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Wildcat file photo [201]

F4F Wildcat

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerGrumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation
Primary RoleFighter
Maiden Flight2 September 1937


ww2dbaseThe Grumman Wildcat was the standard carrier-based fighter of the US Navy at the start of the Pacific War. After the US's entrance into the Pacific War, Wildcat pilots quickly found that their fighters were easily out-maneuvered by their Japanese counterparts, the Zero fighter. However, with heavier armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, and greater firepower, Wildcats held their own. Beginning in early 1943, the new Hellcat fighters began to replace Wildcats. Nevertheless, General Motors picked up the design (and later revised it by adding a more powerful engine) and continued to build Wildcats primarily for escort carriers.

ww2dbaseA few Wildcats also served in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. These fighters were of early production dates originally ordered by France, but later transferred ownership to Britain after the French surrender.

ww2dbaseDuring the model's lifetime, 7,251 fighters were built.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2006

F4F Wildcat Timeline

10 Jul 1936 The US Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics changed the specification of Grumman's new F4F prototype from a biplane to a monoplane configuration. The aircraft would emerge as the successful Wildcat fighter.
2 Sep 1937 The F4F Wildcat fighter took its first flight.
4 Dec 1940 F4F-3 Wildcat fighters entered service with the US Navy; VF-41 received the first of these aircraft.
25 Dec 1940 Two FAA Martlet I fighters of British 804 Naval Air Squadron, on patrol over Scapa Flow, Scotland, United Kingdom, intercepted and destroyed a prowling Junkers Ju 88 aircraft, the first victory for a US-built aircraft in British service.
20 Sep 1941 German submarine U-124 sank British ships Baltallinn and Empire Moat of Allied convoy OG-74 500 miles west of Brest, France at 2331 hours; 60 survivors were rescued by British rescue ship Walmer Castle. Meanwhile, a Martlet Mk II fighter of No. 802 Squadron from escort carrier HMS Audacity shot down a German Fw 200 C Condor aircraft attempting to shadow OG-74; it was the first kill by a British carrier-based aircraft.
15 Jul 1942 British No. 892 Squadron Fleet Air Arm took delivery of new Martlet IV fighters (a lend-lease version of the American F4F-4 Wildcat fighter). The squadron subsequently embarked of the light escort carriers HMS Archer and HMS Battler.
11 Aug 1942 US Marine Observation Squadron 251 was set up at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides with 16 F4F-3 Wildcat fighters modified for long-range photographic missions.
1 Sep 1942 Having taken over responsibility for building the Wildcat fighter from Grumman's Bethpage factory (which was now going over to building the F6F-3 Hellcat for the US Navy), the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors completed and flew its first FM-1 Wildcat fighter.
26 Oct 1942 US Navy Ensign George L. Wrenn of VF-72 from the USS Hornet engaged Japanese aircraft attacking the US fleet. He shot down five Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers during the sortie. The Hornet was sunk during the battle and Wrenn had to be recovered aboard the USS Enterprise.
12 Nov 1942 US Marine Corps ace Joseph Foss destroyed two Japanese Army G4M medium bombers and a Reisen fighter bringing his tally to 22 enemy aircraft destroyed in aerial combat.
15 Jul 1943 Different groups of TBF-1 Avenger aircraft and F4F Wildcats flying from USS Santee in the mid-Atlantic made two separate attacks on surfaced German submarines using Mark 24 FIDO acoustic homing torpedoes each with underwater explosions reported. Only U-509 was reported lost in this area on this date.
26 Jul 1943 While underway in Chesapeake Bay for the day, escort carrier USS Card landed TBF-1 Avengers and F4F-4Wildcats of Composite Squadron VC-1.
7 Aug 1943 In a coordinated attack by six TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bombers and four F4F-4 Wildcat fighters with Composite Squadron VC-1 flying from USS Card, German supply submarine U-117 was sunk with Mark 24 FIDO acoustic homing torpedoes. U-117 had been supplying U-66 in the mid-Atlantic when both were caught on the surface by Lt(jg) A.H. Sallenger in his Avenger. U-117 was sunk and U-66 was likely damaged.
8 Aug 1943 In poor weather with heavy swell south of Greenland, German submarine U-262 (Kapitänleutnant Rudolf Heinz Franke) was awaiting refueling from U-664 whilst U-760 was being supplied. At 1010 hours, a TBF Avenger aircraft and F4F Wildcat aircraft from escort carrier USS Card located the submarines and attacked. The Wildcat strafed the decks of U-262 while the Avenger approached with depth charges. The gunners aboard U-262 hit both attackers. The Wildcat crashed, killing Ensign John F. Sprague. The Avenger’s bomb bay was hit, jamming the release mechanism. The Avenger pilot, Lt(jg) Asbury H. Sallenger pulled away, and was hit again in the starboard wing. The crew manually released two depth charges (damaging U-262 with a near-miss) and jettisoned a Mark 24 FIDO torpedo, and Sallenger made a water landing. Sallenger and the gunner survived, but the radio operator went down with the aircraft. The two survivors were spotted by another aircraft from USS Card and were picked up by destroyer USS Barry in the afternoon. TBF Avenger pilots Lt(jg) C.R. Stapler and Lt(jg) “Zeke” Cormier dropped additional Mark 24 FIDO torpedoes on a moving oil slick that was likely from the damaged U-262, but results were unobserved. U-262, though damaged, made her way back to base. In a separate attack, companion German submarine U-664 launched three torpedoes at USS Card under the cover of darkness. There were no explosions and USS Card reports make no mention of this, indicating Card was unaware of the attack. Planes from Card would sink U-664 the next day.
9 Aug 1943 TBF-1 Avengers and F4F-4 Wildcats from escort carrier USS Card attacked German submarine U-664 in the mid-Atlantic using 500-pound bombs, depth charges, and machine gun fire. The submarine was crippled and began to sink. Seven or eight of her crew were killed (sources differ) and 44 abandon ship. Once darkness fell, seven hours after the attack, one of Card’s escorts, destroyer USS Borie, picked up all 44 survivors. During the recovery operation, Borie’s log reported five different torpedo wakes passing close aboard the ship. The U-664 survivors would be transferred to USS Card the following day.
11 Aug 1943 TBF-1 Avenger aircraft and F4F-4 Wildcats flying from USS Card in the mid-Atlantic attacked the surfaced German submarine U-525 using two depth charges and one Mark 24 FIDO acoustic homing torpedo. U-525 was lost with all 54 hands.
4 Oct 1943 A TBF Avenger patrol aircraft with Composite Squadron VC-9 from Hunter-Killer escort carrier USS Card discovered German submarines U-264, U-422, and U-455 refueling from “Milchkau” U-460 on the surface of the Atlantic 440 miles north of the Azores. Attacking with aerial depth charges and one Mark 24 FIDO acoustic homing torpedo, U-422 was sunk immediately while the other three submarines submerged. As more aircraft and escort ships arrived in the area, a hunt for the other submarines ensued resulting in U-460 being sunk by aerial depth charges about seven miles away. U-264 and U-455 got away but U-264 was damaged. By breaking up this gathering of submarines, Convoy UGS-19 and its 102 merchant ships was able to safely pass through this area and complete its crossing from the United States to North Africa.
25 Jun 1944 Task Group 22.10 (TG 22.10) was formed at Norfolk, Virginia as an anti-submarine Hunter-Killer group centered around escort carrier USS Card with the TBM-1C Avengers and FM-2 Wildcats of Composite Squadron VC-12 embarked and screened by destroyer escorts USS Baker, Bronstein, Thomas, Breeman, and Bostwick. TG 22.10 departed Norfolk bound for the Central Atlantic that same day.
18 Sep 1944 Task Group 22.2 (TG 22.2) was formed at Norfolk, Virginia as an anti-submarine Hunter-Killer group centered around escort carrier USS Card with the TBM Avengers and FM-2 Wildcats of Composite Squadron VC-8 embarked and screened by destroyer escorts USS Baker, Bronstein, Thomas, Breeman, Coffman, and Bostwick. TG 22.2 departed Norfolk bound for the Central Atlantic that same day.
28 Sep 1944 While bound from Bordeaux, France for Penang, Malaya, German submarine U-219 was attacked on the surface in the Central Atlantic by TBM Avenger and FM-2 Wildcat aircraft from Composite Squadron VC-6 off carrier USS Tripoli. The air attack consisted of strafing, rockets, depth charges and Mark 24 FIDO acoustic homing torpedoes but U-219 escaped, but not before fighting back and destroying one Avenger.


Grumman F4F
Machinery1 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine rated at 1,200 hp
Armament6x0.5in Browning machine guns, 2x100lb bombs
Span11.60 m
Length8.76 m
Height2.81 m
Wing Area24.20 m²
Weight, Empty2,610 kg
Weight, Maximum3,610 kg
Speed, Maximum515 km/h
Rate of Climb9.90 m/s
Service Ceiling12,000 m
Range, Normal1,240 km

General Motors FM-2
Machinery1 Wright R-1820-56WA rated at 1,350 hp
Span11.60 m
Length8.80 m
Height3.00 m
Wing Area24.10 m²
Weight, Empty2,470 kg
Weight, Loaded3,395 kg
Weight, Maximum3,751 kg
Speed, Maximum534 km/h
Speed, Cruising264 km/h
Service Ceiling10,576 m
Range, Normal1,449 km


XF4F-3 prototype Wildcat in flight, Apr 1939XF4F-3 prototype Wildcat in flight, 3 Apr 1939
See all 173 photographs of F4F Wildcat Fighter

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
21 Aug 2007 02:46:21 AM

A few Wildcats also served in the Royal Navys Fleet Air Arm. These fighters were of early production dates originally ordered by France, but later transferred ownership to Britain after the French surrender.

You are of course referring to the Martlet Mk 1. The Royal Navy received 91 of these (81 ex-French order plus 10 built from spare parts). These were followed by Martlet Mk 11s in large numbers (Sufficient to equip ten squadrons) Martlet Mk.III (ninety-five delivered ?) 220 Martlet Mk.IV and 312 Martlet Mk.Vs

2. Commenter identity confirmed Hobilar says:
21 Aug 2007 02:48:32 AM

During the models lifetime, 7,251 fighters were built. My information gives a total of 7815 built before VJ Day
3. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
30 Oct 2007 03:55:23 PM

The Martlet I gained the distinction of becoming the first U.S. built aircraft in British service to shoot down a German aircraft. This happened on December 25, 1940 when two Martlets Is of No.804 Squadron patrolling Scarpa Flow intercepted and destroyed a Junkers Ju-88.
4. Anonymous says:
28 Mar 2015 05:32:35 AM

F6F 42782 lost 9/30/1944 125 miles se of nantucket
who was the pilot?
5. Anonymous says:
29 Mar 2015 04:29:05 AM

Note: PS to F6F 42782
according to database http://www.chinalakealumni.org/Accidents.htm this aircaft was involved in a accident in June 1944 while part of CASU-6. Prehaps a clue to pilot id in September 1944?
6. Commenter identity confirmed David Stubblebine says:
29 Mar 2015 12:32:19 PM

To Anonymous #’s 4 & 5 re: F6F-3 BuNo 42782:
1. You realize you are leaving your messages on the F4F page and not the F6F page?
2. Do you know what the carrier was during the aircraft’s CQL accident?
3. The CASU-6 clue is probably not going to get you close to the pilot’s name. The nature of the damage described in the CASU-6 crash is so extensive that the aircraft most likely went through an aircraft pool before showing up on the opposite coast.

You may get a better response from the regular readers at http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/. Your question is the kind of stuff those guys often do pretty well with.
7. Anonymous says:
11 Apr 2015 07:03:48 AM

8. Anonymous says:
8 Jun 2015 04:34:49 AM

Update on F6F 42782
Note on 30 Sept 1944 ditching the pilot is reported to have survived.=-although name is not given!
At least this part of mystery is solved!!
By the way a picture of the aircraft was shown in a National Geographic article on "Alvin" giving the plane nUmber as well
9. Anonymous says:
4 Jul 2018 10:39:00 AM

F4F-4's 38 ft. wingspan initially considered too big for carrier deck handling and stowage.
4 Apr 2022 06:22:05 PM

How long can the F4f Wildcat stay in the air

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» F4F Wildcat vs. A6M Zero-sen

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» Carrier Aircraft Specifications

F4F Wildcat Fighter Photo Gallery
XF4F-3 prototype Wildcat in flight, Apr 1939XF4F-3 prototype Wildcat in flight, 3 Apr 1939
See all 173 photographs of F4F Wildcat Fighter

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