View Full Version : F4F-???

09-13-2007, 06:37 PM

I've been meaning to post and query about this for a while - The above image is captioned:
"USS Enterprise F4F-3 Wildcats...maintenance crews test the .50-caliber machine guns.(US Navy)"

Question: This is the first image I've seen of an F4F-3 armed with 6x.50 cal mgs (!) which is two more than what was normally on this version.
Does anyone know if this might've been one of the early prototypes? (Sans folding wings/stronger engine)

-Knowing that a lot of the Naval Aviators who switched over to the -4 were voicing concern over the lack of power/maneuverability in comparison to the -3

The image is from the book "The Doolittle Raid 1942" by Clayton Chun; Illustrations: Howard Gerrard Publisher: Osprey Publishing.

09-13-2007, 07:15 PM
Sure looks like a -4 to me. Maybe just an error.

09-13-2007, 07:29 PM
Looks like this to me (Martlet)



With the F4F-3's four 50-caliber guns and 450 rounds per gun, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rounds per gun, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes. Jimmy Thach is quoted as saying, "A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight." [19] Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph at 19,400 ft. Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4, while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 feet per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4s capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 feet per minute.[20] Moreover, the F4F-4's folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of Wildcats carried aboard US fleet aircraft carriers. A variant of the F4F-4, designated F4F-4B for contractual purposes, was supplied to the British with a modified cowling and Wright Cyclone engine. These aircraft received the designation of Martlet IV.


P.S.- I don't see folding wings, so I'd guess F4F-3.


09-13-2007, 07:43 PM
Its an F4F-4.


09-13-2007, 07:58 PM
The Navy said going from 4 guns to 6 was an improvement even though there was a greatly decreased firing time due to less ammo per gun. The pilots did not agree that this was an "improvement" at all.

09-13-2007, 08:48 PM
Definitely a dash 4; you can see the wing fold line just inside the left wing's inboard gun bay. The red spots in the star makes it some time before late May, 1942.

I'm guessing it's just a stock picture, incorrectly captioned--although the ENTERPRISE was one of the first to get the increased complement of F4F-4 Wildcats just before Midway...if the photo was taken from a 'cruisebook' (sort of like a high school's yearbook, with about the same level of professionalism), the error may have begun there.



09-13-2007, 08:50 PM
That photo definately mislabeled

you can even see the wingfold joint on one of the wings in the photo

09-13-2007, 09:32 PM
hmmm, this was scanned from a photostat copy so the image lost a bit in detail. At first I thought -4 also..but, with folding wings, the extra gun per wing, would the maintenance crewman be standing on the outer portion of the wing? also i distinctly remember looking for the prominant top 'bump' on the nose that distinguished the -4s'.. wasn't there..I'll have to scan the original, post and put it under a magnifying glass...

09-13-2007, 09:45 PM
Clearer photo...site says April 1942:


.................................................. .................................................. ..........................

Photo #: 80-G-16511

Grumman F4F-4 "Wildcat" fighter,
of Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6)

Has its six .50 caliber machine guns tested on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), 10 April 1942.
Note open gun bays in the plane's wings and markings below the cockpit ("6F9" with no dashes between letters and numerals).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

09-13-2007, 10:03 PM
Just reread the relevant pages of The First Team, by John B. Lundstrom. The ENTERPRISE's VF-6 took delivery of 27 F4F-4s just before departing for the Doolittle raid in April, 1942. So no error on anybody's part.

As for standing on the folding portion of the wing, how else would they get those guns loaded? Grumman wasn't known for designing fragile aircraft in any case. Chances are good that if I placed my 230 lb person on the wingtip of the FM-2 at the San Diego Aerospace Museum that I'd get yelled at for scuffing the paint more than anything else...



09-13-2007, 10:17 PM
I wonder if they're adjusting the rate of fire to eliminate the yaw that we all remember from 4.04?

09-13-2007, 10:26 PM
nice picture regardless...

wouldn't it be nice to have a naval airwar sim with that sort of detail someday...

09-14-2007, 01:58 AM
Six guns means you can get in and out faster and hit harder in that short period of time.

Less time spent in the firing line/return fire of whatever you are hitting.

09-14-2007, 11:57 AM
Six guns means you can get in and out faster and hit harder in that short period of time.

Less time spent in the firing line/return fire of whatever you are hitting. While I agree with you in principle, I have to point out that in the context of the time & point in the war, 4x.50 was considered a fairly heavy armament for a fighter. Compare it to the standard armament of the contemporary Spitfire Vb(two real guns with limited endurance and four pretenders) or the Hurricane IIb (twelve BB guns), and it seems quite formidible, especially when it gives you 34 seconds of firing time vs the 18 seconds the six gun version provided.

I'm not aware of the RAF fighters' firing times but I would expect they had even less than 18 seconds.

Consider also that prewar trained US Navy and Marine aviators were probably among the best trained air to air marksmen in the world, and that their expected targets were mostly single engined carrier based bombers and torpedo bombers, quite vulnerable to the 'base' Wildcat armament, and quite numerous when encountered. Endurance in this regard was quite a bit more valuable than instant firepower. Unlike German maritime raiders, the Japanese tended to show up in bunches.

The F4F-4's armament was standardized upon FAA requirements in the interests of production effiency, and as a nod to the greater British combat experience. The result was a fighter much heavier, shorter ranged, and less combat effective, albeit available in greater numbers.

On the other hand, it was great for taking out Ju 88s and FW 200 Kondors in ones and twos.

It is instructive to note that the General Motors FM-1 and FM-2 versions of the Wildcat reverted to the four gun armament with the folding wing, at US Navy request.