First used by the British in the North Atlantic, 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 the Second World War. The disappointing Brewster Buffalo was withdrawn in favor of the Wildcat and replaced as aircraft became available.
Role Carrier-based fighter aircraft
National origin United States
First flight 2 September 1937
Introduction December 1940
Primary users United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Royal Canadian Navy
Number built 7,885
The Grumman F4F Wildcat is an American carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service in 1940 with the United States Navy, and the British Royal Navy where it was initially known as the Martlet. First used by the British in the North Atlantic, 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 the Second World War. The disappointing Brewster Buffalo was withdrawn in favor of the Wildcat and replaced as aircraft became available.
Even before the Wildcat had been purchased by the U.S. Navy, the French Navy and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) had ordered the Wildcat, with their own configurations, via the Anglo-French Purchasing Board. The F4F initially known in British service as the Martlet was taken on by the FAA as an interim replacement for the Fairey Fulmar. The Fulmar was a two-seat fighter with good range but operated at a performance disadvantage against single-seater fighters. Navalised Supermarine Spitfires were not available because of the greater need of the Royal Air Force.
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At the end of 1939, Grumman received a French order for 81 aircraft of model G-36A, to equip their new Joffre-class aircraft carriers: Joffre and Painlevé. The main difference with the basic model G-36 was due to the unavailability for export of the two-stage supercharged engine of F4F-3. The G-36A was powered by the nine-cylinder, single-row Wright R-1820-G205A radial engine, of 1,200 hp (890 kW) and with a single-stage two-speed supercharger
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.
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