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Grumman F4F "Wildcat"
US Navy Carrier-borne Fighter

Aircraft Type

Carrier-borne fighter of US Navy


Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation


Radial 14-cylinder s.c., air-cooled, 1830 cid


1,200 hp (900 kW) @ 2,700 rpm


5,342 lbs (empty) 8,152 (gross)

Max Speed

320 mph (515 km/h)


Single seat (pilot)


The Grumman F4F Wildcat, the only U.S. Navy fighter to serve throughout all of Worlds War II, was first designed as a biplane in 1935. It 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. 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 made it more successful in combat. The FM Wildcat variant, built by General Motors, remained in service throughout the remainder of the war on escort carriers, where larger and heavier fighters could not be used.

The inauguration of the National Museum of Naval Aviation's underwater aircraft recovery program in Lake Michigan during the early-1990s yielded a number of rare examples of Wildcats, which had crashed in the lakes waters during carrier qualification on board the training carriers Wolverine (IX 64) and Sable (IX 81). These underwater birds represent the bulk of the fourteen F4F/FM Wildcats owned by the museum.

The total number of all Wildcats built varies between 7,860 and 8,061.



Specifications F4F-4 Wildcat

Bureau of Aeronautics Navy Department (1 July 1943)

General Characteristics
Crew:   One pilot
Length:   28 ft 9 in (8.76 m)
Wingspan:   38 ft (11.58 m)
Height:   11 ft 10 in (3.60 m)
Wing area:   260 sq ft (24.2 sq m)
Empty weight:   5,895 lb (2,674 kg)
Gross weight:   7,975 lb (3,617 kg)
Powerplant:   1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 twin-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)
Propellers:   Curtiss Elec CS 3-blade 9'-9"
Top speed:   320 mph (515 km/h)
Range:   845 mi (1,360 km)
Rate of climb:   2,303 ft/min (11.7 m/s)
Service ceiling:   34,000 ft (10,363 m)
Time to altitude:   5.6 min to 10,000 ft (3,048 m)
Guns:   4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 450 rounds/gun
Bombs:   2 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58 gal. drop tanks
Aircraft silhouette
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation
Pratt & Whitney
Corporate logo and engine medallion

Engine Specifications

Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

General Specs    
Type:   14-cylinder twin-row supercharged
air-cooled radial piston engine
Bore:   5.50 in (139.7 mm)
Stroke:   5.50 in (139.7 mm)
Displacement:   1,830 in³ (30 L)
Length:   59.06 in (1,500 mm)
Diameter:   48.03 in (1,220 mm)
Dry weight:   1,250 lb (567 kg)
Valvetrain:   Two overhead valves per cylinder
Supercharger:   Single-speed General Electric centrifugal type supercharger, 1:7.15 speed increase
Reduction gear:   Epicyclic gearing 2:3
Fuel system:   Two-barrel Stromberg carburetor PD-12F8
Fuel type:   100/130 octane rating gasoline
Cooling system:   Air-cooled
Power output:   1,200 hp (895 kW) at 2,700 rpm for takeoff
    700 hp (522 kW) at 2,325 rpm
cruise power at 13,120 ft (4,000 m)
Specific power:   0.66 hp/in³ (29.83 kW/l)
Compression ratio:   6.7:1
Fuel consumption:   0.49 lb/(hp h) (295 g/(kW h))
Power/weight ratio:   0.96 hp/lb (1.58 kW/kg)
Pratt & Whitney
R-1800 "Twin Wasp" Engine



The Twin Wasp was the first twin-row design. Displacing 1,830 cubic inches, it delivered up to 1,350 horsepower and featured a new multilayered master rod bearing to withstand stresses at higher ratings. It performed magnificently and was selected to power fighters, bombers and transports. Partly due to the urgency of World War II, 173,618 engines were produced.




Grumman F4F Wildcat • FM-1 and FM-2 • Martlet
1 2 3
X4F4-2 prototype of Wildcat 1937 X4F4-3 prototype in flight 1939 F3F-3 production 1940
4 5 6
GM Eastern Aircraft Division (FM Wildcats) FM engine at GM Eastern 1943 ca. FM-2 final assembly at GM Eastern
7 8 9
Grumman G-36A (France) 1940 Martlet I in crate for British Royal Navy 1940 Martlet I (F4F-3) in crate for1940
10 11 12
Grumman F4F fuselages Bethpage, NY 1941 F4F-3A 1940 F4F-3 over Long Island 1941
13 14 15
Cockpit of FM-2 Wildcat by GM/Eastern Cockpit of FM-2 Wildcat by GM/Eastern Cockpit of FM-2 Wildcat by GM/Eastern
16 17 18
F4F-3 in flight 1941 F4F-3 evaluation at Langley in 1941 FM-3 Wildcat 1948 ca.
21 19 20
Edward "Butch" O'Hare Navy's first flying ace F4F-4s aboard hangar deck of carrier F4F on elevator of USS Saratoga Apr 1940
22 23 24
FM-2s on USS Sable, Lake Michigan CQTU F4F-3s warm up on USS Enterprise 1942 F4F-3 launches from USS Charger 1943 ca.
25 26 27
FM-2 catapults from USS Makin Island Oct 1945 FM-2 over USS Santee 1944 ca. FM-2 Wildcat landing gear
28 29 30
FM-2 takeoff USS Sable, Lake Michigan CQTU FM-2 over USS Sable, Lake Michigan CQTU FM-2 USS Sable, Lake Michigan CQTU 1945
31 32 33
F4F-3 launch on USS Wolverine, Lake Mich 1943 F4F tied down US Wolverine, Lake Mich 1943 F4F-4 mishap USS Wolverine CQTU 1943 ca.
34 35 36
F4F-4 aborts landing on USS Wolverine 1943 FM-2 hard landing USS Sable CQTU 1944 ca. FM-2 crash aboard USS Sable 1944
37 38 39
FM-2 on USS Sable, Lake Michigan May 1945 FM-2 ditching 1945 ca. FM-2 ditching 1945 ca.
40 41 42
FM-2 wood deck chips 1944 ca. FM-2 crash USS Nehenta Bay FM-2 crash then overboard 1944 ca.
43 44 45
F4F-3S "Wildcatfish" one-off Dec 1944 FM-2 formation FM-2
46 47 48
FM-1 in flight North Island, CA 1943 FM-2s in flight 1945 ca. FM-1 in flight North Island, CA 1943
49 50 51
Restored F4F-3 with tail hook 2005 ca. F4F formation Jun 1943 (colorized) Restored F4F-3 in flight 2005 ca.
52 53 54
Restored F4F-3 cockpit 2005 ca. Restored F4F-3 instrument panel 2005 ca. Restored F4F-3 parked 2005 ca.

Variants by Grumman and GM
F4F / FM / Martlet / Wildcat
Models   Built by Grumman
XF4F-1   Grumman model G-16, first designed as a biplane in 1935 (none built).
XF4F-2   Grumman model G-18, initial Wildcat prototype (1 produced).
XF4F-3   Grumman model G-36, initial prototype with XR-1830-76 engine (1 modified).
F4F-3   Initial production version, R-1830-76 engine (285 built).
F4F-3A   Initially the F4F-6, it was the F4F-3 with R-1830-90 engine (95 built).
F4F-3P   F4F-3 conversions to photo reconnaissance aircraft (qty. unknown).
F4F-3S   The "Wildcatfish" floatplane with twin floats. First flown on 28 Feb 1943 (1 converted).
F4F-4   Bulk of Grumman production, folding wings, 6 guns (1,195 built).
F4F-4P   F4F-4 conversions to photo reconnaissance aircraft (qty. unknown).
XF4F-5P   Grumman model G-36A, prototype with Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone (2 built).
F4F-6   Prototype for F4F-3A (1 built).
F4F-7   Long-range unarmed reconnaissance variant (21 built).
XF4F-8   Prototype with Cyclone engine, tall tail (2 built).
Subtotal   1,602 aircraft
Models   Built by Eastern Aircraft Division, General Motors
FM-1   GM Eastern Aircraft Division first Wildcat variant produced at Linden, NJ plant in August 1942. Based on Grumman F4F-4 w/ 4 guns (1,151 built).
FM-2   GM Eastern Aircraft Division, based on XF4F-8, foremost Wildcat variant (4,777 built).
Subtotal   5,928 aircraft
Models Built by Grumman and GM
Martlet I   Grumman model G-36A, w/ Wright Cyclone engines, order for France
diverted to Britain (181 built).
Martlet II   Grumman model G-36B, w/ folding wings supplied to Britain (90 built).
Martlet III (A)   Grumman model G-36B w/ fixed wings supplied to Britain, part of original order
(10 built).
Martlet III (B)   Grumman F4F-3A, order for Greece diverted to Britain (30 built).
Martlet IV   Similar to Grumman F4F-4, but with Cyclone engine (220 built).
Wildcat V   GM Eastern FM-1 variant to Britain (312 built).
Wildcat VI   GM Eastern FM-2 variant to Britain (370 built).
Subtotal   531 aircraft
Total   8,061 Total aircraft built