Grumman F3F Carrier-based Biplane Fighter Aircraft
Grumman continued its relationship as a USN fighter supplier delivering their useful F3F series in 1936 - the last biplane fighter to be adopted by the service.
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When the United States Navy (USN) adopted the Grumman F3F series, it took on its last biplane-arranged fighter before moving on to more modern monoplane forms. 147 of the type were produced by Grumman who was establishing itself as a regular USN contributor with a relationship that would last well into the Cold War years. Manufacture spanned from 1936 into 1939. First flight of an F3F prototype was on March 20th, 1935 with service introduction following in 1936. While on hand at the start of World War 2 (1939-1945), the F3F did not see combat service in the grand conflict for the line was removed in 1941 as a frontline system - the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came in December of that year and thus followed the official American entry into the war. Formal retirement of the F3F series arrived in 1943, its successor being the Brewster F2A "Buffalo" series detailed elsewhere on this site.
The F3F came about as an improved form of the preceding F2F biplane fighter. The earlier design showcased issues with stall/dive recovery and general stability which led the USN to offer Grumman a shot at a slightly redesigned model under the "F3F" designation. The prototype, therefore, took on the "XF3F-1" designation and it carried on use of the Pratt & Whitney "Twin Wasp Junior" radial piston engine of 700 horsepower and used a similar biplane wing arrangement with open-air cockpit. Of note is that its general form mimicked that of the next-in-line for Grumman fighter - the classic F4F "Wildcat" monoplane of World War 2 fame.
The F3F - company model "G-11" - featured dimensional changes over that as seen in the F2F. Its fuselage length was increased some to counter the stability issues and its wing surfaces were enlarged. The new design was extensively tested for dive recovery but one of these tests ultimately led to a crash of the prototype - fatal to the company test pilot - when the XF3F-1 broke up in flight. This forced a revision of the design which included reinforced members for increased durability and produced a second flyable prototype. Again the aircraft was lost, this time unable to recover from a spin action, though the test pilot was able to bail out in time. The airframe, despite crashing, was salvaged and rebuilt to fly again during June of 1935.
With the tests behind it and appropriate action taken to rectify emerging issues, XF3F-1 was ordered as the "F3F-1" through an initial 54-strong batch order. The first aircraft arrived in late-January of 1936 and was assigned to USS Ranger. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) followed the USN in its use of the F3F series.