Aviation of World War II

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F4F-4 "Wildcat"

Shipborne Fighter


F4F-4 Wildcat in flight

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was an American carrier-based fighter that began service with both the United States Navy and the Fleet Air Arm in 1940. Although first used in combat by the British in Europe, the Wildcat would become the primary carrier fighter for the first year and a half of the United States Navy's involvement in World War II in the Pacific Theater.

A new version, the F4F-4, entered service in 1942 with six guns and folding wings, allowing more to be crammed on a carrier; this was the definitive version and the one that saw the most combat service in the early war years, including the Battle of Midway.

This version was less popular with American pilots, because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time. With the F4F-3's four 50-caliber guns and 450 rounds per gun, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rounds per gun, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes.

Jimmy Thach is quoted as saying, "A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight." Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph at 19,400 ft. Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4, while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 feet per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4s capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 feet per minute.

Moreover, the F4F-4's folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of Wildcats carried aboard US fleet aircraft carriers.

A variant of the F4F-4, designated F4F-4B for contractual purposes, was supplied to the British with a modified cowling and Wright Cyclone engine. These aircraft received the designation of Martlet IV.

F4F-4 Specification
Crew 1
Wing span, m 11.6 (38 ft 0 in)
Wing area 24.2 m² (260 ft²)
Length 8.8 m (28 ft 9 in)
Height 2.8 m (9 ft 2.5 in)
PE Pratt Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine 1,200 hp (900 kW)
Empty weight 2,612 kg (5,760 lb)
Maximum takeoff weight 3,607 kg (7,950 lb)
Maximum speed at altitude 5915 m (19,400 ft) 515 km/h (320 mph)
Rate of climb 9.9 m/s (1,950 ft/min)
Service ceiling, m 12,000 m (39,500 ft)
Range 1,240 km (770 mi)
6x 12.7 mm (0.50 in) M2 Browning machine guns, rounds/gun: 240
Bomb load (external): 2 × 45 kg (100 lb)
Photo Description
Drawing F4F Variants

Drawing F4F Variants

Drawing F4F-4

Drawing F4F-4

F4F # 41-F-8 in flight

The F4F # 41-F-8 in flight


  • "Encyclopedia of military engineering" /Aerospace Publising/
  • "American Warplanes of World War II" /under cor. David Donald/
  • "Shipborne Fighters of World War II" /Ivan Kudishin/
  • 'Flight Deck, US Navy Carrier Operations 1940-1945', by Al Adcock, A Squadron/Signal Publications/
F4F in formation