Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

The F4F-4 Wildcat entered service at the beginning of World War II and was the Navy's frontline carrier-based fighter aircraft by the time of the Battle of Midway in May of 1942. Grumman's design for the F4F-4 evolved in several stages over the course of seven years. It was initially conceived as a biplane, the XF4F-1, in 1935 for the Navy, but Grumman lost the contract to a monoplane design by Brewster. Not to be outdone, Grumman then redesigned the biplane into a monoplane, the XF4F-2, yet the design was considered under powered. Finally, with the addition of a more powerful supercharged Pratt and Whitney 1830 Twin Wasp engine Grumman was awarded the Navy contract. This was the F4F-3. The F4F-3 was also produced for France and Britain, where it went by the designation Martlet.

Grumman looked to improve the combat capabilities of the design further in the F4F-4. They added two more 50 caliber machine guns in the wings (making a total of six), self-sealing fuel tanks, armor, and a unique feature invented by Grumman and first installed in the Wildcat F4F-4, folding wings. The feature was a great advancement in naval warfare because it meant that henceforth a carrier could accommodate more than twice the compliment of fighters than was possible previously.

Although easily outperformed by the its Japanese counterpart, the A6M Zero, the F4F-4 often held its own in combat due its highly rugged construction and superior armament. The Achilles heel of the Wildcat was its limited maneuverability and range. At the Battle of Midway range proved crucial when Wildcats where only able to engage the enemy briefly, until they were forced to return to their carriers. Moreover, many had to ditch on the return trip back due to lack of fuel. Yet the addition of drop tanks improved range substantially, and experienced and well trained pilots were able to overcome the limited maneuverability by using tactics that took advantage of the Wildcat’s speed and firepower. Although by mid-War it began to be replaced on carriers by more advanced Hellcats and Corsairs, the F4F-4 still had attained an impressive record and by the end of the War was credited with over 1,500 victories.

The Museum's F4F-4 Wildcat, Bureau Number 11828, was attached to the U.S.S. Wolverine for carrier training when it crashed into Lake Michigan and sunk on November 23rd, 1942. Its wreckage was recovered by the Navy in 1995, and loaned to the Museum in 1996 for restoration. Museum volunteers restored it in the markings of Marine Corps Squadron VMF-223, as the aircraft flown by Captain Marion E. Carl, third ranking Wildcat ace with 16.5 victories. The aircraft is currently on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida and is on exhibition in Museum's World War II Gallery.

Type: Single seat, carrier based fighter
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)
Maximum gross takeoff weight: 7,950 lb (3,610 kg)
Powerplant: 1x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)

Maximum speed: 320 mph (515 km/h)
Range: 770 miles (1,240 km)
Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,950 ft/min (9.9 m/s)

6x 50 caliber (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns
Two 100 lb (45 kg) bombs

rounded bottom