Design, Development & Operational HistoryEdit
The first model, the XF4F-1, was a biplane, but to meet the demands of U.S. Navy’s carrier-based monoplane competition, the Grumman Company changed the design, creating the XF4F-2 prototype. Due to a number of defects in the XF4F-2, a competing firm won instead with the Brewster F2A Buffalo. However, the F4F had potential and was sent back for revision. The next model was superior to the Buffalo, and the other new versions of the Buffalo did not satisfy the requirements of the fleet, so in August of 1939, Grumman received an order for the first series of F4F-3 Wildcats.
The F4F-3 was a single-engine all-metal plane with midwing construction, armed with four 12.7 mm M-2 Browning machine guns. Because of its lack of maneuverability, the F4F-3 lost to the Japanese fighter in close dogfights, so pilots prefer to avoid such situations by diving out of battle, taking advantage of their aircraft’s higher speed.
The Wildcat had only one major drawback — the landing gear extension system. In order to release or retract the landing gear, the pilot had to crank a mechanical hoist handle 29 times, which was difficult given the need to direct the aircraft and start climbing after takeoff.
The Wildcat was exported to Greece, Britain and Canada. All in all, 7251 F4F's (including all variants) were constructed, including 285 F4F-3's.