The Grumman F4F Wildcat, was an American carrier-based aircraft famous for its participation in many crucial battles of World War II in the Pacific Theatre. The F4F saw service under the United States Navy and the Royal Fleet Air Arm, and in fact, was the main fighter of the USN for the first year and a half of the United States involvement in World War II.
The F4F Wildcat started out as a biplane on the drawing boards, and was entered into a U.S. Navy competition. It was beat by the Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo design which resulted to its complete remodelling to a monoplane, XF4F-2. However, Brewster's Buffalo design was still considered superior overall and was chosen for productions. After some changes to the wings and the engines, the new XF4F-3 led to an order for the production of the dash three model (the name "Wildcat" was officially adopted on October 1st, 1941), with the first of which was completed in the February of 1940. The French also placed on order for the F4F-3s, but fell before they could be delivered and was ultimately transferred to the British Royal Navy, which named them "Martlet I"s.
Landing accidents were common, due to the unsual main landing gear design. This design, which was incorporated to all versions of the Wildcat, made it extremely hard to fully lock the landing in place as the fuselage-mounted landing gears had to be painstakingly hand-cranked, with a relatively narrow track.
General Motors built their own version of the Wildcat, designated FM-1. The only difference being the change in armament. It remained in service throughout the remainder of the war on escort carriers where larger and heavier escort fighters could not be used.
- Royal Navy- The Wildcat, or Martlet, scored its first combat victory in the European Theatre on Christmas Day of 1940, when a land-based Martlet shot down a Junkers Ju 88 over Scapa Flow. This was also the first combat victory by a US-built fighter in British Service in World War II. In mid-1941, Martlets began combat operations out at sea aboard British ships and had seen to the downing of several enemy planes.
- U.S. Navy and Marines- The F4F Wildcat saw more action under the Americans in the Pacific Theatre. It was out-performed by the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Wildcat's major opponent in the early parts of the war in the Pacific, but it had one advantage over the Zero. The Wildcat had relatively heavy armor, and self-sealing fuel tanks. Zeros, on the other hand, sacrificed protection for agility and power. The F4F Wildcats played a prominent role in many of major battles of the Pacific, such as the defence of Wake Island, the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the Guadalcanal Campaign.
During the course of the war, Navy and Marine Wildcats flew 15 553 combat sorties (14 027 from aircraft carrriers), destroying 1 327 enemy aircraft at a cost of 191 Wildcats (an overall kill-death ratio of 6.9:1). Wildcats only dropped 154 tons of bombs during World War II.
(Data from The American Fighter, by Angelucci, Enzo)
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 (3,176 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)
Guns: 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 450 rounds/gun
Bombs: 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58gal. drop tanks
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: 5,760 lb (2,610 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 7,950 lb (3,610 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)
Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 knots, 515 km/h)
Range: 770 mi (670 nm, 1,240 km)
Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,950 ft/min (9.9 m/s)
Guns: 6 x 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 240 rounds/gun
Bombs: 2 × 250 lb (114 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58 gal. droptanks