The F4F Wildcat was a United States Navy and Marine Corps single-engine carrier-based fighter, used extensively in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
The United States Navy placed an order for a single-engine monoplane carrier fighter in 1936, initially selecting the Brewster Buffalo, but also authorizing an alternative, the XF4F-2, which first flew in September 1937. Despite its fine performance during tests, the Navy ordered the Buffalo. By 1939, the XF4F-3, with an upgraded engine and larger wings, had been developed. Some of these aircraft served in the British Navy as the Martlet Mark 1, and the US Navy ordered seventy-eight F4F-3s in August 1939, entering service in 1940. By late that same year, the F4F-4, which featured self-sealing gas tanks, folding wings and two more machine guns.
131 Wildcats in eleven squadrons were in service when the United States entered World War II, most of them in the Pacific. Twelve F4Fs led a gallant air defense of Wake Island, one of them sinking a Japanese destroyer with bombs and machine guns. The aircraft also took part in several minor raids on Japanese bases throughout 1942.
Seven Wildcats were based at Midway Island when the Japanese made their attack on the island, all of which were destroyed in the air or on the ground after landing. The carrier-based F4Fs escorted the strike aircraft-SBD Dauntlesses and TBD Devastators-but failed, due to poor communication, to provide proper air cover, although the Yorktown group claimed five Zeros. Later in the day, the Yorktown squadron protected their carrier from Japanese strike aircraft, claiming eleven, but several craft got through and crippled the carrier.
Wildcats were the primary fighter based at Guadacanal.
By 1943, most Wildcats had been phased out for the more modern F6F Hellcat.