “Martlet” was the second single-seat, monoplane fighter to operate from Royal Navy aircraft carriers following the introduction of the Hawker “Sea Hurricane IB” on HMS Furious in July 1941.
The majority of the “Martlet Mk.II's” were sent to the Far East. The first shipboard operations of the type in British service were in September 1941, on board of HMS Audacity, a very small escort carrier with a carrier deck of 420 ft (130 m) by 59 ft (18 m), no elevators and no hangar deck. The six “Wildcats” were parked on the deck at all times. On its first voyage, it served as escort carrier for a convoy to Gibraltar. On 20 September, a German FW.200 “Condor” was shot down. On the next voyage, four Fw.200 “Condors” fell to the guns of the “Martlets.” Operations from HMS Audacity also demonstrated that the fighter cover was useful against U-boats. HMS Audacity was sunk by an U-boat on 21 December 1941, but it had already proven the usefulness of escort carriers.
In May 1942, the 881 and 882 squadrons on HMS Illustrious, participated in operations against Madagascar. In August 1942, 806 NAS on HMS Indomitable provided fighter cover for a convoy to Malta. Later in that year they participated in the landings in French North Africa.
Grumman “Martlet Mk.III”
The first 30 Grumman F4F-3A “Wildcats” were released for sale to Greece, after the Italian invasion in November 1940. However, at the defeat of Greece in April 1941 the aircraft had only reached Gibraltar. They were taken over by the FAA as “Martlet Mk.III-B.” As these aircraft did not have folding wings, they were only used from land bases. They served in a shore-based role in the Western Desert.
Ten fixed-wing G-36Bs were used by the FAA as “Martlet Mk.III-A.”
Grumman “Martlet Mk.IV”
The Royal Navy purchased 220 Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcats” adapted to British requirements. The main difference was the use of a Wright R-1820-40B “Cyclone” in a distinctly more rounded and compact cowling, with a single double-wide flap on each side of the rear and no lip intake. These machines were named Grumman “Martlet Mk.IV.”
Eastern “Wildcat Mk.V”
The Fleet Air Arm purchased 312 Eastern FM-1 “Wildcats,” originally with the designation of “Martlet Mk.V.” In January 1944, a decision was made to retain the American names for US-supplied aircraft, redesignating the batch as the “Wildcat V.”
Eastern “Wildcat Mk.VI”
The Eastern “Wildcat Mk.VI” was the Air Ministry name for the Eastern FM-2 “Wildcat” in FAA service.
- Belgium: Belgian Air Force: at least 10 “Martlet Mk.I's” ordered, never delivered, transferred to Royal Navy after surrender.
- France: Aeronavale: 81 aircraft ordered, never delivered, transferred to Royal Navy after French defeat.
- Canada: Royal Canadian Navy: RCN personnel assigned to the Royal Navy HMS Puncher, were to provide the RCN with experience in aircraft carrier operations. The RCN flew 14 “Martlets” as part of 881 (RN) Squadron from February–July 1945.
- United Kingdom: Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
- United States: United States Navy; United States Marine Corps
Solomon Islands - On Display
- F4F-4 Wildcat, BuNo. 12068 is on display unrestored at the War Museum in Honiara.
United Kingdom - Airworthy
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86711 is flightworthy and owned by The Fighter Collection in Duxford.
United States - Airworthy
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 12260 is flightworthy and owned by Lewis Fighter Fleet LLC in San Antonio, Texas.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 16203 is flightworthy and owned by Michael Gillian in Downers Grove, Illinois.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 47030 is flightworthy and owned by Training Services Inc. in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 47160 is flightworthy and owned by FM-2 LCC in Lewes, Delaware.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 55627 is flightworthy and owned by the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 74560 is flightworthy and owned by Chino Warbirds Inc. in Houston, Texas.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86564 is flightworthy and owned by the Yanks Air Museum in Chino, California.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86572 is flightworthy and owned by the Warhawk Air Museum in Boise, Idaho.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86581 is flightworthy and owned by the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86680 is flightworthy and owned by Mustang Aviation Partners Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware, unique in having a passenger cabin.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86690 is flightworthy and owned by John Dimmer in Tacoma, Washington. It is on loan to the Boeing Museum of Flight.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86741 is flightworthy and owned by the Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86746 is flightworthy and owned by the Antiques and Classics in Champaign, Illinois.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86754 is flightworthy and owned by the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86777 is flightworthy and owned by Howard E. Pardue in Breckenridge, Texas.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86819 is flightworthy and owned by the Commemorative Air Force (Air Group One) in San Diego, California.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86956 is flightworthy and owned by the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas.
United States - On Display,/p>
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 3872 is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- F4F-3A Wildcat, BuNo. 3956 is on display at the Patriots Point Naval Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
- F4F-3A Wildcat, BuNo. 3969 is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 4039 is on display unrestored in a simulated underwater diorama at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 11828 is on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum in San Diego, California. It is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- F4F-4 Wildcat, BuNo. 12114 is on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 12297 is on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York. It is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- F4F-3 Wildcat, BuNo. 12320 is on display at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois as a memorial to Navy Cross and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient LCDR Edward O'Hare. It is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- FM-1 Wildcat, BuNo. 14994 is on display at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida. It is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- FM-1 Wildcat, BuNo. 15392 is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 16089 is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 16161 is on display unrestored at the Pima Air & Space Museum adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. It is on loan from the Military Aircraft Restoration Corp in Anaheim, California
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 74161 is on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg, Texas. It is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86747 is on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
- Under restoration FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 74512 is under restoration by the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 86774 is under restoration to airworthiness by Skyway Aero Inc. in Reno, Nevada.
- FM-2 Wildcat, BuNo. 87773 is under restoration to airworthiness by the Bruce Roberts in New London, Pennsylvania.
Specifications (F4F-3) ²
- Crew: 1
- Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.76 m)
- Wingspan: 38 ft (11.58 m)
- Height: 11 ft 10 in (3.60 m)
- Loaded weight: 7,000 lb (3,200 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)
- Maximum speed: 331 mph (531 km/h)
- Range: 845 mi (1,360 km)
- Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,303 ft/min (11.7 m/s)
- Guns: 4 × 00.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns with 450 rounds per gun
- Bombs: 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58 gal (220 L) drop tanks
Specifications (F4F-4) ²
- Crew: 1
- Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.8 m)
- Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
- Height: 9 ft 2.5 in (2.8 m)
- Wing area: 260 ft² (24.2 m²)
- Empty weight: 5,895 lb (2,674 kg)
- Loaded weight: 7,975 lb (3,617 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 8,762 lb (3,974 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)
- Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 kn, 515 km/h)
- Range: 830 mi (721 nm, 1,337 km)
- Service ceiling: 34,000 ft (10,363 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,200 ft/min at normal power (11.17 m/s)
- Wing loading: 30.7 lb/ft² (149.77 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 249 w/kg (0.15 hp/lb)
- Guns: 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns
- Photos: John Shupek, Copyright © 2009 Skytamer Images. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
- Wikipedia, Grumman F4F “Wildcat”
- Wikipedia, List of surviving F4F Wildcats
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