INDEX OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT

 

 

Grumman F4F Martlet (Grumman F4F Wildcat) 

 

History

The Grumman F4F Wildcat or Martlet was Grumman's first monoplane and one of the outstanding Naval fighters of World War II. This American fighter was called the Martlet by the Royal Navy until March 1944 when it reverted to the US name Wildcat.

The F4F design began in 1935 while the company's latest biplane for the USN, the XF3F-l, was still undergoing its initial tests. In November 1935 the USN initiated a formal design competition for a new carrier-based fighter and during the early months selected Brewster and Grumman designs for prototype testing. The Brewster F2A-1 was a monoplane-the first adopted by the Navy at the design stage - while the Grumman XF4F-1 was a biplane, backed by the USN primarily as an insurance against failure of the monoplane. Ordered in 1936, the XF4F-1 was an equal-span biplane of 4,500 lb gross weight with a Pratt & Whitney R-1535-92 engine. However, data on the Brewster aeroplane soon showed that the biplane could not compete with a successful monoplane, while steady development of the F3F improved its performance nearly to equal that of the projected XF4F-l. Further work on the latter consequently seemed pointless, and an alternative monoplane was designed by Grumman. This was ordered by the Navy in 1936, as the XF4F-2, and in this completely revised form the Grumman design was destined for far greater success than ever achieved by its Brewster-designed contemporary.
 

The Wildcat was the main shipboard fighter when the US entered WWII. The F4F was barrel-shaped, with angular wingtips and rudder and a narrow-track undercarriage. The Mitsubishi A6M out performed it, but the F4F was well-armed and reliable, and was a natural shipboard aircraft, probably easier to land on a carrier deck than on land. It set the reputation of Grumman for building immensely strong aircraft. The F4F never had a operational speed limitation. Production continued to the end of the war, mainly for use on escort carriers; Eastern Aircraft built it as the FM.

Fleet Air Arm Martlet BJ561 of 886 and 881 squadrons
Powered by a 1,050 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp engine, the XF4F-2 (Grumman G-18) had a gross weight of 5,535 lb and a design maximum speed of 290 mph. It was a mid-wing all-metal monoplane with an armament of two 0~50-in guns in the fuselage and provision for two more in the wings, or two 100 lb bombs beneath the wings. The main wheels of the undercarriage retracted into the fuselage in typical Grumman fashion. First flight was made from the Grumman Long Island factory at Bethpage on 2 September, 1937.

In October 1938 the Navy contracted for a modified prototype to be powered by a version of the Twin Wasp with a two-stage twospeed supercharger, the XR-1830-76. In August 1939 the Navy ordered 54 F3F-3s. Export orders for the Grumman G-36 had been placed in 1939, when France purchased 81 G-36As; this entire order was transferred to Britain in June 1940, and the first aircraft, with its British name of Martlet I, was delivered on 27 July, 1940, ahead of F4F-3 deliveries to the USN which were by December 1940, when 22 F4F-3s had been accepted by the Navy, and initial deliveries were being made to VF-4 (USS Ranger) and VF-7 (USS Wasp) at Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia.

In 1942, Eastern Aircraft was made a second production source for the F4F with a contract for 1,800 examples of the F4F-4 designated FM-I, leaving Grumman free to concentrate upon the F6F Hellcat. Eastern delivered 840 in the first 12 months, and 300 to Britain as Martlet Vs in 1942-3. The advent of the escort carrier led to development of the final Wildcat version, the FM-2. This combined the more powerful Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone engine with a lighter airframe to obtain improved take-off performance from the shorter carrier decks. Eventually, Eastern built 4,127 FM-2s for the USN and 340 for Britain as Wildcat VI (the original British name of Martlet was dropped in favour of Wildcat in March 1944). The FM-2s became standard equipment on the majority of the 114 escort carriers put into service by the end of the war. By the end of the war 7,815 Wildcat had been built.
 

Versions
 Mk I    British version of the F4F-3; Four 05in machine guns
 Mk II  British version of F4F-4 with folding wings, armour, self-sealing fuel tanks and six 0.5in machine
            guns
 Mk III
 Mk IV
 Mk V    General Electric built FM-1 with R-1830-86 engine, four 0.5in machine guns with provision for
               underwing stores or: FM-2 with 1,350hp Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone, with taller vertical tail
               surfaces and on some aircraft provision for six 5-inch rockets under the wings

In total the Fleet Air Arm received 1172 Wildcat 1940-1945. The first Wildcat used by the Fleet Air Arm were 53 Grumman G-36a Martlet I, and 6 Grumman G-36a Martlet III diverted from a French order which had not been delivered before the Fall of France in 1940. The aircraft were all delivered to the British Purchasing Commission on 23 August 1940 and transferred to the first FAA unit 804 Hatston on 7 September 1940 (eg AX827), 778 squadron at Arbroath in September 1940 (eg AX826), 759 squadron at Yeovilton in October and November 1940 (eg BJ555) and 802 squadron at Donisbristle on 23 November 1940 (eg AL237).

Further aircraft in 1940 were lost when 20 Grumman G-36a Martlet I diverted from an undelivered French orders sank with SS Ruperra which was torpedoed 500 miles NW of Ireland on 19 October 1940.

The next Wildcat to be received by the Fleet Air Arm were in Spring of 1941, when 30 Grumman F4F-3a Martlet III ordered by Greek Purchasing Commission in August 1940 for shipment to Greece reached Port Suez in April 1941, then diverted to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease transfer on 4 April 1941. These aircraft were subsequently involved in convoy patrols, one Martlet piloted by Sub Lt R Griffon shot down a S.79, forced two others to jettison bombs, then hit by return fire attacking a fourth, dived vertically into sea 50m N of Ras el Milh on 28 December 1941.

Martlet II started to be delivered in December 1941, when 54 were shipped from New York to Bombay arriving in March 1942 (AJ100), this was closely followed by further losses of 10 Martlet III in HMS Audacity on 21 December 1941.

With this situation, 16 Grumman F4F-3 [Martlet III equivalent] were loaned from the US Navy to 890 and 892 Squadrons during work up at Norfolk, Virginia, USA from 18 July 1942 until 12 September 1942 after which the aircraft were returned to the USN. All these aircraft were from the USN squadron VF-9, and carried 9F codes (they kept their US Nos: BuAer Nos 1858-3873).

By February 1942, the first major delivery of 220 Wildcat IV (ex Martlet IV until 1.1.44) was made. 806 squadron was equipped with Martlet II from July 1942 on HMS Indomitable, whilst most were shipped to the UK in September 1942 onwards, first reaching 896 squadron in November 1942, and 312 Grumman FM-1 Wildcat V delivered in June 1943 to 787 squadron and C Sqdn A&AEE in July 1943, and 1832 squadron from August 1943.

The Wildcat was one of the FAA's primary naval fighter up till the end of 1942. However, during 1943 Wildcat squadrons started to be re-equipped with either the larger Grumman F6F Hellcat or the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair.

However, orders continued and 288 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat VI were delivered in May 1944, firstly to AHU Stretton, and 881 squadron in July 1944. Many of these latter aircraft remained in service with the FAA until 1946. The final 82 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat VI were delivered in August 1945 up until November 1945, and mainly being sent out to the Far East and Australia.
 

 
Fleet Air Arm history
        Martlet/Wildcat
        Total FAA 1939-1945:        1172
        First delivered to RN:         July 1940
        First squadron 1939-1945:   804, 778 sqdns 1940
        Operational squadron:         804 sqdn
        Last served with RN           AJ152 derelict in blister hangar at Exeter 1948-1952
 
Grumman F4F-3 [Martlet III equivalent] on loan from US Navy for 890 and 892 Sqdns during work up [all USN squadron VF-9, hence carried 9F codes] kept US Nos: BuAer nos 1858-3873.
Total - 16
892 sqdn Norfolk, va from 18.7.42, rtn USN 12,9,42 (other retn 7-9.42)

30 Grumman F4F-3a Martlet III with BuAer numbers 3875-3904 ordered by Greek Purchasing Commission and delivered under Contract No 75736 dated 5.8.40 for shipment to Greece.
Reached Port Suez 4.41, then diverted to Royal Navy under lend-lease transfer dated 30.4.41.
First sqdn BuAer 3875 805 7.41 became AX733 (other 8 to 805 sqdn 7-8.41)

54 Grumman G-36b Martlet II direct order for British Purchasing Commission, Grumman Job No 127.
Serial Numbers: AJ100 AJ153
AJ150 to UK, remainder to Far East.
First deld 12.41, shipped NY to Bombay 3.42 (AJ100) others also shipped same date or in 4.42
Sqdn 806 7.42 HMS Indomitable (AJ100)
Last AJ152 derelict in blister hangar at Exeter 1948-1952

32 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British Contract no F292
Serial Numbers: AL231-AL262. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Deld to BPC 23.8.40 AL231 etc (all deld 8.40 to BPC)
802 sqdn at Donisbristle 23.11.40 ALl237

10 Grumman G-36a Martlet III  direct order for British Purchasing Commission, Grumman Job No 127.
Serial Numbers: AM954-AM963
Deld 3.41 (AM954)
Sqdn AM956 778 sqdn 6.41 Arbroath
First op sdqn 802 sqdn 9.41 (AM955)
Most lost in HMS Audacity 21.12.41

36 Grumman G-36b Martlet III direct order for British Purchasing Commission, Grumman Job No 127.
Serial Numbers: AM964-AM999
Deld 10.41. ALL shipped from Norfolk, Va in HMS Illustrious 12.12.41 (eg AM964
Sqdn 881 sqdn 5.42 AM964

23 Grumman G-36a Martlet III delivered under British contract No f292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: AX725-AX747.
Deld deld BPC (British Purchasing Commission) 9.40
Sqdn: 805 12.41, all but three or so to 805

3 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British contract No F292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: AX753, AX754 and AX761

6 Grumman G-36a Martlet III delivered under British Contract No F292
Serial Numbers: AX824-AX829. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Deld 8.40 to UK,
Sqdn 778 sqdn Arbroath 9.40 AX826
Deld 804 sqdn Hatston 7.9.40 AX827, 804 sqdn Hatston 10.40(AX824)

21 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British Contract no F292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: BJ507-BJ527.
Deld 9.40.
Deld 804 sqdn Hatston 10.40

17 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British Contract No F292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: BJ554-BJ570.
Deld 9.40
Sqdn 759 sqdn Yeovilton 10-11.40 BJ555, etc
Sqdn 888 sqdn 11.41 BJ556

10 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British Contract No F292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: BT447-BT456.
All lost at sea when SS Ruperra torpedoed 500m NW of Ireland on 19.10.40

10 Grumman G-36a Martlet I delivered under British Contract No F292. Diverted from French order not delivered before surrender.
Serial Numbers: BT447-BT456.
All lost at sea when SS Ruperra torpedoed 500m NW of Ireland on 19.10.40

220 Grumman F4F-4b Wildcat IV (ex Martlet IV until 1.1.44) ordered under Cont No LL83734
Serial Numbers: FN100-FN319
Deld 2.42 most shipped to UK 9.42 onwards
Sqdn 896 sqdn 11.42 (FN100)

2 Grumman Martlet III numbered HK841 and HK842 source unknown,
Both to 805 sqdn and ferried from Wadi Seidna to Juba 8.42 thence to 795 sqdn at Juba.

312 Grumman FM-1 Wildcat V ordered under Contract No LL99036
Serial Numbers: JV325-JV636.
First deld 6.43 787 JV337 and C Sqdn A and AEE 7.43 JV336
Sqdn 1832 sqdn from 15.8.43 JV333; 800 sqdn 9.43 JV332, 846 sqdn 2.44 (JV330

288 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat VI ordered under Contract no NOa(S)227
Serial Numbers: JV637-JV924
deld 5.44 AHU Stretton
Sqdn: 881 sqdn 7.44
Many survive to 1946

52 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat VI under Contract No Noa(s)227
Serial Numbers: JW785-JW811
deld 8.45
Deld to sqdns 8-11.45 after war.

30 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat VI under Contract No Noa(s)227
Serial Numbers: JZ860-JZ889
Stated to have been mainly delivered to the Far East and Australia.

Aircraft Type:
Grumman F4F Martlet (Grumman F4F Wildcat)
Grumman G36A & B Martlet
(Known as the Wildcat in USN(and the FAA from  March 1944)
Mark:
Mk I, II, V
Primary Role:
Carrier-borne Fighter
First Flight: 
First flight
prototype  2 September, 1936 
serial version February, 1940
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
1940-945
Manufacturer:
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, General Motors, Eastern Aircraft
Engine:
One 1,180 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan 38 ft      11.58 m 
Length28.74 ft           8.76 m 
Height 9.22 ft       2.81 m 
Wingarea260 sq ft 24.15 sq m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight
empty   5,760 lb (2,612 kg) 
max. 7,952 lb (3,607 kg)
Speed: 

Ceiling: 

Range:

Max. speed : 518 km/h 
Ceiling: 10900 m
Range : 2173 km
Armament: 
Six 0.5in machine guns in wings
Two 113 kg bombs
Crew:
1
Squadrons:
700,718,719,722,733,738,748,757,759,760,762,767,768,771,772,778,781,787,790,794,795,
802,804,805,806,811,813,815,816,819,824,825,832,833,834,835,838,842,845,846,850,851,
852,853,856,878,880,881,882,888,890,892,893,894,896,898,1832
Battle honours:
North Africa, Mediterranean, Europe 1939-1945, Atlantic, Norway, Japan 
Additional references and notes:
-

Battle Honours and Operational History

The first Wildcats to see action were flown by the Royal Navy. Both Britain and France placed orders for the F4F-3 (although with different engines and armament layouts) during late1939 and early 1940. British Wildcats claimed their first victory on 25 December, 1940, almost a full  year before the first American Wildcats saw action at Wake Island. On this occassion, Martlet I BJ562 of 804 squadron flown by Lt RHP Carver shot down Ju88 in Scapa Flow area, landed in a bog 1 mile south of Loch Skail. The kill was shared with Sub Lt TRV Parke.

The Fleet Air Arm aircraft went on to make many kills. For example, the Greek delivered Wildcat were involved in convoy patrols, one Martlet piloted by Sub Lt R Griffon shot down a S.79, forced two others to jettison bombs, then hit by return fire attacking a fourth, dived vertically into sea 50m n of Ras el Milh on 28 December 1941.

The Fleet Air Arm and the US Navy also took the Wildcat into operation in North Africa in November 1942, with such units as VF-41 on Ranger, VGF-27, VGF-28 and VGF-30 on the escort carrier Suwannee and VGF-26 on Sangamon. Later in the war, Wildcat JV512 of 846 squadron flown by Sub Lt GW McCabe from HMS Tracker, with Avenger FN869 and Swordfish LS373 helped to sink U-288 on 3 April 1944.

During 1942 the ratio of victories to losses for air combat for the F4F was 59 :1, and for the whole war the official figure for the F4FJFM was 69 :1. A large proportion of these victories was obtained against bombers and transports, but the figures show that the Wildcat was not unsuccessful, especially in the first half of the war in the Pacific, when the Grumman design was the sole carrier-based fighter operating with the USN.

The Wildcat saw much action with the US Navy and Marines. In 1941, two US Marine squadrons were at Ewa, Hawaii, when the Japanese attack was launched and nine aircraft were lost on the ground. Later that day a detachment of the same squadron, VMF-21 I, lost seven more aircraft on the ground at Wake Island. In the ensuing battle for Wake, five remaining F4F-3s scored a number of victories over Japanese bombers and fighters before they fell to the vastly superior strength of the Japanese attack force. These were the first combat operations by US Wildcats.

Supplementing the F4F-3s in service during 1942, the F4F-4s were soon in action in the Pacific, participating notably in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. With the launching of the Marines' attack on Guadalcanal, the pace of the war in the air for the F4Fs hotted up still further, and Navy and Marine units, including VF-5 (USS Saratoga), VF-6 and yE-b (Enterprise), VF-71 (Wasp), VF-72 (Hornet) and VMF-l 12, VMF-121, VMF-212, VMF-223 and VFM-224, were in constant action until the F4U and F6F began to appear during 1943.


Wartime colour photograph of Fleet Air Arm Martlet decklanding in WWII


Surviving aircraft and relics

Seven surviving Fleet Air Arm Martlets or Wildcats are in existence and a total of 54 Wildcat worldwide. Martlets are preserved at the FAA Museum (UK) (Martlet Mk I AL246 G-36A ) and at the Ulster Aviation Museum (UK) (Martlet V (FM-1) JV482).

Wildcats in static or airworthy condition can be found amongst others at The Fighter Collection (UK),  Dick Hansen Warbirds (USA), Cradle of Aviation Museum (USA), MCAS El Toro Historical Foundation (USA), National Museum of Naval Aviation  NAS Pensacola (USA), San Diego Aerospace Museum  (USA), United States Marine Corps Air/Ground Museum (USA), Vilu War museum on Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), and the Lone Star Flight Museum (USA).



Fleet Air Arm Wildcat FM-2 N4845V preserved at Duxford (UK)

The FAA Museum Martlet I ALl246 served with 802 squadron from December 1940, then with 882 squadron between July 1941 till MArch 1942, thence to 768 squadron until January 1944.

Fleet Air Arm Wildcat FM-2 N4845V in flight at Duxford (UK)


Cavanaugh Flight Museum F4F/FM-2 Wildcat


Wildcat wreck from the jungle at Tasimboko, Guadacanal in the 1980s

Wrecked Wildcat found in the jungle near Tasimboko in 1972, now at the Vilu War museum, west of Honiara, on Guadalcanal. It is part of a relic collection gathered by Islander Fred Kona in the 1960s-1970s.



Wildcat F4F-3 preserved at the NNAM (USA)

National Naval Aviation Museum (USA): One of 2 F4F-3s (BuNo 3872) recovered from Lake Michigan has been fully restored by Museum volunteers and is on display. A second (BuNo 4039) is unrestored and is on display in the underwater exhibit. An additional F4F-3A (BuNo 3969) is also displayed. One of two FM-2s (BuNo 86747) on display in the Museum's collection was received from Ken Spivey. The second FM-2 (BuNo 16089) is on display in the WWII Marine Pacific Island exhibit.


Associations and reunions
No information
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
Aviation history online museum and the wildcat  Full Text and Specifications on the wildcat
Grumman F4F Wildcat  American website with detailed history
Grumman F4F Wildcat by WSAM*(Worlds Smallest Air Museum) of Paper Airplane Models Extensive history of the American wildcat and how to make paper models
Combat Aircraft of the Pacific War  F4Fand FM Wildcat US history
Warbird alley Warbird Alley, an online reference source for information about privately-owned, ex-military aircraft. Includes details and specs and a summary total of airworthy aircraft including the Wildcat
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale The wildcat in detail [in french]
 Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS Aircraft Profiles including:
GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk.V, 852 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Nabob, May 1944 ,
GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk. V, 846 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, Limavady, County Antrim, June 1944, GENERAL MOTORS WILDCAT Mk.VI, 881 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Puncher, March 1945,
GRUMMAN MARTLET Mk. III, 805 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, Maaten Bagush, Egypt, April 1942
profiles are offered by Scott Fraser, owner of Tally Ho! decals The profiles include:
Martlet III (F4F-3A), #3876, 805 Squadron, Dekheila, August 1941,
Martlet II (G-36B), AM978, 888 Squadron, HMS Formidable Madagascar, May 1942 , Martlet IV (F4F-4B), FN121, 893 Squadron, HMS Formidable Mediterranean Sea, early 1943,
Martlet II (G-36B), AJ108, 888 Squadron, HMS Formidable Operation 'Torch', October 1942, 
Wildcat V, JV435, 890 Squadron, HMS Atheling Trade Protection Duties, Indian Ocean, May - July 1945
Wildcat Aces of World War 2. Published by Osprey Aircraft of the Aces Series
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000

 

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