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All the Wildcat/Martlet questions you wanted to ask


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I am fascinated to find material that I posted over ten years ago resurfacing now - thank you MDriiskill. It seems to highlight the continued value of this site!

 

Some background may be useful. In 2000 I visited the Grumman archive on Long Island to search for materials relating to the Martlets supplied to the Royal Navy. The staff was extraordinarily helpful in assisting me finding this information. Afterwards, they provided me with 8x10 prints (not photocopies) of virtually all the pertinent photographs in their collection, along with photocopies of correspondence, specification, camouflage patterns, and some contract information. Quite a few of the photographs, by the way, also exist in other repositories (especially the National Air and Space Museum) but they originate from Grumman.

 

Subsequently, after 9/11, access to the archive became much more restricted (and I was no longer in the United States) but I was fortunate to contact a fellow researcher who still had good access. He uncovered some additional material that I had missed earlier and again sent me photocopies.

 

All the photographs and almost all of the information (including the Pilot’ s Notes) I posted came from that source. In other words, it’s primary source material and not secondary opinion (although the opinions are indeed mine). Even after this time, I still stand by what I posted - I only found a single significant mis-captioned image from Grumman (it purported to be a camouflaged Greek Martlet). I must admit that I opted out of further postings when a trend towards using more recent secondary sources to over-ride primary documentation became apparent.

 

On a side note, I recently visited the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton and saw its wonderfully-restored Martlet I. When I returned home, I looked up the additional information on the museum’s website. I must admit that I was taken aback to read this in the report by David Morris, Curator of Aircraft: “Little has been recorded in detail about this odd batch of aircraft…". When I visited the museum in 2001 to research the modifications to Lend-Lease aircraft for the FAA, I gave David Hobbs (then the director) in person scanned copies of all the material I had uncovered at Grumman (with the archive’s permission), including the correspondence about the transfer from France to Britain , the changes agreed, colour and black-and-white photographs, and a Grumman diagram of the vunique camouflage scheme applied.

 

Maurice

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On 9/23/2022 at 4:24 PM, captnwoxof said:

My main sources come from the other side of the pond, the files at the PRO in Kew.

Many thanks for this. For the first time I can read a convincing account of the French order story.

There have been so many discussions and valuable contributions on BM over the years, I feel thanks are due to several people. I prefer to make this a collective "thank you!", rather than risk forgetting somebody.

 

There are several aspects in the G-36 story that make it particularly intriguing to me.

  • the U.S. Navy was developing a very advanced carrier fighter, that was offered for export in advance of US service acceptance. 30 years later, think about France and Britain being able to get the F-14 Tomcat in advance of the US Navy. Different times, yet the parallel is rather striking;
  • there are several hints that national pride had its share in the way things were presented in reports. IMHO, one instance can be found in the sentence you report in your post: "Although the British examined the G-36 prototype in 1939, they concluded that it was unsuitable due to lack of a folding wing, and declined to place an order. The French did (...)" (typical prose of the time - to me, the choice of words is amazing!). This might sound as a kind of oddity on the French side, until one realises that porte-avions Joffre and Painleve were designed with 'T' shaped lifts and did not need wing folding;
  • on the other side there was company pride, exemplified by the myth that Leroy Grumman sketched out the folding wing idea by using an eraser and paperclip and, seemingly, that was it;
  • narrow lifts on British carriers pre-dated the armoured carrier design: Ark Royal also had them. At the time of her shake-down cruise her fighter squadron, No. 800, had to change from a mixed Nimrod/Osprey complement to Osprey alone, as the Nimrod would not fold (then came the Skua). In 1940 the Fleet Air Arm was in a unique position, as no high-performance single-seat fighter could go into the four most modern British carriers, unless its wings folded;
  • although the British may have not realised at first the far greater power of .5 in machine guns (Cdr. Eric Brown's assessment, not mine), compared with the .303s fitted to the Fulmar, the US Navy pilots' claim that "four guns sufficed for a good shooter" may perhaps have been overemphasised. They certainly sufficed to "flame" a G4M 'Betty', but the Royal Navy had to contend with Ju. 88s and other well-protected German aircraft. Possibly, a six-gun battery was not 'overkill' from the Fleet Air Arm viewpoint.

 

A few excerpts from Admiralty papers may be of interest to see how Royal Navy thinking was evolving. Underlining is mine.

 

Provision of aircraft for Fleet Air Arm: consideration of different types and acquisition of American planes, Draft to CinC Home Fleet

[ADM 1/11207], 6 July 1940

(...)

All USN fleet fighters are under-gunned. As none fold, unsuitable for any but Furious. For all other Fleet Fighter squadrons, Fulmar is considered a better all around aircraft than the American or RAF types because of its combination of heavy armament, first class navigability and communications, and long endurance. Its speed is adequate for attacking all contemporary German bombers and shadowers. It will go into all carriers.

 

 

Letter from Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet to Secretary of Admiralty

[ADM 1/11207], 18 July 1940

(...)

12. My recommendations are therefore:

A. To equip Hatston with the best obtainable striking force which appears to be

        One Squadron Albacore

        One Squadron Skuas

        One Squadron Grumman or Brewster fighters

     This to be recognised as a definite Home Fleet requirement and to be given priority over the requirements of carriers.

B. To equip catapult ships of the Home Fleet with Grumman of Brewster fighters

C. To utilise in our carriers any Grumman aircraft which can fold until Fulmar aircraft are available.

 

 

Note by Joint Secretaries, British Joint Staff Mission, Washington

[CAB 122/142], 19 September 1941

(...)

Our aircraft carriers are often required to operate within range of shore-based aircraft; and it will thus be imperative to arm these carriers with single-seater as well as with two-seater fighters

(...)

if the carriers Illustrious, Formidable, Victorious, and Ark Royal are not to be entirely deprived of fighter protection, it will be imperative to form at least 5 first line Martlet squadrons and to maintain them until at least half way through 1943.

 

 

When folding wings at last became available, the US Navy response was rather sympathetic:

 

Letter from Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics to Director-General, British Air Commission, Washington

[AVIA 38/580], 24 October 1941

As a result of a decision by the Chief of Naval Operations on 17 October 1941, the Bureau of Aeronautics has instructed the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation to expedite delivery of 48 G-36B Martlets on United Kingdom contract, even though such action would involve deferring delivery of F4F-4 airplanes to the U.S. Navy. This company has been requested to deliver one F4F-4 airplane to the U.S. Navy for test purposes at the Naval Air Station, Anacostia.

(...)

Following the accelerated delivery of the 48 airplanes to the British (...) the Grumman Company will deliver 95 F4F-4 airplanes to the U.S. Navy. Thereafter, deliveries will be in the ratio of two (2) to the U.S. Navy and one (1) to the United Kingdom (...)

 

Acceptance data provided by @Geoffrey Sinclair confirm that, by December 1941, Grumman had delivered the 48 G-36Bs. 

 

Great BM thread!

 

Claudio

Edited by ClaudioN
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On 9/23/2022 at 4:24 PM, captnwoxof said:

Despite all the claims, I find no evidence that any Martlet I or II with fixed wings was converted to folding. 

Only one mention:

 

Report from Commanding Officer, HMS Illustrious to Rear Admiral, Aircraft Carriers, Eastern Fleet

[ADM 199/937], 2 June 1942

(...)

PREPARATIONS

(...)

2. ... twelve Martlet IIs (unmodified) were embarked from H.M.S. "ARCHER", direct from the U.S.A.; and Admiralty approval was obtained to retain on board four of the six Martlet Is of 882 Squadron which had been brought out for H.M.S. "ARCHER".

3. On passage between FREETOWN and DURBAN, the following work was carried out by Ship's Staff:-

(a) The twelve Swordfish were fitted with beacons, A.S.V. and I.F.F.

(b) The twelve Martlet IIs were fitted with beacons, I.F.F. and the necessary attachments for boosting by the American method.

(c) One Martlet I was fitted with folding wings.

 

Any additional information would be immensely welcome.

 

Claudio

Edited by ClaudioN
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On 9/23/2022 at 4:24 PM, captnwoxof said:

While I agree that the XF4F-4 wing had just 4 guns, I dont believe that the hydraulic/manual change resulted in any redesign. I think it was just a matter of deleting the hydraulic lines and power components, but I am not entirely sure, and will welcome any hard data

Unfortunately, my research is firmly armchair-based 🙄

I was referring to what is reported in "The First Team" book by Lundstrom (who accessed primary sources, AFAIK). The prototype (four-gun) XF4F-4, when fully fitted with armour, self-sealing tanks, etc., was found to weight around 7700 lbs and rather disappointing compared to the F4F-3. The recommendation was: do not exceed 7500 lbs. The folding-wing G-36B was found to weight 7512 lbs fully fitted, which met the target. Only just.

 

I agree with you the move from hydraulic to manual folding does not seem too much of a job, however Lundstrom reports that Grumman "asked permission" to use the six-gun British wing. Perhaps commonality was expected to help with production speed.

 

Claudio

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This is more a thinking aloud piece than anything else.  Is there any documentation on when specific C/N or BuNo came off the Grumman line, that is before acceptance?

 

On 8 August 1939 the USN ordered 54 F4F-3, then dates unknown added another 27, and changed 1 to XF4F-4 and 2 to XF4F-5.  The USN allocated 2 blocks of BuNos. Grumman 2 matching blocks of C/N.

 

Date unknown the French order is placed, the French presumably allocated a block of serial numbers, Grumman allocated a matching block of C/N.

 

According to the USN it ordered an XF4F-6 added to the original USN order but dated 20 November 1940.  Grumman gave it the construction number between the last of the original USN order and the first of the second USN order.

 

On 5 August 1940 the USN placed its second order, for 243 F4F-4, allocating a single block of BuNo, matched by a Grumman block of C/N. Date unknown the USN added another 254 F4F-4 to the second order, again a single block of BuNo, but Grumman allocate a block of 20 (following directly on the block for the 243 aircraft) and a block of 234 C/N.

 

Britain places the order for 100 Martlet on 28 July 1940 but is allocated a block of C/N after those for the USN F4F-4.
On 23 June 1941 another 162 F4F-4 added to the USN order, again single blocks of BuNo and C/N.
On 28 July 1941 another 160 F4F-4 added to the USN order, again single blocks of BuNo and C/N.

 

The 243+254 = 497 USN second order originally meant as F4F-4 end up being built as 107 F4F-3 (initially to be 67 but then another 40 added), 95 F4F-3A, 274 F4F-4 and 21 F4F-7 while the BuNo to C/N matching remains, that is lowest BuNo has the lowest C/N and so on through the sequence, their order is 19 F4F-3, 95 F4F-3A, 88 F4F-3, 274 F4F-4, 21 F4F-7.  Acceptance order however is F4F-3A, F4F-3, F4F-4, with 2 F4F-7 accepted before the last of the F4F-4.  If the first 19 F4F-3 did come off the line first they were not accepted until 2 to 3 months later.  This looks like about the only time F4F from a given order where BuNo and C/N were apparently built out of sequence.


The USN Record of acceptances states the original order F4F-3 had R-1830-76, while those from the second order had either a -76 or a -86.  The visual changes are the move to an internal carburettor duct for the first F4F-3 of the second order, then to 8 cowl flaps on the 20th F4F-3 of the order.  All F4F-4 had the -86 engine.

 

In parallel to the above the British order for Martlet is built, such that by end 1941 the RN has received 10 fixed wing (accepted at the same time as the F4F-3A) and 50 folding wing (accepted after the F4F-3A finish), while the USN has accepted 5 folding wing versions.  The USN says all the Martlet used the R-1830-S3C4G, basically equivalent to the R-1830-90, the 10 with fixed wings were redesignated Martlet III.  The other 30 Martlet III were F4F-3A originally destined for Greece.

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For what it's worth: all those shots and more are very well reproduced in David Doyle's Legends of Warfare book shown above. And whilst I'm here wasting bandwidth...a couple other interesting refugees from my old bookmarks:

 

+ British Pathe film clip of the Martlet I, some tremendous detail:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/american-aircraft-for-raf/query/grumman+martlet

 

+ Best selection of Martlet photos in one place I've ever seen:

http://www.axis-and-allies-paintworks.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?14422

 

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3 hours ago, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

Is there any documentation on when specific C/N or BuNo came off the Grumman line, that is before acceptance?

Just a thought, I believe construction numbers are essentially associated with the aircraft fuselage, right? If so, folding wing delays may have caused several out-of-sequence airframes.

 

I have been able to find the following F4F/G-36 construction numbers:

  • 558 - 611: (54) F4F-3, first US Navy order, first batch
  • 616 - 642: (27) F4F-3, first US Navy order, second batch
  • 646 - 736: (91) G-36A, French order - why 91? It has been suggested that 10 were intended to be "dismantled spares", I do not know the source
  • 737: the one XF4F-6 prototype fitted with the Pratt&Whitney R-1830-90

 

  • 738 - 980: (243) F4F second US Navy order, first batch
  • 981 - 1000: (20) F4F second US Navy order, second batch
  • 2001 - 2213: (213) F4F second US Navy order, second batch
  • 2214 - 2234: (21) F4F-7 photo-reconnaissance variant
  • 2235 - 2334: (100) G-36B, British order (Martlet II/III)

 

  • 2806 - 3025 (220) F4F-4B, British order (Martlet IV)
  • 3026 - 3187 (162) F4F US Navy order
  • 3190 - 3349 (160) F4F US Navy order

 

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Quick question - six .303's was considered a heavier armament than four .50's?  I suspect there was a British disinclination re US .50's, seen later in SEA where .50 calibre ammunition shortages led to replacement of wing .50's by .303's. 

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21 hours ago, ClaudioN said:

the U.S. Navy was developing a very advanced carrier fighter, that was offered for export in advance of US service acceptance. 30 years later, think about France and Britain being able to get the F-14 Tomcat in advance of the US Navy. Different times, yet the parallel is rather striking;

Strange as it may seem, it made perfect sense in the context of US policy, law, and general attitude of the time. The Neutrality act of 1937 forbade the sale of arms to active combatants, but the Roosevelt administraton went to great lengths to assure France and England that when war broke out, any contracts in place would be honored.  Foreign orders were eagerly sought, and the administration was machiavellian enough to let the latest technology go up for sale for its own self interest.  The US was ill-prepared for war, and isolationist sentiment prevented measures to rally the populace. If the country was to defend itself the defense industry needed to be vastly expanded, and the only way it could be done was through the infusion of massive amounts of foreign capital.  Sales were encouraged right up to the commencement of hostilities. After a brief embargo the Neutrality Act was amended as promised in November, allowing"cash and carry" This opened the doors of US manufacturers to a flood of cash infusion. The capital from these foreign orders was invested in expanded plants and new factories, literally building the "Arsenal of Democracy" that in a few years would provide the material that beat the Axis.  

Imagine if in the 1970's, the government had told Grumman, "Hey guys-hold up deliveries of the F-14 to the USN. Sell the airframes with the TF30s to anybody who'll buy 'em, and when we get enough cash, we'll invest in a REAL engine and build a bunch for us!" 😎

As to the questions about c/n and timing of construction/delivery, the quoted numbers match what I have. Having said that, I think there was considerable "juggling around" with production sequencing. Much of the correspondance I have discusses attempts by the British to improve their priority, and negotiations with the USN were frequent. In a memorandum on September 28, 1940, the BPC advised that Grumman had offered to build  an additional 100 G-36As (over and above the 81 G-36As and 100 G-36Bs on order). It states that "I understand from the firm that this capacity is available because the Navy who have an order for the same type with folding wings have agreed to defer their deliveries until the folding wings actually come forward. It does not entirely make sense to me but they are emphatic on the point and also say that unless we exercise this option by Tuesday morning, October 1st, at the latest, the the Navy will want to pick up some of the capacity at least and our opportunity for ordering additional supplies for ourselves will accordingly be reduced."

The British declined. They wanted no more fixed wing Martlets. But this illustrates that between the folding wing delays and the R-1830-76 engine's induction and cooling problems different lots of F4Fs and G-36s were given varied priorities over time. The G-36A retained the wing structure of the prototype, requiring different tooling. Re-tooling takes time, and Grumman probably wanted to keep the line going while it still was in place. 

 

Edited by captnwoxof
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3 hours ago, jimmaas said:

Quick question - six .303's was considered a heavier armament than four .50's?  I suspect there was a British disinclination re US .50's, seen later in SEA where .50 calibre ammunition shortages led to replacement of wing .50's by .303's.

Actually the Fulmar had eight, like the Hurricane and Spitfire. Anyway, weight of lead fired per unit time does not define "heavy". A number of late-production Fulmars (night fighters, perhaps) had the eight .303s replaced by four .50s. So much for the heavier armament.

I suspect part of the hype about the Fulmar in 1940 was a consequence of the cancellation of the folding-wing Spitfire at the time. Seemingly it took some convincing, that included presenting the Fulmar in "glowing terms", as I recall to have read.

Edited by ClaudioN
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6 hours ago, ClaudioN said:

So, a G-36A was not a F4F-3 with a Wright engine?

No. It was a hybrid of the XF4F-3 and production F4F-3, with an entirely new front end for the Wright engine. The XF4F-3 was designed with an armament of two .30 cal mgs in the forward fuselage and two .50 cal mgs, one in each wing. When Grumman received a production contract for the first 54 F4F-3s, the USN specified a number of alterations. The amament in the production machines was to be upgraded to four .50 cal mgs. Grumman eliminated the fuselage guns (although they did not alter the structure of the fuselage, just paneled the stations over). They took a different approach to the wing, revising the internal structure to form a large double bay in each wing that could accomodate a pair of guns and their ammunition. This was located further outboard, and the landing light had to be relocated further aft as a result.. The original inboard station for a single gun was eliminated.

Grumman had "jumped the gun" and begun construction of airframes before the contract was signed. The first two airframes (BuNo 1844-45) were allowed to complete with the original wing design. The rest of the order was delayed while the redesign was undertaken and retooling completed.

In the meantime, the French came along with an urgent need for airplanes and money to burn. They wanted their airplanes to have six French 7.5 guns. I don't have details of the French negotiations with Grumman (mdeaxe, can you help?), but it is apparent that Grumman used the XF4F-3 tooling for the wing of the G-36A. They kept the original fuselage and wing gunbays, and added two more single bays spaced outboard in the wings for the 5th and 6th guns.  

The intended French armament was never installed. When the Brits took over the airplanes the fuselage gun stations were eliminated and paneled over. The wing was retained as built. A .50 cal mg was mounted in each of the four stations, resulting in the same armament as an F4F-3, but mounted in a completely different configuration.

 

 

 

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The Martlet Mk I also had a unique cowl: 2-pieces, horizontally divided, with no cooling gills; and was the only Cyclone F4F variant with a lip-mounted carburetor intake. Prop is a Hamilton Standard with round-tipped blades and no root cuffs. Also, the windscreen was located farther aft than was typical for later variants, with a correspondingly shorter sliding portion of the canopy. All correctly shown in Jumpei Temma's Martlet profiles below. The canopy is discussed at great length in one of the old threads linked on the first page.

 

EDC3-D80-D-AAD1-4-B86-B0-F0-427090-F7482

Edited by MDriskill
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One variant that continues to cause confusion, especially with cowl details, is the final batch of F4F-3 trainers. In Action no. 191 is my only reference to correctly identify their features. These aircraft - the result of a carried-over contract first for the F4F-7 recce variant, then the F4F-3S floatplane - came well after the last batch of front-line combat "dash 3's," BuNos. 3970 - 4057. They were built as trainers alongside the F4F-4; their BuNos. 12230 - 12329 were in fact the last USN serials assigned to Grumman-built Wildcats.

 

Although designated "dash 3's" because of the non-folding wing, I rather think of them as "fixed-wing dash 4's" as they share several fuselage details not seen on previous F4F-3's. These aircraft are instantly identifiable:

+ Fixed wing (4 guns, straight pitot)

+ R-1830-86 engine (note twin front magnetos)

+ Final R-1830 cowl ("3+1" cooling gills and lip intake)

+ Late windscreen with side braces deleted

+ Small radio bay cooling scoop

 

In spite of some confusion in published references, these aircraft have been hiding in plain sight for years. This series of wartime factory photos has been published many times. The black-and-white shots appear to be the same aircraft - note it has only one gun actually mounted in each wing. The head-on flying shot is one of the best-known of all Wildcat images.

 

7-F7-F6-B33-3-B07-4-C9-C-8-F3-A-A384-E51

 

 

DC77849-B-4-FF1-45-D4-8-BB3-2-C1-F662299

 

FE25-CF0-C-8-C39-41-D4-933-B-3-EF267-BBA

 

F5-C1-B088-CE6-E-4959-9583-115-B7-F6-EF2

 

AB2-FD655-814-F-406-F-A132-3-E2-B0-FDF85

 

Five of these aircraft - several retrieved from Lake Michigan after wartime training accidents - are now preserved. Each has all the features noted (though some authors continue to insist they have the "wrong" cowls!):

+ 12230 - now flying (pictured on the cover of the Legends of Warfare book)

+ 12290 - USS Midway Museum, San Diego, California

+ 12296 - Pacific Aviation Museum, Hawaii

+ 12297 - Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island, New York

+ 12320 - O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois

 

Edited by MDriskill
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2 hours ago, MDriskill said:

Although designated "dash 3's" because of the non-folding wing, I rather think of them as "fixed-wing dash 4's" as they share several fuselage details not seen on previous F4F-3's. These aircraft are instantly identifiable:

+ Fixed wing (4 guns, straight pitot)

+ R-1830-86 engine (note twin front magnetos)

+ Final R-1830 cowl ("3+1" cooling gills and lip intake)

+ Late windscreen with side braces deleted

+ Small radio bay cooling scoop

But I thought the final batch of F4F-3's didn't have the cowl lip carb intake and had the braced windscreen!

 

Just when I think I have it down right, someone says something different.

 

I had the features of the three batches as follows (stuff in bold being changes from the previous batch)

 

G36 F4F-3 (1st group)

P&W R-1830-76 Twin Wasp

2 stage 2 speed supercharger

Carburettor air scoop on cowling top

2 intercooler air scoops inside cowling 4&8 o’clock

Single cooling flap

Fixed wing

Telescopic gunsight (later replaced)

4 guns – inner gun barrel extended beyond wing leading edge

Curtiss Electric cuffed propeller

Stepped hub

 

F4F-3 (2nd group)

P&W R-1830-76 Twin Wasp

2 stage 2 speed supercharger

No carburettor air scoop on cowling top

2 intercooler air scoops inside cowling 4&8 o’clock

Single cooling flap

Fixed wing

Reflector gun sight

4 guns – inner gun barrel extended beyond wing leading edge

Curtiss Electric cuffed propeller

Stepped hub

Braced windscreen

 

F4F-3 (3rd group)

P&W R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

2 stage 2 speed supercharger

No carburettor air scoop on cowling top

2 intercooler air scoops inside cowling 4&8 o’clock

3 + 1 cooling flaps

Small tear shaped bulge between wing and cowling

Fixed wing

Reflector gun sight

4 guns – inner gun barrel extended beyond wing leading edge

Curtiss Electric cuffed propeller

Stepped hub

Braced windscreen

 

I can see that if they were built at the same time as the F4F-4 and share the same engine, they would have the same production and induction features, minus the folding wings (not required for non-ship deployed training purposes).  The photos would confirm this.

 

Could they have subsequently been retrofitted with F4F-4 engines and cowls and strengthened windscreen or did they come off the production line with these F4F-4 features?

 

If they did, the only Twin Wasp variants not to use the cowl lip carb air scoop would have been the small 2nd batch of F4F-3s and the fold wing Martlet IIs.

 

I'll re-visit my references...

Edited by detail is everything
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The confusion may lie in semantics: what is meant by the "last" F4F-3's...and how many "groups" are there? 

 

Per Mr. Dann's In Action no. 191, your description is correct for the three "groups" of combat-ready "dash 3's," i.e., the machines seen in wartime action photos, which were succeeded in the front lines by the F4F-4, etc. The salient detail of the third group (BuNos. 3970 - 4057) is the R-1830-86 engine with cowl having "3+1" cooling gills and buried carb intake.

 

But, per In Action no. 191 again, the 100 final "dash 3" machines (BuNos. 12230 - 12329) I'm describing above were a fourth "group." They were trainers, not combat aircraft, and built during (or if serials correlate with construction sequence, actually after) the "dash 4's" production run. The cowl and fuselage details make perfect sense considering when they were manufactured; no retro-fitting needed.

 

To put it another way, the oddest thing about these final Grumman Wildcats might be that they were designated F4F-3's at all. In terms of timing and details, they are really stiff-wing F4F-4's...!

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MDriskill has it correct. The final group of F4F-3s were ordered after production had switched to the F4F-4. The Navy wanted more fixed wing F4Fs. The plan was to use them where a fixed wing was required, originally for conversion to the LR recon F4F-7 . When it was curtailed, it was proposed to build them as F4F-3S Wildcatfish, but that program also was canceled. Rather than cancel the order, the Navy accepted them for use as fighter trainers. F4Fs were needed for that role, and the fixed wing was lighter and cheaper than producing more F4F-4s. They were designated as F4F-3s because the Navy considered the wing as the distinction between an F4F-3 and an F4F-4.  As we have been discussing, other details of a particular airframe are largely a matter of when it was built. These were the last F4Fs to be produced by Grumman, built and delivered after the F4F-4 production ended. As such they reflect the features (carb scoop, 8-flap cowl, etc.) in production at that time

(I have an extensive series of photos taken of the restored example on display at Chicago O'Hare.) 

Edited by captnwoxof
typos-I can't live in a world wihout Spellcheck.
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Request for help.

I am looking for information on the 3rd and 4th production F4F-3s (BuNo 1846/1847) that were engined with the Wright R-1820-40 and designated as XF4F-5s. What I have from published sources is sketchy and conflicting. The contract was amended to specify them in the spring of 1940-does anyone know exactly when? I show initial flight in June with delivery in July. They were tested and found to be too slow, so no production followed. Both airframes were retained and used to test other R-1820 installations in 1942.

Good quality photos would be apprecated. I am especially curious as to what version of the fixed wing they had. Was it the standard production F4F-3 wing or the XF4F-3/G-36A wing? It has been stated that the 5th airframe, BuNo 1848, was the first to have the standard production wing. From everything I can see their fuselage and engine installation is identical to the G-36A, including the short canopy. If the Navy ordered them after G-36A production began, would  Grumman have just built the entire airframe to that standard, rather than "convert"  partially established airframes from the F4F-3 line?

I am also interested in BuNo 7031, the airframe that was added to the F4F-3 contract to test the R-1830-90 and designated XF4F-6. Where did it fit into G-36B development? Examination of the few photos I have reveal that it too had the short canopy. Why? Other than these three airframes, all F4F-3s (even the first two, Buno 1844/1845) had the long canopy. Again, what wing was fitted?

Answers to these questions may go a long way to understanding how the G-36A and G-36B were developed, and why they differed from F4F configurations.

Thanks in advance for any help. 

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The XF4F-3 was officially accepted in August 1939.  The two X4F-5 in July and August 1940.  The X4F-6 in November 1940, the XF4F-4 in May 1941, the pair of XF4F-8 in December 1942 according to the USN, January 1943 according to the War Production Board.

 

The first 2 F4F-3 were accepted in August 1940, so it is quite possible the X4F-5 officially arrived before any F4F-3, while the third F4F-3 was accepted in November, same month as the XF4F-6.  I think you might have answered your own question, all production F4F had the prototype wing until December 1940, the same time period the XF4F-5 and -6 were built.  In terms of engine fit the XF4F-6 was an F4F-3A.

 

This does not really help, but US War Production board report, Grumman model G-36

F4F-3, -3A, -4, Wildcat (British Martlet I, II, III) P&W R-1830-76, -86, -90, Curtiss C-5315-S with either 10 foot model 614 blades or 9 foot 9 inches model 512 blades.

F4F-4B Wright R-1820 G-200, Hamilton Standard 23E50 with 10 foot 1 inch model 6393A-18 blades.

Martlet II, IV Wright R-1820 G-205A, Curtiss C-5315-S with 10 foot model 614 blades

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Possibly of no help, but this photo of BuNo. 1846 is in Grumman Guidebook (Mitch Mayborn, 1976) - only place I've ever seen it. Might the single aperture in the wing LE hint at the XF4F-3 wing?

 

21055773-AF8-A-4-B38-8-D02-1-A835-A64-E2

 

 

Edited by MDriskill
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13 hours ago, MDriskill said:

Possibly of no help, but this photo of BuNo. 1846 is in Grumman Guidebook (Mitch Mayborn, 1976) - only place I've ever seen it. Might the single aperture in the wing LE hint at the XF4F-3 wing?

More help than you realize! The photo shows 1846 in a later configuration, much modified with a turbo-charged R-1820-54 and revised cowl, but it's still the same basic airframe. I'm not sure if the aperature in the wing leading edge is a gunport or not, but it looks to be the right location for the outboard one in a G-36A wing. But the really signifcant clue is the location of the landing light under the wing. You can just make it out if you look hard, but it is definitely in the forward location as per the XF4F-3/G-36A wing, and not further aft where it would be if the wing were a standard production F4F-3 wing..

 I am reasonably certain now that when the Navy requested that the F4F-3 contract be amended to provide these airplanes, Grumman just built a couple of extra G-36As and delivered them labeled XF4F-5s. It helps to understand what was happening on the production lines, with G-36As and F4F-3s being produced at the same time. There were significant differences between them.  

Thank you so much!

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On 9/24/2022 at 4:59 PM, MDriskill said:

Old guys like me...well, have a thing for actual paper.

I do, too. Two more paper references:

 

Air Enthusiast No. 68 (March-April 1997):

  • Ken Wixey, "Corpulent Feline" - Grummans's F4F Wildcat, Part One, pp. 16-24
  • Ken Wixey, "Wild Catfish" - The 'Sea Booted' F4F-3S Wildcat, p. 25

Air Enthusiast No. 70 (July-August 1997)

  • Ken Wixey, "Corpulent Feline" - Grummans's F4F Wildcat, Part Two, pp. 51-56 (British Variants, plus variant drawings)
  • "Durable Corpulent Felines" -Wildcat Survivors Portfolio, pp. 57-59

and the one that started my fascination with Martlet/Wildcat variations:

 

IPMS (UK) Magazine no. 2/1990

  • "Nine lives", Brian Derbyshire defines and describes the nine lives of Grumman's Wildcats.

nostalgia, maybe, but in my view this still ranks among the best.

 

Claudio

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4 hours ago, captnwoxof said:

I am reasonably certain now that when the Navy requested that the F4F-3 contract be amended to provide these airplanes, Grumman just built a couple of extra G-36As and delivered them labeled XF4F-5s. It helps to understand what was happening on the production lines, with G-36As and F4F-3s being produced at the same time.

 

On 9/28/2022 at 6:50 PM, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

The XF4F-3 was officially accepted in August 1939.  The two X4F-5 in July and August 1940.

The XF4F-5 caption says that both XF4F-5 were delivered to Anacostia on July 2, 1940. Their first flight is reported in June 1940, confirming that official acceptance date can be later than the date of first flights or delivery. First flight of the XF4F-3 is given as 12 February 1939.

The first G-36A first flew on May 11, 1940, with first deliveries to the British Purchasing commission officially recorded at the beginning of August 1940. Indeed, it seems XF4F-5s and G-36As were sharing the production line.

 

On 9/28/2022 at 6:50 PM, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

The first 2 F4F-3 were accepted in August 1940, so it is quite possible the X4F-5 officially arrived before any F4F-3, while the third F4F-3 was accepted in November, same month as the XF4F-6.

The XF4F-6 reportedly first flew on November 11, 1940 and was accepted for trials at Anacostia on November 26. It seems to have the short canopy associated with the G-36A (XF4F-5s also had this). This might suggest it was built at the end of the G-36A production run.

From what I understand, the first two F4F-3s were to a pre-production standard. The acceptance list provided by @Geoffrey Sinclair has a single F4F-3 accepted in November, this could be Bu.No. 1848, that was the first to feature the strengthened undercarriage introduced after preliminary carrier trials by Bu. Nos. 1844 and 1845. It would help to know whether the XF4F-6 also had it.

 

 

 

Edited by ClaudioN
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@MDriskill@captnwoxof@ClaudioN@Bruce ArcherSo can we look at the sequence of production for the various Twin Wasp variants.  It will help to explain why certain features are present or not present on particular variants.

 

It throws up some questions which need answering. Some of the production dates may be wrong and this would explain some of the apparent anomalies.  Can someone please confirm the production dates? - I took them from this post in Grumman F4F-3 colours @Geoffrey Sinclair Posted September 8.  

 

Martlet I production July to October 1940, F4F-3 production 2 in August 1940, then November 1940 to February 1941, May to December 1941, February to March 1942, January to May 1943, F4F-3A production March to May 1941.  F4F-4 production November 1941 to December 1942, F4F-7 production January, March, May to September, November and December 1942.  FM-1 production September 1942 to December 1943.  FM-2 production September 1943 to August 1945. Total production  7,905.

 

Using the F4F-4 production dates - November 1941 to December 1942 as the datum to work back from (because the F4F-4 had the final revised cowl top carb air scoop, revised unbraced windscreen and 3 + 1 engine cooling flap arrangements) I have the following observations and questions in red.  Items in bold are changes from the previous variant.

 

Variant                              Date produced

 

F4F-3 (1st group)            2 in August 1940, then November 1940 to February 1941

Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 Twin Wasp

Carburettor air scoop on cowling top

Single cooling flap

F4F-3 wing with a large double gun bay in each wing - inner gun barrel extended (XF4F-3 wing structure redesigned)

 

Martlet III(A) G-36B         December 1940 -F4F-3 wings eventually fitted in February 1941

Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G Twin Wasp (-76 engine not available for export)

Carburettor air scoop on cowling top 

Single cooling flap

F4F-3 wing

Braced windscreen (to strengthen the framework)

 

Martlet III(B)/F4F-3A           March to May 1941

P&W R-1830-90 Twin Wasp (military version of S3C4-G)

Carburettor air scoop on cowling top (some later seen in 1942 without this feature – possibly re-engined with spare S3C4-Gs?)

Single cooling flap

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling (seems way too soon to introduce this as a production standard feature. The redesigned supercharger and thus the need for this clearance fairing not introduced until November 1941 with production of the F4F-4)

F4F-3 wing

Braced windscreen

 

F4F-3 (2nd group)                 May to December 1941

Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 Twin Wasp

Internal carburettor air scoop under cowling (possibly a problem with 2 stage supercharged engine collapsing the ducting in the cowl)

Single cooling flap

F4F-3 wing

Braced windscreen

 

Martlet II/F4F-4A G-36B         August 41 to April 1942 

P&W R-1830- S3C4-G Twin Wasp

Internal carburettor air scoop under cowling (presumably the internal carb air scoop was a feature of the S3C4-G engine or there was no need to introduce the F4F-4 revised carburettor air scoop on cowling top from November 1941?)

Single cooling flap

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling (not on early machines. Presumably became production standard feature from November 1941?)

Folding F4F-4 wing with 6 guns -no extended gun barrels (introduced the folding wing)

Braced windscreen

 

F4F-4                                           November 1941 to December 1942 (seems too early to introduce, logically, the F4F-4 should come after the F4F-3 (3rd group))

P&W R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

Revised carburettor air scoop on cowling top

3 + 1 cooling flaps (assume this was production standard from Nov 1941?)

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling (assume this was production standard from Nov 1941?)

Folding wing with 6 guns -no extended gun barrels

Revised unbraced windscreen

 

F4F-3 (3rd group)                         February to March 1942 (seems retrograde to introduce as a front line fighter, No F4F-3s accepted during this period and you would think it would have the by then production standard F4F-4 revised carburettor air scoop and windscreen)

P&W R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

Internal carburettor air scoop under cowling (seems odd to return to the internal air scoop)

3 + 1 cooling flaps

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling

F4F-3 wing

Braced windscreen (seems odd to return to the braced windscreen)

 

Wildcat V/FM-1                                  September 1942 to December 1943

P&W R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

Revised carburettor air scoop on cowling top

3 + 1 cooling flaps

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling

Folding wing with 4 guns -no extended gun barrels (reverted to 4 guns to allow more ammunition - effectively four gunned F4F-4s)

Revised unbraced windscreen

 

F4F-3 (4th group)                            January to May 1943

P&W R-1830-86 Twin Wasp

Revised carburettor air scoop on cowling top

3 + 1 cooling flaps

Small tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling

F4F-3 wing (these were advanced trainers with no need to store on carriers - effectively fixed wing F4F-4s/FM-1s)

Revised unbraced windscreen

Edited by detail is everything
clarified that tear shaped fairing between wing and cowling was not found on early Martlet IIs
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