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  • Grumman F4F Wildcat Carrier-Borne Fighter Aircraft

    Originally conceived of as a biplane, the Grumman F4F Wildcat became a critical component to the early going of World War 2 for the Allies.

     Updated: 4/5/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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.

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    Grumman FM-2 Wildcat Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1940
    Type: Carrier-Borne Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Grumman Aircraft Corporation / General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division - USA
    Production Total: 7,722

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 28.87 feet (8.8 meters)
    Width: 37.99 feet (11.58 meters)
    Height: 11.48 feet (3.50 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 4,907 lb (2,226 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 7,423 lb (3,367 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Wright Cyclone R-1820-56 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,350 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 332 mph (534 kph; 288 knots)
    Maximum Range: 900 miles (1,448 km)
    Service Ceiling: 34,698 feet (10,576 meters; 6.57 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 2,000 feet-per-minute (610 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    STANDARD (F4F-3):
    4 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings OR 4 x 7.5mm Darne machine guns in wings

    STANDARD (F4F-4):
    6 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns in wings

    OPTIONAL (F4F-3):
    2 x 100lb bombs OR 2 x 58 gallon droptanks under wings.

    OPTIONAL (F4F-4):
    2 x 250lb bombs OR 2 x 58 gallon droptanks under wings.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Canada; United Kingdom; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    G-16 - Grumman Designation for original biplane design.

    XF4F-1 - Design designation of G-16.

    F4F-1 - Production Designation for proposed biplane design.

    G-18 - Grumman Designation for revised monoplane design.

    XF4F-2 - Monoplane Prototype for US Navy evaluation; 1,050hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp radial engine.

    F4F-2 - Production Designation for reworked biplane design into monoplane form.

    G-36A - Grumman Designation for revised design with new tail, larger wing surface, revised cowling, fixed wings, and XR-1830-76 powerplant.

    XF4F-3 - Grumman G-36A Prototype Redesignation.

    F4F-3 - Official Production Model Designation based on the G-36A revised monoplane prototype; for French and US Navy use; French orders diverted to British; 4 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns.

    F4F-3A - Fitted with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 powerplant of 1,200 horsepower; single-stage two-speed supercharger; folding wings.

    F4F-3S "Wildcatfish" - Floatplane Variant; floats by Edo Aircraft Corporation; additional ventral fin; one Wildcat converted in this fashion.

    G-36B - Grumman Prototype Designation for Martlet II; Twin Wasp engine in modified cowling.

    F4F-4 - Definitive Wildcat model featuring folding wings, improved armor protection, self-sealing fuel tanks and 6 x .50 caliber machine guns.

    F4F-4B - Modified F4F-4 model with Wright Cyclone engine and revised cowling for export.

    F4F-7 - Long-Range Unarmed Photographic Reconnaissance Model; sans armor and guns; non-folding wings; additional fuel stored in wings; 21 examples produced.

    XF4F-8 - Prototype fitted with Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone engine of 1,350 horsepower; revised tail unit; provision for 6 x 5" high-explosive unguided rockets.

    Martlet Mk I - British Designation of F4F-3 Model based on the G-36A prototype; 4 x 12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns.

    Martlet II - British designation of G-36B; single-stage, two-speed supercharger; Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G engine; armor and self-sealing fuel tanks; first 10 delivered with fixed wings, later batch with folding wings.

    Martlet III - British designation; originally intended for use by Greece; first ten Martlett II's delivered without folding wings; land-based operations.

    Martlett III(B) - British Designation of F4F-3A models; Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 radial piston engine of 1,200 horsepower.

    Martlert III(A) - British designation for thirty more Martlet III's with folding wings.

    Martlet IV - British designation of F4F-4B Wildcat; Wright-Cyclone engine in revised cowling; 220 examples produced.

    Martlet Mk V - based on GM-produced FM-1; 311 examples produced.

    Martlet Mk VI - based on GM-produced FM-2; 370 examples produced.

    FM-1 - Produced by General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division; equivalent to the F4F-4 model featuring a R-1830-86 powerplant, 4 x .50 caliber machine guns and bomb provisions (Martlet designation dropped in early January of 1944).

    FM-2 - Produced by General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division; based on XF4F-8 prototype; small-carrier optimized; taller vertical tail fin.