BuAer Numbers

0383.................XF4F-2 and XF4F-3             7031.................XF4F-6 
1844-1845........F4F-3                                    01991-02152....F4F-4
1846-1847........XF4F-5                                 03385-03544....F4F-4  
1848-1896........F4F-3                                    11655-12227....F4F-4

1897.................XF4F-4                                 12228-12229....XF4F-8        
2512-2538........F4F-3                                    12230-12329....F4F-3

3856-3874........F4F-3                                    14992-15951....FM-1

3875-3969,,,,,,,,F4F-3A                                  15952-16791....FM-2 
3970-4037........F4F-3                                    46738-46837....FM-1
4038.................F4F-3S                                  46838-47437....FM-2
4039-4057........F4F-3                                    56684-57083....FM-2
4058-4098,,,,,,,,F4F-4                                    73499-75158....FM-2 
5030-5261........F4F-4                                    86297-86973....FM-2

Survivors On Display In The U.S.

   Tucson: An FM-2 is undergoing restoration at The Pima Air And Space Museum.

   Alameda: The USS Hornet Museum has an FM-2 on display but it is damaged and may be restored later.
   Chino: The Yanks Air Museum has two FM-2s, one on display and the other research accessible for serious researchers with prior permission.
   Los Angeles: The Proud Bird Restaurant has F4F-4 on display.
   Palm Springs: The Palm Springs Air Museum has an FM-2 on display.
   San Diego:
      The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar has an FM-2 on display.
      The San Diego Air & Space Museum has an F4F-4 on display.

   Windsor Locks: The New England Air Museum has an FM-2 on display.

   Washington: The National Air & Space Museum (NASM) has an FM-1 on display. At some time during storage, a major component went missing from this FM-1, the nose cowl ring that covered the front of the engine. This discovery led NASM officials to search for a spare. In 1965 the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia, lent NASM the nose cowl ring from the Wake Island Memorial. This cowling had been on one of the 12 F4F-3s based on the island in December 1941. When the Grumman craftsmen received it, the ring cowl was still riddled with bullet holes incurred during the Japanese assault in 1941. This historic component perpetuates the memory of those Marines who fought and died on the island.

   Pensacola: The National Naval Aviation Museum (formerly National Museum of Naval Aviation) has three F4F-3s, an F4F-3A and two FM-2s. One of the F4F-3s and two of the FM-2s are on display.
   Polk City: The Fantasy of Flight has an FM-2 on display,
   Titusville: The Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum has an FM-1 on display.
   Honolulu: An F4F-3A is on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

   Chicago: An F4F-3 is on public display at the west end of Terminal 2 at O’Hare International Airport across from the security checkpoint (past security).  

   Olate: An F4F-3 is based at New Century AirCenter Airport and is research accessible, i.e. may be seen by serious researchers with prior permission.

   Kalamazoo: The Air Zoo has an FM-2 on display.

   Garden City: An F4F-3 is on loan from The National Naval Aviation Museum and it is on view at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

   Tillamook: The Tillamook Air Museum has an FM-2 on display.

   Toughkenamon: The Colonial Flying Corps Museum has two FM-2s that are research accessible by serious researchers with prior permission.

   Mount Pleasant: The Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum has an F4F-3A on display.

   Addison: The Cavanaugh Flight Museum has an FM-2 on display.
   Fredericksburg: The National Museum of the Pacific War has an FM-2 on display.

   Triangle: The National Museum of the Marine Corps has an F4F-4 on display.

   Seattle: The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field/King County International Airport has an FM-2 on display.


Wing Span
   XF4F-2: 34-feet (10.36-meters)
   All others: 38-feet (11.58-meters)_
Wing Area
   XF4F-2: 232-square-feet (21.55-square-meters)
   All others: 260-square-feet (24.15-square-meters)
   XF4F-2: 26-feet 5-inches (8.05-meters)
   XF4F-3: 28-feet (8.53-meters)
   F4F-3S: 39-feet 1-inch (11.91-meters)
   All others: 28 feet 10.5 inches (8.78-meters)
   XF4F-2 and F4F-3A: 11-feet 10.5-inches (3.6-meters)
   XF4F-3, F4F-3, F4F-4, F4F-7, FM-1 and FM-2 11-feet 9-inches (3.58-meters)
   F4F-3S: 18-feet 1.75-inches (5.53-meters)
   XF4F-5: 11-feet 11-inches (3.63-meters)
Empty weight
   XF4F-2: 3,980 pounds (1,805 kilograms)
   XF4F-3: 4,863 pounds (2,206 kilograms)
   F4F-3: 5,328 pounds (2,417 kilograms)
   F4F-3A: 5,216 pounds (2,366 kilograms)
   F4F-3S: 6,214 pounds (2,819 kilograms)
   F4F-4 and FM-1: 5,895 pounds (2,674 kilograms)
   XF4F-5: 4,887 pounds (2,217 kilograms)
   F4F-7: 5,456 pounds (2,475 kilograms)
   FM-2: 5,448 pounds (2,471 kilograms)
Maximum Speed
   XF4F-2: 288 mph at 10,000-feet (463 km/h at 3,048-meters)
   XF4F-3: 335.5 mph at 21,300-feet (540 km/h at 6,492-meters)
   F4F-3: 330 mph at 21,100-feet (531 km/h at 6,431-meters)
   F4F-3A: 312 mph at 16,000-feet (502 km/h at 4,877-meters)
   F4F-3S: 266 mph at 20,300-feet (428 km/h at 6,187-meters)
   F4F-4 and FM-1: 320 mph at 18,800-feet (515 km/h at 5,730-meters)
   XF4F-5: 306 mph at 15,00-feet (492 km/h at 4,572-meters)
   F4F-7: 309 mph at 22,300-feet (497 km/h at 6,706-meters)
   FM-2: 332 mph at 28,000-feet (534 km/h at 8.778-meters)
Service Ceiling
   XF4F-2: 29,540-feet (9,004-meters)
   XF4F-3: 33,500-feet (10,211-meters)
   F4F-3: 37,000-feet (11,430-meters)
   F4F-3A: 34,300-feet (10,455-meters)
   F4F-3S: 27,700-feet (8,433-meters)
   F4F-4: 34,900-feet (10,638-meters)
   XF4F-5: 35,500-feet (10,820meters)
   F4F-7: 28,300-feet (8,626-meters)
   FM-1: 34,000-feet (10,3635-meters)
   FM-2: 34,700-feet (10,577-meters)
Maximum Range
   XF4F-3: 1,300-miles (2,092-kilometers)
   F4F-3: 1,690-miles (2,720-kilometers)
   F4F-3A: 1,585-miles (2,551-kilometers)
   F4F-3: 1,690-miles (2,720-kilometers)
   F4F-4: 1,650-miles (2,655-kilometers)
   XF4F-5: 1,350-miles (2,173-kilometers)
   F4F-7: 2,299-miles (3,700-kilometers)
   FM-1: 1,275-miles (2,052-kilometers)
   FM-2: 1,310-miles (2,108-kilometers)

Grumman F4F / FM Wildcat

by Jack McKillop

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation

See Grumman F3F.

The Eastern Aircraft Division of the General Motors Corporation

When World War II began in 1939, the U.S. Army ranked seventeenth among armies of the world in size and combat power, just behind Romania. It numbered 190,000 soldiers. The U.S. government began an expansion of all branches of the military in 1940. Many of the materials needed for civilian use were on a critical list which gave the military priority for them. By August 1941, the rumor in Washington, D.C. was that automobile production for private use would be stopped and this occurred on 11 December 1941 after the U.S. entered the war against Germany, Italy and Japan. On 2 February 1942 a Pontiac was the last civilian automobile manufactured in the U.S. during World War II, as all automobile factories converted to military production.

The General Motors Corporation (GM) was one of the largest companies in the world and produced 44 percent of all cars in the U.S. As early as 1940, some of the GM automotive divisions had forecasted and anticipated work stoppages because of shortages. GM officials began searching for opportunities to manufacture military hardware, e.g., 20 millimeter cartridge cases, mine and depth charges, magazine feeds for the 20 millimeter cannon, the M-103 bomb nose and parachute flares.

In January1942, The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation had two plants at their Bethpage, Long Island, New York facility. F4F Wildcats were being built in Plant Number 1 and TBF-1 Avengers were built at Plant Number 2. At the same time, GM had two idle and three other plants on the U.S. East Coast, three in New Jersey (NJ) and one each in Maryland (Md) and New York (NY). The plants were:

* Baltimore, Md: Fisher Body plant
* Bloomfield, NJ: Delco-Remy Battery plant
* Linden, NJ: Automobile assembly plant of Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs, now idle
* Tarrrytown, NY: Fisher Body plant
* Trenton, NJ: Produced automobile hardware, now idle. (NOTE: GM’s Trenton plant was not located in the city of Trenton but rather Ewing Township, a suburb located north of the city of Trenton.)

The Navy wanted to increase production of the F4F Wildcat and the TBF Avenger and looking forward, to the Grumman F6F Hellcat. In order to accomplish this, GM formed a new division, the Eastern Aircraft Division consisting of the five plants listed above.

The FMs were produced at the Linden, NJ plant with many parts and assemblies subcontracted with outside vendors but the greatest majority of work was done in Linden.

The TBMs were assembled in the Trenton, NJ plant from parts from Baltimore, Tarrytown and Trenton. The Baltimore plant made the aft-section of the aircraft from the center of the dorsal gun turret to the rear of aircraft including the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces. This plant also made the ailerons. The Tarrytown plant manufactured the wings and the fuselage forward of the cockpit. In addition to assembling the parts, the Trenton plant manufactured the center section of the fuselage from the front of the cockpit to the center of the dorsal gun turret.

The Bloomfield plant made cables, wires, tubes and electrical and hydraulic assemblies for both FMs and TBMs.

During the war, Eastern Aircraft manufactured 13,383 aircraft, 5,837 FM Wildcats and 7,546 TBM Avengers. Of these, a total of 682 FMs and 1,126 TBMs were transferred to the British Royal Navy under Lend Lease. The totals for each type of aircraft are in the table at the left.

Once the aircraft had been manufactured, they had to be taken to an airfield located across the street from the Linden and Trenton GM plants for flight tests and acceptance by the Navy. The Ewing Township airfield, Skillman Airport (now Trenton-Mercer Airport, 40°16'36"N, 74°48'48"W), opened in 1929. In 1943 and 1944, the Navy built two additional 4,100-foot (1,250-meter) runways. The Navy facility, an Aircraft Acceptance Unit (AAU), was on the northern side of the airport. The AAU had two hangars and a complement of 80 officers, 700 enlisted and 161 civilians. The AAU tested and accepted the FMs from Linen and the TBMs from Trenton; they also accepted the Brewster F3A Corsair and SB2A Buccaneer from Johnsville, Pennsylvania and the Goodyear FG Corsair From Akron, Ohio. In addition to aircraft acceptance, the AAU installed 14,128 classified Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) gear and 7,231 radars during the war.

Linden did not have an airport so construction began by GM on GM-Linden Airport (40°37'03"N, 74°14'41"W) in the spring of 1942 and completed by October 1942. The airport was located on US Highway No. 1 in Linden, across the street of the GM plant. Completed aircraft would be stored on the plant grounds and the highway would be closed at night and the aircraft towed across the highway and then flown to Skillman Airport in Ewing Township for testing and acceptance.


The F4F/FM was a single-seat, all-metal, mid-wing monoplane fighter. The wings, fuselage and horizontal and vertical tail structures were aluminum alloy covered while the rudder and elevators were fabric covered. The main landing gear was the Grumman-type with the wheels retracting into the sides of the fuselage. The tail-wheel was fixed. Folding wings were not introduced until the XF4F-4 was completed in May 1941.

Production History

XF4F-1: The U.S. Navy initiated a formal design competition for a new carrier-based fighter on 15 November 1935. Three companies responded with proposals, the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, Grumman and the Seversky Aircraft Corporation. The Brewster design was for a monoplane, Grumman offered a biplane and Seversky proposed a navalized version of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ P-35 monoplane. The XF4F-1 was to be powered by an 800 horsepower 14-cylinder, two row, air-cooled radial engine, either the Pratt & Whitney XR-1535-92 or the Wright XR-1670-02. The anticipated performance of the Grumman design was the same as that of the F3F-2 and Grumman suggested termination of the biplane design and replace it with a monoplane design. This was agreed to and the existing contract was amended on 28 July 1936. The Navy placed an order with each company for a prototype in the summer of 1936, the Brewster XF2A-1, the Grumman XF4F-2 and the Seversky XFN-1.

XF4F-2: The new monoplane made its first flight on 2 September 1937 at Bethpage, Long Island. Comparative test flights were made between the XF2A-1, XF4F-2 and XFN-1. The Grumman aircraft, powered by a 1,050 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 14-cylinder, two row, air-cooled radial engine, was 10 mph (16 km/h) faster than the Brewster aircraft and 40 mph (64 km/h) faster than the Seversky machine. The XF4F-2 handled better than the other two however, the U.S. Navy ordered 54 F2A-1s from Brewster on 11 June 1938. It is believed that the Navy wanted to spread the contracts around between several manufacturers because Grumman was about to be awarded two contracts, one for 27 F3F-3s on 21 June 1938 and the second for the XF5F-1 Skyrocket on 30 June 1938.

XF3F-3: Grumman continued design work on this aircraft and kept the fuselage and landing gear of the XF4F-2 but increased the wing span, enlarged the tail surfaces and installed a 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 engine with a two-stage, two-speed supercharger. It was calculated that this aircraft would be 50 mph (80 km/h) faster than the Brewster F2A. The Navy saw this and Grumman was awarded a contract to modify the XF4F-2 to the new design and redesignated it XF4F-3 in October 1938. The prototype was destroyed when it crashed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Norfolk, Virginia on 17 December 1940.

F4F-3: First production aircraft. A contract for 54 F4F-3s was signed on 8 August 1939 and the first aircraft was delivered on 24 February 1940. Subsequently, a total of 285 F4F-3s were delivered to the Navy and Marines. The standard armament of these aircraft was four 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) guns in the wings with 200 rounds per gun. The normal fuel capacity of these aircraft was 147-U.S.-gallons (122-Imperial-gallons or 556-liters). The first 100 aircraft were powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 engine and the remaining 185 had the R-1830-86 engine. Power rating were essentially the same for both engines.

F4F-3A: As a backup to the F4F-3, the Navy ordered 95 F4F-3As that had 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 engines with a single-stage, two-speed supercharger instead of the two-stage supercharger of the F4F-3. The Greek government asked for help and the first 30 of these aircraft were to be shipped to Greece in March 1941. The German Army invaded Greece on 6 April 1941 and reached Athens on 27 April. The ships carrying these aircraft were still at sea when Greece fell and they were diverted to the United Kingdom and the aircraft were transferred  to the Royal Navy and named Martlet Mk. IIIs. The remaining 65 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Navy in April and May 1941.

F4F-3P: At least 17 early model F4F-3s were modified in 1942 as photographic reconnaissance aircraft with two cameras mounted in place of the rear fuselage fuel tank reducing the fuel capacity to 117 U.S. gallons (97 Imperial gallons or 443 liters). The four 0.50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns were retained in the wings.

F4F-3S: The Imperial Japanese Navy had ordered a floatplane version of the famed Mitsubishi A6M, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter, designated Zeke by the Allies, in the autumn of 1940. This aircraft was intended to be used during amphibious operations before airfields could be built. The result was the Nakajima A6M2-N, Navy Type 2 Floatplane Fighter, Allied Code Name Rufe, of which 327 were built. The U.S. Navy became interested and in October 1942, one of the aircraft on the F4F-7 contract was modified to a floatplane configuration by installing two Edo single-step floats and auxiliary fins on the horizontal stabilizers. The first flight was on 28 February 1943 and the top speed of this aircraft dropped to 266 mph (428 km/h). The aircraft never went into production.

XF4F-4: The last aircraft on the F4F-3 contract was modified by the addition of hydraulically-operated folding wings designed by Grumman. In the folded position, the wings were almost vertical parallel to the fuselage with the leading edge of the wing facing down. This aircraft made its first flight on 15 April 1941, was delivered to the Navy on 14 May and tested by Fighting Squadron Forty Two (VF-42) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5).

F4F-4: The second production aircraft. A total of 1,168 F4F-4s were built. They featured folding wings but they were manually folded instead of hydraulically folded in the prototype. This version also had six 0.50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns mounted in the wings; two guns were close to the wing fold and the third was further outboard. As with the latter built F4F-3s, this aircraft was powered by the 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 engine. One feature installed during production was the installation of piping to accommodate a 58-U.S.-gallon (48-Imperial-gallons or 220-liter) drop tank under each wing which increased total fuel capacity from 144 U.S. gallons (120 Imperial gallons or 545 liters) to 260 U.S. gallons (216 Imperial gallons or 984 liters). These aircraft were delivered between 25 November 1941 and 31 December 1942.

F4F-4B: Two hundred twenty F4F-4s transferred to Britain’s Royal Navy between February and November 1942. They was designated as Wildcat Mk. IVs by the British.

F4F-4P: At least one, if not more, F4F-4s converted to photographic reconnaissance similar to the F4F-3P.

XF4F-5: The third and fourth production F4F-3s were re-engined with the 1,200 horsepower Wright R-1820-40 nine-cylinder, single-row, air-cooled radial engine. Both were delivered to NAS Anacostia, District of Columbia in July 1940 for tests. The tests showed that the performance for the F4F-3 and XF4F-5 were almost the same except above 15,000-feet (4,572-meters) where the F4F-3 had better performance.

XF4F-6: F4F-3 BuNo 7031 was re-engined with the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 radial engine and first flown on 11 October 1940. This served as the prototype for the F4F-3A.

F4F-7: In early 1941, the Navy realized that they needed a long-range photographic reconnaissance aircraft. On 29 January 1941, the Navy asked that two F4F-3s be modified to meet this mission. The modifications included the removal of the folding wing mechanisms,  machine guns, wing racks and gun sight, the use of a rounded windshield and the installation of two cameras in place of the aft fuel tank. Fuel tanks with a capacity of 555 U.S. gallons (462 Imperial gallons or 2,101 liters) were to be installed in the wings which added to the 117 US gallons (97 Imperial gallons or 443 liters) in the fuselage brought the total to 672 U.S. gallons (560 Imperial gallons or 2,544 liters) and giving the aircraft a range of 3,700-miles (5,955-kilometers). Prior to the conversion of the F4F-3s, the Navy changed the order from two F4F-3s  to 21 F4F-4 airframes and all were delivered by the end of 1942. One of these aircraft flew nonstop across the U.S. in under 11 hours to NAS San Diego, California. Most of these aircraft were assigned to U.S. Marine Corps fighting squadrons and some of the operational flights flown in this aircraft exceeded the 11 hour flight.

XF4F-8: As the war progressed, the escort, or jeep, aircraft carrier became an essential part of two operations. In the Atlantic, the Navy created hunter killer groups to attack submarines and in the Pacific, the jeep carriers provided close air support during amphibious landings until airfields could be built. During the war, the Navy had four major classes of jeep carriers with flight decks ranging from 437-by-80 to 501-to-90-feet (133-by-24 to 153-to-27-meters). In July 1942, the Navy ordered two prototypes which were delivered to the Navy in December 1942. Both were powered by the 1,350 horsepower Wright XR-1820-56 nine cylinder, single-row, air-cooled radial engines. Armament was reduced to four 0.50-caliber machine guns. These aircraft became the prototypes for the Eastern Aircraft FM-2s.

FM-1: The first production aircraft by Eastern Aircraft. A total of 1,060 aircraft were assembled at Linden, NJ and they were essentially F4F-4s armed with four machine guns with 430 rounds per gun, racks for two 100 pound (45 kilogram) bombs and eight high velocity attack rockets (HVARs). These aircraft were delivered between August 1942 and September 1943; 312 of the aircraft were transferred to Britain’s Royal Navy and designated Martlet Mk. Vs.

FM-2: This aircraft was the production model of the XF4F-8; 4,777 were built at the Eastern Aircraft plant in Linden, NJ. The aircraft had a taller vertical stabilizer and rudder because it was powered by the Wright R-1820-56 engine but later production runs had R-1820-56A, -56W or -56WA engines with water injection. This aircraft had four machine guns, could carry 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of bombs and the last 826 aircraft also had provisions for six HVARs. The Royal Navy accepted 370 of these aircraft under Lend-Lease and designated them Wildcat Mk. VI.

FM-2P: A small number of aircraft modified for photographic reconnaissance similar to the F4F-4P.

Operational History

The first three U.S. Navy fighting squadrons to equip with the F4F-3 were:
* Fighting Squadron Four (VF-4) re-equipped with 18 F4F-3s in November and December 1940. This squadron was serving in the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) and the Wildcats replaced the squadron’s F3F fighters. VF-4 was redesignated VF-41 on 15 March 1941.
* VF-72 re-equipped with 21 F4F-3s in December 1940 and January 1941 while serving in the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7). VF-72 previously operated F3F-1s.
* VF-71 received the last ten F4F-3s in January 1941 while serving in USS Wasp.

On 31 December 1941, 254 F4Fs had been delivered and were based as follows:           
Advance Carrier Training Group, Norfolk, Virginia: 1 F4F-3 and 11 F4F-3A
Aircraft Armament Unit, Norfolk, Virginia: 1 F4F-3
Battle Force, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: 1 F4F-3 and 2 F4F-3A
Battle Force, San Diego, California: 1 F4F-3, 3 F4F-3A
Inspector of Naval Aircraft, Pratt & Whitney: 1 F4F-3
Marine Base Air Detachment 1, Quantico, Virginia: 2 F4F-3
Marine Fighting Squadron 111, NAS San Diego, California: 16 F4F-3A
Marine Fighting Squadron 121, NAS San Diego, California: 21 F4F-3
Marine Fighting Squadron 211, Ewa, Hawaii: 2 F4F-3 (nine aircraft were destroyed at MCAS Ewa on 7 December and 12 aircraft had been destroyed on Wake Island)
Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 2 F4F-3
NAS Anacostia, District of Columbia: 2 F4F-3s, 1 F4F-4 and 1 XF4F-6
NAS Norfolk, Virginia: 12 F4F-3, 4 F4F-3A and 4 F4F-4
USS Enterprise (CV-6)
     Fighting Squadron 6: 1 F4F-3 and 17 F4F-3A
     Ship Unit: 3 F4F-3
USS Hornet (CV-8)
     Fighting Squadron 8: 2 F4F-3A
     Ship Unit: 19 F4F-3
USS Ranger (CV-4)
     Fighting Squadron 5: 18 F4F-3 and 1 F4F-3A
     Fighting Squadron 41: 17 F4F-3
USS Saratoga (CV-3), Fighting Squadron 3: 8 F4F-3, 2 F4F-3A and 1 XF4F-4
USS Wasp (CV-7)
     Fighting Squadron 71: 18 F4F-3
     Fighting Squadron 72: 17 F4F-3
USS Yorktown (CV-5), Fighting Squadron 42: 18 F4F-3
Wright Corporation: 2 XF4F-5

Three squadrons were still operating the Brewster F2A-3 Buffalos on 31 December. They were:
* Fighting Squadron 2 in USS Lexington (CV-2). The squadron transitioned to F4F-3s in February 1942.
* Marine Fighting Squadron 221 flew to Midway Islands in December 1941 and was wiped out during  the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Re-equipped with F4F-3s after the battle.
* Scouting Squadron 201 in USS Long Island (AVG-1). Squadron received six F4F-3s in February 1942.

For the first 14 months of World War II in the Pacific, Navy and Marine aviators flew combat against the Japanese with Wildcats. In March 1942, the folding-wing F4F-4 was introduced to combat squadrons thus allowing more aircraft to be operated from aircraft carriers. During this time, the Wildcat’s major opponent was the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M2, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighter Model 21 (Allied Code Name Zeke). The Wildcat was less maneuverable than the Zeke and had lower performance in terms of level speed, climb and ceiling. On the other hand, the Wildcat was heavier than the Zeke which made it faster during a dive and had superior armament, armor for the pilot and self-sealing fuel tanks. The American flyers developed tactics, e.g., the Thach Weave, to overcome the superior features of the Zeke.

On 13 February 1943, a Marine fighter squadron flew the first Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair combat mission in the Solomon Islands and within six months, seven more Marine and one Navy land-based squadrons had replaced their F4Fs with Corsairs.

The Wildcats labored on serving on aircraft carriers for the next six months until 31 August 1943 when the first Grumman F6F Hellcat unit flew their first combat mission from the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9). By September 1943, the fighting squadrons on all fleet aircraft carriers (CVs) and small aircraft carriers (CVLs) in the Pacific were equipped with F6F-3 Hellcats.

The escort carriers, except for the Sangamon Class, had Wildcats for the rest of the war. In the Atlantic, 11 of these carriers were assigned to Hunter-Killer duty. The standard aircraft complement was six to nine F4F-4s, FM-1s and/or FM-2s and 12 TBFs and/or TBMs Avengers. These Hunter-Killer groups sank 54 German submarines between 1943 and 1945.

In the Pacific, the Wildcats and Avengers based on the escort aircraft carriers provided close air support during amphibious landings. They normally remained on station until Army engineers or Navy Seabees built airfields on the island(s).