Aircraft Spotter Challenge/World War II  

  PLANE 003
Level 3
From 1931 until 1936 the manufacturer produced a series of classic biplane fighters for the United States Navy, all of which had uniquely retracting undercarriages. This plane was used very successfully in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, as well as in the operations of Guadalcanal.


When the Navy requested designs for a new carrier-borne fighter in 1935, they won the contract with yet another biplane. But as work on the XF4F-1 progressed it became clear that existing F3F biplane fighters could match its performance if re-engined.

They started again and, instead of the new biplane, produced the prototype XF4F-2 monoplane fighter, which first flew on 2 September 1937. This aircraft did not appear to be as good as the Brewster F2A Buffalo (the first monoplane fighter of the US Navy, and later to prove a disappointment) and no orders for it were placed. Nevertheless, the Company was awarded a contract for another prototype, the XF4F-3, using a later Twin Wasp engine with a two-stage supercharger. In this form it first flew on 12 February 1939, and the first production contract was awarded just before the outbreak of war in Europe.

At this time France was looking around desperately for any modern aircraft; so it ordered a fairly large number of G36A export versions of the F4F-3. Powered by a Wright engine, the G-36A was not delivered in time to help France, and the contract was taken over by Britain. This is how the Fleet Air Arm began to receive the first of a large number of fighters, which it named Martlets, in the latter half of 1940.

From the late autumn of 1941, Martlets were delivered with foldable wings, to aid stowage on board ship. However, while the Martlets' performance was better than that of the British carrier-borne fighters they were replacing, the narrow-track undercarriage gave their pilots many anxious moments while landing on the decks of carriers. This did not prevent Martlets from being widely used by the FAA for convoy protection duties in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, the United States had entered the war in December 1941, and this plane immediately went into action, shooting down their first Japanese bomber just two days after outbreak of war with Japan. From that point this plan was never out of the fray, forming the fighting spearhead of the US carriers involved in the great sea battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Production continued until the autumn of 1945, the FAA adopting the US name for its Mk V and VI models.


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