Grumman F4F/FM  Wildcat differences and colors
   


Painting copyright of James Dietz.*

    This will only be a quick run down of the most common variants of the Grumman F4F and FM Wildcat and in no way is it a detailed summary, but you might be able to tell the difference between types.  I will try to be thorough about color schemes, but it is possible that I will overlook some.

   Many of the thumbnails below link to photos on the Navy Historical Center site.  That site is an excellent resource for modellers and enthusiasts, covering USN history, ships, aircraft,  and some very interesting additional information.

    Some photos were also taken off of a thread on Warbird Information Exchange that hosted many Grumman photos.

    Additional photos are from Life magazine's online archive.  For those photos I have chosen not to crop the photos to remove the word LIFE. 

    *The James Dietz painting above illustrates Joe Foss returning to Guadalcanal after a mission on 25 January, 1943.  Leading a flight of eight F4F Wildcats and four P-38s Foss encountered a Japanese force of approximately 100 aircraft.  Through superior tactics the small element was able to convince the Japanese that there were more than a mere dozen aircraft airborne over the "Canal".  It was this kind of fortitude that made the United States Navy an effective force to be reckoned with even when often outnumbered during the first half of the war in the Pacific.



A little prelude before we get to the F4F...

    The first of the line that was eventually to become the F4F Wildcat started with the (by today's standards) goofy looking FF-1, often referred to as "Fifi".  This was followed by the F2F (of which unfortunately there are no survivors) through the F3F.  This aircraft starred in at least two movies: 1940's Flight Command and a year later in Dive Bomber.  Watching those movies on TV as a kid got me interested in the little fighter.  This aircraft evolved into the F4F, which in its earliest design was a biplane.

                            FF-1                    F2F-1                  F3F-1                F3F-2                    F3F-3
Wingspan:         34' 6"                  28' 6"                    32'                     32'                         32'
Length:              24' 10"                21' 5"                    23'                 23" 1 1/2"             23' 1 1/2"
Power plant:    R-1820E              R-1535-72          R-1535-84         R-1820-22             R-1820-22
Speed:             198 mph                229 mph              231 mph            256 mph                  263 mph
Armament:    3x .30 cal              2x .30 cal          1x .50 & 1x .30  1x .50 & 1x .30   1x .50 & 1x .30
Bureau No.s  9350/9376        9623/9676 & 9997   0211/0264         0967/1047             1444/1470


                          F4F-3                 F4F-3A                  F4F-4                    FM-1                    FM-2                    Martlet I                Martlet II                Martlet III                Martlet IV

Wingspan:       38' 0"                   38' 0"                    38' 0"                    38' 0"                    38' 0"                    38' 0"                    38' 0"                        38' 0"                        38' 0"
Length: 1         28' 10.5"              28' 10.5"               28' 10.5"               28' 10.5"               28' 10.5"               28' 10.5"               28' 10.5"                   28' 10.5"                   28' 10.5"        
Power plant:   R-1830-76*          R-1830-90             R-1830-86            R-1830-86             R-1820-56**         R-1820-G205A     R-1830-S3C4-G       R-1830-S3C4-G       R-1820-G205
Speed:2            330 mph              306 mph                320 mph                320 mph                332 mph               308 mph                   
Armament:     4 X .50                 4 X .50                   6 X .50                   4 X .50                   4 X .50                 4 X .50                    6 X .50                     4 X .50                        6 X .50

1:      Though references show the length the same for all models, it would seem that the R-1820 versions should be shorter.
2:      Airspeed is dependent upon several factors and these numbers are very subjective.
*       Either R-1830-76, or R-1830-86
**   R-1820-56, -56A, -56W, -56WA,

    The F4F Wildcat  entered service during an era of colorful markings, fuselages were painted silver, wing upper surfaces were painted chrome yellow, tails were painted in color to identify the aircraft carrier an aircraft was assigned to and section colors were applied to the nose and chevrons on the upper wings.  As World War Two approached the need to better conceal aircraft and ships was identified by the Navy and on December 30, 1940 a directive was issued for combat aircraft to be painted in light gray.  This color was similar to light gull gray (FS36440).  On October 13, 1941 another directive was issued adding non-specular blue gray to surface viewed from above.  This scheme had been in use for patrol planes for some time and was considered to be very effective.  February 1, 1943 brought another change when the overall scheme was changed to non-specular sea blue, intermediate blue and white.  On March 22, 1944 those colors were all changed to gloss.  On October 7,  1944 a final change was made when it was directed that gloss sea blue was to be the color scheme for carrier based aircraft.  Two specialized schemes were adopted for Antisubmarine aircraft on July 19, 1943: Scheme I was non-specular gull gray on top[ surfaces, with non-specular light gull gray on sides and gloss white on under surfaces.  Scheme II was to be non-specular dark gull gray on top, non-specular white on the sides and gloss white on the lowere surfaces.  Sheme II became the more prevalent of the two, but in any case all of the above mentioned schemes were applied to Wildcats.

XFF-1

XFF-1  Prototype for FF-1.  Bu No. 8878

Grumman XFF-1

FF-1

FF-1  27 Production aircraft.  Bu. No.s 9350/9376



Grumman FF-1
Grumman FF-1 Bu. No. 9358 pre war color scheme

    This ungainly aircraft would lead to the graceful F3F and eventually to the F4F.  FF-1 9351 is shown in the factory at Bethpage. 

    A Canadian Car & Foundry G-23 Goblin displayed as an FF-1 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.   It was sold to Nicaragua in 1937, but was imported to the US in 1966.

    The same airplane marked as Bu. No. 9358 at Bethpage, NY in 1966.  Note the E-2 in the background.

FF-2 


FF-2  22 FF-1s converted to dual control trainers.  Some sources state 25 airframes were converted.

Grumman FF-2 Bu. No, 9353 in pre war color scheme

     The most noticeable differences from the FF-1 are a collector ring for the exhaust (vs. individual stubs on the FF-1) and the deletion of the tail hook.  This FF-2 is in service with a United States Navy Reserve (USNR) unit.

XSF-1


XSF-1  Prototype for a scout version of the FF-1.  Bu. No. 8940



SF-1

 
SF-1  Scout version of the FF-1 with dual controls.  34 built Bu. No.s 9460/9493.


Grumman SF-1 in pre war color scheme



SF-1, Bu. No. 9464 of Scouting Squadron Three (VS-3B) in 1935



SFXSF-2


XSF-2  9493 converted to planned version of SF-2.  Not produced.



GG-1

GG-1  A company demonstrator built from unused FF-1 and SF-1 components. Sold to Canadian Car & Foundry.


Grumman GG-1 demonstrator in Grumman Livery


G-23

G-23  55 Production aircraft of the GG-1 design built by Canadian Car & Foundry.


Grumman FF-1 Ganadian Car & Foundry G-23 in
                RAF/RCAF color schemes Goblin Grumman FF-1 Ganadian Car & Foundry G-23 in
                early war RCAF color scheme Goblin

    The G-23, or Goblin as christened by the RCAF, was an aircraft the RCAF did not want.  Those aircraft were part of a "Turkish" order, but were in fact aircraft meant for the Spanish Republican forces.  Sixteen were seized in Canada after it was learned their true destination.  Those planes was neither desired, nor liked by the RCAF, but they did provide valuable training.  Of the flight of six Goblins, four are without their canopies.  One must wonder how miserable it would have been to fly in the Canadian winters with only a windscreen for protection.

    Delivered in late 1940, the G-23s were painted in the then current RAF Fighter Command scheme of Dark Earth and Dark Green topside with the underside painted half black, half white.

XF2F-1


XF2F-1 Prototype for F2F fighter.  Bu. No. 9342.



F2F-1

F2F-1  Production version.  55 built Bu. No.s 9623/9676 & 9997.

Grumman F2F-1 on a cold, wintry day at Bethpage,
                wearing a pre war USN color scheme NY. 1934

XF3F-1


XF3F-1
  Prototype for F3F-1.  Bu. No. 9727 (three different aircraft carried this Bureau number,  the original and two substitutes, each to replace a previously destroyed one.).




F3F-1

F3F-1  54 production airframes.  Bu. No.s 0211/0264


Grumman F3F-1 of VF-4 in pre war color
                        scheme


XF3F-2



XF3F-2  Prototype for improved version.  Bu. No. 0452




F3F-2


F3F-2  81 Production aircraft.  Bu. No.s 0967/1047.


Grumman F3F-2 of VF-6 off of the USS Enterprise in
                a pre war color scheme


XF3F-3

XF3F-3  Improved F3F-2.  Bu. No. 1031.




F3F-3

F3F-3   27 built.  Bu. No.s 1444/1470.


1Grumman F3F-3 in pre war USN color scheme

XF3F-4

XF3F-4  Test version.  One more conversion for 1031.

                   


XF4F-1


XF4F-1  Biplane fighter, none built.


a speculative drawing of the Grumman F4F-1 Wildcat

    The XF4F-1 had not advanced beyond a preliminary design before Grumman realized that a biplane could not off the performance needed to compete with Brewster's F2A Buffalo.  The design was then changed to a monoplane that became the XF4F-2.  During the late 1960s, or early 1970s, aviation history Llyod Jones published a set of drawings of the proposed F4F-1.  The above artwork is based on those drawings to represent a "what if" of what that airplane might have looked like in service.  Even the choice of engine was never finalized, with both the Wright R-1670 and the P&W R-1535 being considered for the design.

XF4F-2

 
XF4F-2  First Wildcat prototype, monoplane.  Bu. No. 0383




XF4F-3


XF4F-3
  0383 converted to the F4F-3 prototype.






F4F-3  (Early)

    The F4F-3 had four .50 caliber machine guns, non folding wings and a straight pitot tube that came out of the leading edge of the left wing.  Early aircraft had an air intake on top of the cowl lip, a single double wide cowl flap on each side and a telescopic gun sight.  The power plant was a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 engine with a two stage, two speed supercharger.  This was a 14 cylinder, twin row radial engine.  The propeller used on the F4F-3 and F4F-4 was a three bladed, cuffed Curtiss Electric with a cylindrical hub.


F4F-3     First service version.  Bu. No.s 1844/1845, 1848/1896, 2512/2538, 3856/3874, 3970/4057 and 12230/12329

Grumman F4F-3 of VF-41 pre-war color scheme Grumman F4F-3 over Long Island taken by Life VF-41
                Wildcat in a pre war color scheme magazine photographer Grumman F4F-3 from VF-42 in pre war color scheme F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF-111 during the Louisiana
                Maneuvers in a pre war color schemes F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF-111 during the Louisiana
                Maneuvers in a pre war color schemes

      F4F-3 Bu. No. 1850.  When the F4F first entered service the navy paint schemes were still very colorful.  This aircraft is assigned to VF-41 aboard the USS Ranger (CV-4).  The fuselage is painted silver, the upper wing surfaces are chrome yellow and the tail is painted in the ship's color.  In this case willow green  for Ranger.  This aircraft is assigned to the section leader, second section as denoted by the white cowl and fuselage band.  The fuselage code should read "41-F-4", meaning the number four airplane of VF-41.  At this time, the national insignia is on the upper and lower surfaces of both wings.  (USN)

    An F4F-3 (Bu. No. 2526) over Long Island in 1941.  As WWII approached, color schemes became more drab, with the first change being to an overall scheme of  non-specular light gray, with small national insignia and white lettering.  The directive for this scheme was issued in December, 1940.  As some aircraft had already been painted silver at the factory, Grumman requested that they be delivered in the silver color, but without yellow wings.  (Life)

    VF-42 F4F-3 2538 at the National Advisory Commitee for Aeronautics' (NACA) Langley facility in 1941.   Of interest is the unique sensor on the tail.  The airplane is most likely in a scheme similar to the color photo of 2526. (NASA)

    Three VMF-111  F4F-3s in flight during the Louisiana maneuvers.  The stars are now on both side of the fuselage and the upper left and lower right wings.  The red crosses on the wings and fuselage were for the war games.  All three are painted in non-specular light gray overall. (USN)

 
Grumman F4F-3 in early war color scheme F4F-3 Wildcat in in early war color scheme VF-8 F4F-3 Wildcat nestled among Dolittle's B-25s
                aboard the USS Hornet. All aircraft are in early war
                color schemes F4F-3 Wildcat of VF-6 being struck up from below
                deck aboard the USS Enterprise pre war Wildcat color
                schemes
VF-6 F4F-3 Wildcats aboard the USS Enterprise. All
                are in early war color schemes


    An early F4F-3 in flight.  This aircraft is in the non-specular blue gray over non-specular light gray camouflage that was in use at the time of America's entry into the war.  This color combination became the standard for carrier aircraft in     August 1941.  The rudder stripes came into use on December 23, 1941 and would remain until May 6, 1942.  The codes have now changed to simply "F-5", no longer identifying the squadron.   (USN)   

    An F4F-3 taking off from the USS Enterprise. (Life)

    A VF-8 F4F-3 aboard the USS Hornet in April, 1942 during the Doolittle raid on Japan.  It is usually stated the the Hornet's aircraft where struck below deck to accommodate the B-25s taking part in the raid, but this photo shows otherwise. (USN)

    Someone is about to suffer the Chief's wrath!  An early F4F-3 is being brought up from the hangar deck aboard the USS Enterprise in late 1941.  (Life)

    A mixture of early and late F4F-3s aboard the USS Enterprise, March, 1942.  (USN)


F4F-3A

 The F4F-3A differed from the F4F-3 in being powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 engine with a single stage, two speed supercharger.  This did not change the appearance of the aircraft however.  The telescopic sight was replaced with a deflection sight and that was the only easy way to tell the two apart.

F4F-3A  As F4F-3, but with R-1830-90 engine and lesser performance.  Bu. No.s 3905/3969


Grumman F4F-3A


              

    An F4F-3A on display at the NMNA and painted in the blue gray over light gray scheme.  Note the large size of the national insignia.    In the lower right corner is an A6M-2 Zero-sen, or "Zero", the Wildcat's adversary in the early stages of the war.

   

F4F-3 (late) 

    The late model F4F-3s were powered by the R-1830-86.  This engine had a different carburetor arrangement and the intake on top of the cowl was eliminated.   Some aircraft retained the original large cowl flap on the upper part of the cowl (Bu. Nos. 3856-3874) while the cowl flap arrangement was changed to three smaller flaps on the upper half and one smaller one on the lower half, both sides on later aircraft. (Bu. No.s 3970-4057).  The gun sight was also the reflector type and the telescopic sight was now gone from USN and USMC Wildcats.  (The external scoop atop the cowl lip was reinstated for Bu. Nos. 12230-12329)


Grumman F4F-3 (Late) On Wake Island after the
                Japanese took the island Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats aboard the Enterprise


    An F4F-3 of VMF-121 in the overall light gray scheme sometime in 1941.

    A VF-3 F4F-3 (Bu. No. 3982) rides the forward elevator aboard the USS Saratoga in October, 1941. (USN)

    Late F4F-3s of VMF-211 cannibalized on Wake Island, December, 1941.  These aircraft were originally light gray, but blue gray was sprayed on the top surfaces evident by the way that the light gray crosses the top of the cowl. (USN)

    VF-6 F4F-3s aboard the USS Enterprise late 1941.  (Life)

    Deck crew manhandling a VF-6 Wildcat aboard the USS Enterprise late 1941.  (Life)


Butch O'Hare
Butch O'Hare in a Grumman F4F-3 Butch O'Hare Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

     
    Two late model F4F-3s, VF-3.   Aircraft "F-1" (Bu. No. 3976) is  flown by  John Thach, while "F-13" (Bu. No. 3986) is flown by "Butch" O'Hare.   Both aircraft are in blue gray over light gray, but notice how the tail stripes differ.  This was common from aircraft to aircraft as were differences in national insignia.  They also both sport the "Felix the Cat" markings, still in use today by VFA-31.   (USN)
 

     Though there were many Wildcat aces no person is more closely associated with the F4F than Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare, becoming the first USN ace of World War II and Medal of Honor recipient while serving with VF-3.  (USN)

    Life photographer Ralph Morse took a series of photos of  Lieutenant Edward O'Hare in Hawaii during April, 1942.  The first in this group shows O'Hare taxiing in an F4F-3 marked as F-7. (Life)

    And climbing out of F-3.  It is quite likely these were shot over the period of a few days, though it is possible that some were posed for publicity reasons.  Felix the Cat of VF-6 is prominent under the windscreen and was applied to both sides of the fuselage.  (Life)



Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

    O'Hare climbing down from F-3.  (Life)

    And walking away from F-7.   Lieutenant Commander John S. Thach is walking into the photo from O'Hare's right.  Butch O'Hare was later killed in combat, Thach finished the war with six kills and later became an admiral.  (Life)

   While the fuselage shows the larger insignia that came into use in early 1942, the tail stripes and wing insignia on this F4F-3 are covered with canvas.  When aboard ship it was not uncommon for any colorful markings to be covered so as to make the ship less conspicuous.   With something as large as an aircraft carrier that seems like a lesson in futility.  (USN)

    An F4F-3 launches off of the USS Charger sometime in late 1942/early 1943.  This underside shot shows the position of the wing guns and ejection slots for spent shell casings.  The inboard slots have containers mounted to capture those casings and the gun on aircraft left inboard has a fairing that was common on the F4F-3.  This photo was originally reversed giving the impression that the pitot was on the right wing.  A censor has also blotted out the ship's radar antenna.  (Life)


F4F-3P


F4F-3P
   Photo recon conversion of some F4F-3 airframes.

 

 

 


F4F-3S


   F4F-3S  A F4F-3 mounted on floats and sometimes called the Wildcatfish.  Not successful.  Bu. No. 4038.

 


Grumman F4F-3S Wildcatfish
Grumman F4F-3S

    The F4F-3S was inspired by the A6M2-N Rufe and was meant to serve where forward bases were absent.  The floats degraded the performance so badly that it was decided not to continue development.  A ventral fin was added during the testing to increases stability.

F4F-3 (Final version)

    The final version of the F4F-3 consisted of one hundred airframes (Bu.No. 12230 - 12329) that started out as a contract for F4F-7 Wildcats.  This was converted to an order for 100 F4F-3S, before being completed as the final F4F-3 aircraft almost as an after thought.  The most noticeable difference was the F4F-4 style cowling with four cowl flaps (three upper, two lower) per side and the intake on the upper lip of the cowling.  These were the last Grumman F4F Wildcat aircraft built, leaving the Grumman factory in 1943 after the last F4F-4 was built.

The final version of the F4F-3 Wildcat

    The Wildcat inflight, with the tailhook down and the survivor on display at Chicago's O'Hare airport both illustrate the final version of the F4F-3.  The aircraft in this last group utilize the cowling that was seen on all F4F-4 and FM-1 Wildcats.


F4F-4

    The F4F-4 was the first Wildcat with folding wings.  Armament was increased to six .50 caliber guns.  The pitot tube was changed to one that curved forward from the bottom of the left wing. Powered by a P&W R-1830-86,

XF4F-4  Prototype for the folding wing F4F-4 with six gun armament.  Bu. No. 1897.
F4F-4     Production version.  1,169 built. Bu. No.s 4058/4098, 5030/5262, 01991/02152, 03385/03544, 11655/12227.


Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats and TBM Avengers
Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat USS Enterprise Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats


    Space is always at a premium aboard ship and the use of folding wings makes sense from that standpoint.  These F4F-4s are packed aboard like sardines. (USN)

    A VF-41 F4F-4 in-flight.  This aircraft still has the older style of coding "41-F-8", which remained in use for Atlantic based units long after it disappeared for those in the Pacific.  This aircraft also has the six position stars.  (USN) 

    Servicing of a VF-6 F4F-4's guns aboard the USS Enterprise in early 1942.  The gun bays are open for all six guns.  (USN) 

    Test firing of guns aboard the USS Ranger just prior to Operation Torch, the allied invasion of North Africa.  The yellow circles around the national insignia was applied in preparation for that operation.  During the air campaign, F4Fs fought against Vichy  French operated Curtiss P-36s.  (USN)

    F4F-4s and TBF Avengers stowed aft on an aircraft carrier "somewhere in the Pacific".  (USN)




Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat on Guadalcanal Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat

 

    This F4F-4 is stated to be Bu. No. 5171, a VF-3 aircraft flown by John Thach during the Battle of Midway.  (USN)

    The next two photos show Wildcats at Henderson Field.  The F4F was instrumental in routing the Japanese aircraft from the skies over Guadalcanal.  The first photo dates from March, 1943 which was near the end of the Battle for Guadalcanal and near the end of the Wildcat's service in the Solomons.   (USN)

    This flight of F4F-4s is shown airborne sometime in 1943.  They are most likely a stateside training unit.  (USN)

    Rosenblatt's Reply is an F4F-4 aboard the USS Suwanee sometime in late 1942, or early 1943.  The remnants of a yellow circle around the fuselage insignia indicate that this aircraft took part in the Torch landings.  (USN)


Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat



Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat during operation Torch


    F4F and FM Wildcats operated mainly from Escort Carriers during the latter half of the war.  This F4F-4 is carrying the Atlantic camouflage scheme of Gull Gray over White. (USN)

    Aircraft recognition has always been a problem during a conflict and at the beginning of World War Two many American aircraft were shot up by our own forces.  To help alleviate that more conspicuous markings were applied.  This F4F-4 illustrates the larger national insignia and rudder stripes used in the opening phases of WW II.

    Two F4F-4s of VF-3 parked in revetments at Kaneohe, Hawaii, May, 1942.  (USN)

    A VMF-122 F4F-4 in a revetment at Camp Kearney, California  sometime in 1942.  Camp Kearney would later become Naval Air Station Mirimar. (USMC)

    A VF-41 F4F-4 that nosed over on landing in North Africa during Operation Torch. (USN)



The F4F-4s in this photo are somewhat of a mystery.  They appear to be in the three color Atlantic Scheme I of dark gull gray and light gull gray over white.  While that scheme was occasionally used on patrol aircraft the two color Scheme II of dark gull gray over white was more common on fighters.

F4F-4A  Projected version of the F4F-4 powered by an R-1830-90.

 
F4F-4B  USN designation for the Wildcat IV in Fleet Air Arm (FAA) service.  Powered by the R-1820-G205.

(See Wildcat IV below)

F4F-4P   Photo recon conversion to at least one F4F-4 Bu. No.03386. 


               

 XF4F-5  Two F4F-3s re-engined with R-1820-40 engines.  Bu. No.s 1846/1847.


Xf4F-5 Wildcat

 
XF4F-6  Prototype for F4F-3A.  Bu. No. 7031



 
F4F-7     Unarmed recon version of F4F-4, with non folding wings.  21 built.   Bu. No.s 5263/5283

F4F-7 Wildcat


    The F4F-7 was an effort to add a long range photo reconnaissance mission to the Wildcat.  Armament was deleted, wings were non-folding and extra fuel tanks were fitted.  Though used in the Solomon Islands only twenty one were completed out of an order of one hundred with the balance being completed as F4F-3s.  Two identifying features are the curved windscreen and two fuel dump tubes in the tail.  These aircraft were Blue-Gray over Light Gull Gray.

XF4F-8  Two F4F-4s with R-1820-56 engines, reduced weight and slotted flaps.  Also tested taller fin as used on the FM-2.   Bu. No.s 12228/12229.

Grumman XF4F-8 Wildcat


    The two XF4F-8 Wildcats were an attempt to get more performance out of the F4F.  Both were fitted with R-1820 engines.  While 12228 retained the same fin and rudder as the F4F, 12229 tested the taller fin combination that became standard on the FM-2.  Both aircraft also retained a six gun armament and the windows in the belly.  (Grumman)

FM-1

The FM-1 was the first General Motors produced version.  Grumman was gearing up to produce F6Fs and needed to free up space, so GM was chosen to continue Wildcat production.  The FM-1 differed from the F4F-4 only in the return to a four gun armament.

FM-1     General Motors licensed production of the F4F-4 with only four guns.  1,060 built.  Bu. No.s  14992/15951 and 46738/46837.

Eastern FM-1 Wildcat Eastern FM-1 Wildcat Eastern FM-1 Wildcat over San Diego


    The first Eastern built FM-1 (Bu. No. 14992) at Anacostia in 1942.  With the exception of only carrying four wing guns the FM-1 was a copy of the F4F-4.  (USN)             

     An FM-1 that has suffered some indignities while landing aboard ship.  Note that most of the main gear is painted black, while the strut appears to be dull silver with the exception of the telescoping portion, which is bright.  This was the standard for Wildcats.  The national insignia now has the blue bordered white bars added.  Tri color scheme.   (USN)

An FM-1 in the three tone scheme of non-specular sea blue, non-specular intermediate blue and non-specular white inflight over North Island, California in 1943.

   

FM-2 

      The FM-2 was the final development of the Wildcat series and was also the most numerous version.  The FM-2 was powered by a nine cylinder, single row  Wright R-1820-56, -56W, or -56WA engine.  The change to this engine changed the shape of cowling, which was now slighter shorter in chord, but a little fatter without an intake atop the cowl.  The radio mast that had been raked forward on earlier versions was changed to one that stuck straight out from the spine.   Most references list only one type of propeller, but photos indicate at least two types were used:   1. A Curtiss Electric, uncuffed, paddle bladed propeller, which still had the same double cylinder appearance of the earlier prop hubs, or 2.  An uncuffed, paddle bladed Hamilton Standard.  This last propeller had a distinctive dome shaped hub.  The FM-2 also had a taller tail than earlier versions and a four gun armament in folding wings.


FM-2   General Motors built version of the F4F-8.  Taller tail, lighter weight and  R-1820-56, -56W, -56A, -56WA engine.  This version also had an exceptional rate of climb and with 4,127 built was also the most produced variant.  Bu No.s 15952/16791, 46838/47437, 55050/55649, 56684/57083, 73499/75158 and 86297/86793. 

Eastern FM-2 Wildcat

FM-2 Wildcat

    FM-2 Bu. No. 15953, the second FM-2, undergoes flight testing in late 1943.  (USN)

    A VC-12 FM-2 operating in ASW duties off of the USS Card in February, 1944.  (USN)

    VC-4 aircraft aboard the USS Kitkun Bay on 25 October, 1944 during the Battle off Samar when ships, aircraft and men of Task Unit 77.4.3, better known as "Taffy 3", turned back an attack by a much larger Japanese task force.   In the background shells are seen splashing close by the USS White Plains.  (USN)

    Two VC-4 FM-2s operating from the USS White Plains.  These aircraft are in the "tri-color" scheme: Sea blue and intermediate blue over white.

    Trouble for a young ensign!  A nosed over FM-2 aboard the USS Sable (IX-81), one of two carriers built upon paddle steamers whose sole purpose was to train pilots while sailing the Great Lakes.  The other carrier was the USS Wolverine (IX-64).  Both ships were crucial in training young aviators and the Great Lakes provide a secure area that was not menaced by U-boats, or other Axis threats.  Quite a few aircraft were lost in Lake Michigan and several have been recovered over the last couple of decades.  (USN)


Eastern FM-2 Wildcat Atlantic scheme FM-2s landing aboard the
                        USS Charger USS Charger FM-2 Wildcat designed by Grumman built by Eastern Grumman Eastern FM-2 Wildcat

  
   
    An FM-2 of VC-13 taking off from the USS Core (CVE-13), having just dis-engaged from the catapult.  The catapult bridle is visible just below the left main gear.  The colors on this aircraft are dark gull gray over white.  This combination was used for airwings operating mainly in the North Atlantic.  It was also carried on TBF/TBM Avengers, F4F-4s and FM-1s, PV-1s and several other types.

 
      An FM-2 of VF-26*  patrols above the USS Santee (CVE-29) in October 1944.  The Santee was knocked out of action later that month.   By this time period aircraft were being delivered in an overall gloss sea blue scheme.

    While one FM-2 recovers aboard the USS Charger another is making a go-around in the pattern.  This was during work-ups in May, 1944.  (USN)

    An FM-2 at the NACA Langley facility in January, 1945.  (NASA)

    * Most CVEs operating in the Atlantic specialized in ASW and the make up of the squadron reflected this.  They usually carried a Composite Squadron (VC) which comprised  Wildcats and Avengers (or "Turkeys" as they have come to be called), while those CVEs in the Pacific normally had conventional fighter (VF) and Torpedo Squadrons (VT), though late in the war they too carried VC units.

A VC-84 FM-2 catapulted from the USS Makin Island in October, 1945.  World War II has been over for a month and the Wildcat will soon be gone from navy service.  (USN)

Martlet/Wildcat in FAA service

mart-let 1. Brit. Dial. a house martin 2.  Heraldry.  a representation of a swallow close and without legs, used esp. as the cadecny mark of a fourth son.  Ok, Neither one of these really give an appealing definition to a great fighter.  The Wildcat was initially called the Martlet by the Fleet Air Arm, but thankfully the correct name was restored with the Wildcat IV to avoid confusion.  Maybe to avoid friction among allies too.


G-36A
G-36A  81 Export Grumman Wildcats ordered by France.  These aircraft were powered by a Wright R-1820-G205A and armed with six 7.5 mm machine guns, two in the cowling and two in each of the fixed wings.


Grumman G-36A built for the French and shown here
                in French colors

    The first G-36A at the Grumman factory in Bethpage, NY.  The trough for the cowl gun and the bulge for its breech are visible in this photo.  Those would be deleted when the UK took over the order.  The wing guns were replaced with four Browning .50 caliber guns as well.  The color of this airplane is open to dispute.  Some sources state that the aircraft were finished in a light blue, while others call for a light gray.


Martlet I

Martlet I    81 Grumman G-36A aircraft were ordered by France, but could not be delivered before the fall of France.   Very similar to the F4F-3, but powered by the GR-1820-G205A engine and utilizing an un-cuffed Hamilton Standard propeller with a domed hub.  This aircraft had the carburetor scoop atop a cowling that resembled the one used on the FM-2, but lacked cowl flaps.  The Martlet I used an F4F-3 pitot tube.  The two fuselage guns were deleted and the wing guns were replaced with Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns. Serials AL236/262, AX824/829,  BJ507/527,  BJ554/BJ570, BT447/BT456 (This last batch was lost at sea  when the U46 sank the SS Rupera, so some references only show 71 Martlet Is).  Two Martlet I aircraft shot down a Ju88 near Scapa Flow on 25 December, 1940 for the first kill by an American built airplane in British service.  


Grumman G-36 Martlet I Wildcat I in a
                        Grumman applied color scheme Grumman G-36 Martlet I Wildcat I in a
                        Grumman applied color scheme Grumman G-36 Martlet I Wildcat I in a
                            Grumman applied color scheme Grumman G-36 Martlet I Wildcat I in a
                        Grumman applied color scheme Grumman Martlet I Grumman G-36 Martlet I
                        Wildcat I in a Grumman applied color scheme


    Two shots of a Martlet I at Bethpage, New York prior to delivery to the Fleet Air Arm.  The camouflage colors used by Grumman were listed in documents as   "Extra Dark Sea Gray, Light Sea Green and Duck Egg Blue.".  Those colors are far glossier than the colors used on other FAA aircraft.  It is unclear whether the aircraft were repainted at Grumman in a scheme equivalent to the FAA scheme, or if that was done after delivery.  The spacing for the four wings guns is different from the Navy F4F-3, with the outer gun being farther outboard on the Martlet I.

    A Martlet packed for shipping. 

    A Martlet I (AL257) of the Fleet Air Arm over the English country side.  The color scheme is the standard FAA scheme of extra dark sea gray and slate gray over sky under surfaces  This color combination is some times called "Sewage and Slime".

Martlet II 

Martlet II  (G-36B)  Similar to F4F-4, but powered by the R-1830-S3C4-G.  100 built AJ100/AJ153,  AM954/AM963 (non folding wings) and AM964/AM999.  The Martlet II was a hybrid aircraft, the first ten aircraft of this one hundred plane order did not have folding wings, but the remainder did.  The engine was the P&W R-1830-S3C-G engine, export version of the R-1830-86, so the intake on the upper lip was deleted, but the cowl flaps reverted to the single double wide flap per side.  The pitot arrangement started out as the same type as on the F4F-3, but it was too easily damaged when folding the wings.  A "kinked" pitot that looked like the number 7 was tried before settling on the type used on the F4F-4.  The propeller fitted was a cuffed Curtiss Electric with the domed hub.  The cowling resembled the one used on late model F4F-3s but used only one cowl flap per side.



Grumman Martlet II Grumman Martlet II

    Martlet II (AJ148) in on the ground in Oran, Algeria during Operation Torch.   This is the same scheme as above.  Note the Fairey Albacores in the background.  (USN)

    Three Martlet Mk II fighters sit with their wings folded to illustrate how much space is saved with fold-able wings.


Grumman Martlet II


    

        Martlet II AJ128 aboard the HMS Formidable in 1942.

        AM997.

        AM966 and other Martlet II fighters aboard the HMS Illustrious.

Martlet III

Martlet III (G-36)  As Martlet I, but powered by the R-1830-S3C4-G and using a Curtiss Electric propeller as fitted on the F4F-3 and F4F-4.  The cowling resembled the type used on the F4F-4 with only a single cowl flap per side.  A straight pitot tube was fitted on the left wing like the F4F-3.   30 built AX724/747, AX753/AX754, AX761, HK840/842 (ex Bu. No. 3875/3904).  Originally ordered by Greece.    The Martlet III was identical to the F4F-3A and in fact they were the first thirty F4F-3As ordered.


Grumman Martlet III Grumman Martlet II of the FAA in North
                        Africa
              

    An 805 squadron (FAA) Martlet III landing in North Africa.  This aircraft is midstone and dark earth over azure blue.  The aircraft in this block had been earmarked for Greece, but taken over by Great Britain after the fall of Greece.  Some sources state that these aircraft were finished in an overall azure blue, but as the comprised the first thirty F4F-3A Wildcats it is more likely that they were painted in the current USN/USMC  sheme of overall light gray.  Either way 805 sdqn slowly added first the Mid Stone and then the Dark Earth.

 

Martlet/Wildcat IV 

Wildcat IV   F4F-4B, an F4F-4 powered by an R-1820-G205 engine.  220 supplied to FAA.   FN100/FN319  (Name changed to Wildcat  to standardize with USN) The Martlet IV is best described as an F4F-4 with an R-1820-G205 engine.  The cowling was "shorter and fatter" (sounds like a broken record, huh?) without a cowl intake and the propeller was an un-cuffed Hamilton Standard with a domed hub.   F4F-4 pitot tube.  This version was designated the F4F-4B by the USN.


Grumman Martlet IV Wildcat IV
                

     FN100, the first Martlet IV.  This photo looks like the aircraft is Blue Gray over Gull Gray, but I suspect that that is due to lighting the aircraft is most likely Extra Dark Sea Gray/Slate Gray/Sky.  Some of the Martlet IVs that took part in Operation Torch carried U.S. markings.  This was an attempt to avoid intimidating the Vichy French, as it was believed that the French would be less hostile to an American invasion versus an English one.  (USN)

     A Martlet IV taxing aboard the HMS Formidable.

Wildcat V

Wildcat V   The Wildcat V was the FM-1 in FAA service.  312 to FAA.  JV325/JV636 .     

Grumman Martlet V Grumman Wildcat V

 A Wildcat V (JV579) of 846 squadron in the standard FAA scheme, but with invasion stripes for Operation Overlord.  Most (if not all) Wildcat Vs were delivered in this color combination.


              

 

Wildcat VI 

Wildcat VI     370 FM-2s were operated by the FAA as the Wildcat VI.  Serials JV637/JV824, JW785/JW836 and JZ860/JZ889.  

Grumman Wildcat VI

               

    A Wildcat VI (JV642) in the standard FAA color scheme.  Some Wildcat VIs were delivered in the USN scheme of overall glossy Sea Blue.

The story of the Wildcat would not be complete without mention of  the -

F6F Hellcat

Grumman FM-2 and F6F-5 side by side


  

 

   The photos in my collection started as a way to gain ready reference for model building.   In my prime modeling days, there were not any surviving F3Fs to be seen.   The ones on display today were either rebuilt from wrecks, or built new from the ground up.   They are faithful reproductions and do represent the ultimate 1 to 1 scale model! For many years the only F3F kit widely available was the ancient Monogram F3F-2 in 1/32nd scale.   It still has merit, but does require a great amount of work.   The model has a unique retractable landing; you pull on the prop and then turn it!   There are several holes in the fuselage where the gears for the retraction mechanism protrude. The wings were also too short, representing Al Williams' Gulf Hawk rather than an F3F, and in fact at one time had been released as such.   Still, all in all it can be built into a beautiful representation of the F3F.   Since that time Rareplanes had released a vacuform kit in 72nd , as had Esoteric.   Both companies now long gone.   MPM currently has an F3F-1, F3F-2 and an FF-1 in 72nd.  All three are  little jewels in my opinion.   They have resin engines and photo etched parts.   Lastly, I can not fail to mention the Accurate Miniatures 48th F3F-1 and F3F-2, which are probably the best of the lot.   

   The first Wildcat kit I ever built was the 1/48th Monogram kit.   Let me just say, well, Monogram has come a long way since then.   This kit is really for collectors.   Since those days most of the Wildcat kits I have built have been 1/72nd.   The Revell kit is an old standby and with some added detail can build up very nice.   It does need to have the "boiler plate" rivets sanded off though and today modellers also have the choice of building the Hasegawa kit.   When I first saw the Hasegawa kit, I actually thought it lacked in detail.   This is especially true in the gear area which on the actual aircraft is "chock" full of stuff.   Several years ago True Details released a cockpit detail set that also has the gear bay.   This adds greatly to the Hasegawa kit.   The "Hase" kit has been released as several versions, some requiring some minor modifications.   As molded, it represents an F4F-4 and with very minor modifications (filling the outboard gun bays and hole for the guns) can be built as an FM-1 or Martlet V.  A quick rundown of the releases:  F4F-4 (no modification necessary), Wildcat V (no modification), an FM-1 (fill in out board gun ports, there are no gun bay panels molded on the kit) and as an F4F-3 (fill wing  fold joint and change cowl flap arrangement for early -3s)  Hasegawa has released this kit as a -3 with at least two different sets of markings, one with Thach's aircraft and one as an overall gray a/c.  The Martlet V has two choices: JV579 (photo of actual aircraft above) and JV406 of 861 sqdn.  The latter is without invasion stripes.  The FM-1  kit has markings for an Atlantic scheme VC-12 bird and a VC-33 tri color aircraft.  Academy has an F4F that though a little spartan can be built into a good replica (it is one of their first kits).  It has only one set of markings: an Atlantic scheme aircraft.

  The FM-2 has only three entries in 72nd worth mentioning.  The first is the elderly Airfix kit, which though requiring work can be built up very nicely.  Probably the biggest drawback is the plethora of rivets.  But hey folks, that's what sandpaper was invented for.  This kit has been released more times than I can count and has included many different decals.  The release I have is from 1986 and contains decals for a USMC squadron CO's aircraft and a rather generic FAA bird in the "sewage and slime" scheme.  The second kit is MPM's FM-2.  This kit is really an entire Academy kit with a new fuselage with the taller tail, different exhaust ports, etc.  It is one of MPM's earlier kits and though it doesn't currently have resin parts it does have etched metal parts.    Markings are for  an Atlantic scheme VC-12 aircraft and a VC-93 FM-2 off of the USS PetrofBay.  The markings for this aircraft are very nice:  a large white outline of a shamrock on an over all blue Wildcat.  I am in the process (Dec 2001) of building a 1/72nd scale Petrof Bay, so those markings are of great interest to me.  The most recent release is by Sword in 2004.   For the price it is no better than the MPM version.

    Several decals were available at one time in 72nd.  A few being Microscale (later Superscale) 72-287 "F4F USN-USMC Aces" (all Blue Gray/Gull Gray) and 72-668 "Pre-WWII F4F-3 Wildcats VF-41 & VF-72 Section Leaders", Aero Master 72-005 "USN & USMC Wildcat Collection" (one overall gray, 3 blue/gray and one tri color) and 72-009 "US Aircraft in FAA Service" (JV579 again and a desert Mk III).  Ministry of Small Aircraft Productions released a sheet that had seven aircraft, including two for Torch aircraft.  There are certainly more, although certainly not a lot more, but for the most part Wildcats did not carry intricate markings.  The exception being the late war escort carrier markings, but those are better painted on anyway.  One very unique emblem that appeared on VMO-251 F4Fs was a large octopus, which to the best of my knowledge was only available on a 32nd scale Super Scale sheet.

  In 48th scale Tamiya has a great F4F-4.  At one time Kendal had an FM-2 conversion, but that is currently out of production.  Aero Master and Eagle Strike have decal sheets available.

   For many years the only 32nd scale kit is the Revell kit which is re-released from time to time.  This kit is almost as old as I am, but has held up better.  It is a little crude, with grapefruits for rivets,  it does have folding wings though, but the hinge is really not strong enough.  Far better to fix the wings in place. The engine is good and with some detailing would be a model unto itself.  For someone up to the challenge this kit is a rewarding project.  In 2003 Trumpeter released their version which is a really nice kit  Hobbycraft has released the same mold under their label and with the diminutive size of the Wildcat I can see people buying muliples of each. 
 
 

Colors

   A quick run down of the most common exterior colors.  Not all ANA numbers have an exact match in the FS595a standard and Blue Gray does mot have an ANA number.

Name                                              ANA number                                            FS595a equivalent
Chrome Yellow (Orange Yellow)        614                                                            13538
Insignia White                                      601                                                            17875
Insignia Blue                                        605                                                            35044
Light Gull Gray                                   620                                                            36440
Dark Gull Gray                                   621                                                            36231
Blue Gray                                              ?                                                              35189
Non Specular Intermediate Blue       608                                                            35164
Non Specular Sea Blue                      607                                                            35042
Semi Gloss Sea Blue                          606                                                            25042
Gloss Sea Blue                                   623                                                            15042
Extra Dark Sea Gray                         603                                                            36118
Slate Gray (Really a green)                                                                                 34096
Sky                                                      610                                                            34424
Dark Earth                                          617                                                            30118
Mid Stone                                           615                                                            30266
Azure Blue                                          609                                                            35231


Recommended Reading

Some of these titles are currently out of print, but do resurface from time to time:

Wildcat: The F4F in WW II, Barrett Tillman, Naval Institute Press, 1990

United States Navy Aircraftsince 1911,Gordon Swanborough, Peter M Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990

F4F Wildcat in action, Aircraft Number 84, Don Linn, Squadron Signal Publications inc., 1988

F4F Wildcat in action, Aircraft Number 191,  Richard S. Dann, Squadron Signal Publications inc., 2004

Grumman F4F Wildcat, Famous Airplanes of the World No. 68, Bunrindo Co. ltd, 1998

The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide, Vol 2 1940-1949, John M. Elliott, Monogram Aviation Publications, 1989

U.S Navy Aircraft 1921-1941/ U.S. Marine Corps Aircraft 1914-1959, William T. Larkins, Orion Books, 1988  (Recently reprinted by Schiffer)

The American Fighter The Definitive Guide to American Fighter Aircraft From 1917 To The Present, Enzo Angelucci with Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1985

US Fighters Of World War Two, Robert F. Dorr, Arms and Armour Press, 1991

Fleet Air Arm British Carrier Aviation 1939-1945, Ron Mackay, Squadron Signal Publications, 2001

U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials Since 1909,  John Andrade, Midland Counties Publications, 1979

Aircraft Pictorial 4: F4F Wildcat, Dana Bell, Classic Warships Publishing, 2012




Page created 12-12-01

modified 06-15-13

Clifford Bossie


Grumman F4F Wildcat
Eastern built FM-1 and FM-2 Wildcat
Grumman Martlet