Grumman F4F Wildcat
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Grumman F4F Wildcat

F4F Wildcat being serviced
Gruman Wildcat Folding Wings
Wildcats lined up on a U.S. air field to demonstrate the space saving fold-back wing that enabled 5 planes to be stored on the flight deck or hangar deck of a carrier in the space that would otherwise be taken up by just two planes. Click on image to enlarge.

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’s 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.
Wildcat Basics

Length: 28 ft. 9 in.
Wingspan: 38 ft.
Weight: 8,152 lbs loaded
First Flight: September, 1937
Number Built: 7,885
Top Speed: 328 mph
Range: 845 miles loaded
Cruising Speed: 155 mph
Ceiling: 37,000 ft.
Crew: 1
Power: (1) 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney R1830-76 14- Cylinder Radial Engine
Armament: Six .50 cal. wing-mounted machine guns, racks to hold two 100 lb. bombs
In early 1943, Grumman stopped building the F4, so they could focus their production of the faster, more powerful F-6F Hellcat. General Motors then built the Wildcat for both U.S. Navy and the Fleet Air Arm of the British Navy.
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F4F Wildcat
USAF Photo
Click on image to enlarge.

The Grumman F4F Wildcat in U.S. Museums West to East

Pacific Aviation Museum, Ford Island, Hawaii

San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA

Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, San Diego, CA

Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ

National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredricksburg, TX

O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, IL

Air Zoo, Kalamazoo, MI

National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL

Patriots Point Naval Museum, Mount Pleasant, SC

Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, Titusville, FL

National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, VA

National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, NY

New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, CT


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