The Grumman F4F Wildcat was an American carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy (as the Martlet) in 1940. First used in combat by the British in Europe, the Wildcat was the only effective fighter available to the United States Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during the early part of World War II in 1941 and 1942; the disappointing Brewster Buffalo was withdrawn in favor of the Wildcat and replaced as units became available. With a top speed of 318 mph (512 km/h), the Wildcat was still outperformed by the faster 331 mph (533 km/h), more maneuverable, and longer ranged Mitsubishi A6M Zero. But the F4F's ruggedness, coupled with tactics such as the Thach Weave, resulted in an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 5.9:1 in 1942 and 6.9:1 for the entire war.
Lessons learned from the Wildcat were later applied to the faster F6F Hellcat. While the Wildcat had better range and maneuverability at low speed, the Hellcat could rely on superior power and high speed performance to outperform the Zero. The Wildcat continued to be built throughout the remainder of the war to serve on escort carriers, where larger and heavier fighters could not be used.
|“||I would still assess the Wildcat as the outstanding naval fighter of the early years of World War II ... I can vouch as a matter of personal experience, this Grumman fighter was one of the finest shipboard aeroplanes ever created.||”|
–Eric M. "Winkle" Brown, British test pilot
Data from The American Fighter
- Crew: 1
- 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 (3,200 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)
- Rate of climb: 2,303 ft/min (11.7 m/s)
- Guns: 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns with 450 rounds per gun
- Bombs: 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58 gal (220 L) drop tanks
Data from F4F-4 Airplane Characteristics & Performance
- Crew: 1
- 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: 5,895 lb (2,674 kg)
- Loaded weight: 7,975 lb (3,617 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 8,762 lb (3,974 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)
- Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 kn, 515 km/h)
- Range: 830 mi (721 nmi, 1,337 km)
- Service ceiling: 34,000 ft (10,363 m)
- Rate of climb: 2,200 ft/min @ normal power (11.17 m/s)
- Wing loading: 30.7 lb/ft² (149.77 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 249 w/kg (0.15 hp/lb)
- Guns: 6 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns,
- Polmar, Norman. Historic Naval Aircraft. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books Inc., 2004. ISBN 978-1-57488-572-9.
- Tillman, Barrett. Wildcat: The F4F in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval & Aviation Publishing, 1990, First edition 1983. ISBN 1-55750-819-4., pp. 5, 96.
- TAIC REPORT NO.17, November 1944
- Angelucci, Enzo. The American Fighter. Sparkford, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing Group, 1987. ISBN 0-85429-635-2.
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