How did the Martlets rate against the European aircraft?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by VBF-13, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    This question has always been left vague with me but as long as it seems I'm now in the right place for some answers I thought I'd ask it. I know the F4F-3s were under contract with Great Britain and France in 1939 but I don't believe any were delivered there until after the invasion of France. I know they performed reasonably-well at sea off the smaller British carriers patrolling the shipping lanes and what-not in the Atlantic and North Atlantic. I know they're credited with the first air victory of the F4F-3s when two of them tangled with a Junkers Ju 88. I'd like to know principally how they did off land bases against the German aircraft and to what degree they were used off land in that theater of operations.
     
  2. herman1rg

    herman1rg Well-Known Member

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    Terry (Airframes) would be the expert on this question.
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Compared to most European fighter aircraft produced during the same time frame the F4F / Martlet was rather slow. How could it be otherwise? F4F loaded weight was similiar to the Me-109G but it had a less powerful engine.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    F4F was, for the engine power, a big airplane. The wing area was some 50% greater than of the European fighters (109, D.520, Yak-1), even the Spitfire had smaller wing (and thinner, too). The radial engine was further worsening the drag. Out of the European competition, the Bf-109 Spitfire should perform better, while the Yak-1 should be fractionally better under 15000 ft, and about equal above that. Hurricane II - a tad better at all altitudes, unless the 4 cannons are on board? The D.520 equaling under 15000 ft, the F4F being better above 18000 ft. The F4F should come ahead of the Italian competition, until the MC.202 arrives.
    F4F-3 *should* fare better than F4F-4, due to lower weight.
     
  5. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    AFAIK, the RAF and FAA never received any F4F-3 versions of the Wildcat. Initial Martlet deliveries through the first few marks were endowed with P&W or Wright engines with single-stage, 2 speed superchargers. Essentially poorer performers (at altitude) than their USN F4F-3 4 counterparts . Later marks like the Mk IV also used a Wright 1820 engine and not the P W. [/I] If Wiki is correct, I believe the Mk V was simply a FM-1, all of which I believe had the original P W 1830-86 engine with a 2-stage, 2-speed supercharger. I wonder whether that means two speeds with each stage of compression or just one speed for each stage? I assume it's the latter.
     
  6. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The 2 stage system for teh R-1830 was, IIRC, a fixed speed main stage and a 2 speed auxiliary stage. Actually, it may be considered a 3 speed drive, since there was neutral, low gear and high gear.
     
  7. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Just on this point, I never knew that, thanks. I know the F4F-3s came out of production in June, 1939, at which point Grumman was contracted with all three nations, but that was about it.

    At any rate, I'm kind of getting the idea, now, that the Martlets' deployment from land bases was so limited as to have not enabled that aircraft to have racked-up very meaningful combat performance statistics against the German aircraft over land. If that's pretty much the case, I guess it makes sense. The RAF wasn't hurting in good fighter aircraft. Grumman aircraft was carrier-oriented, which was just where the bulk of their aircraft ended up.
     
  8. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Whilst operating together from HMS Indomitable, 10 Martlets claimed only four kills, while about 24 Sea Hurricanes claimed 24 kills. I suspect that the Martlet/F4F simply didn't have the performance needed to compete against the Luftwaffe.
     
  9. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    I'm not doubting your facts but I'll caution that's a pretty sweeping conclusion to draw based alone on those facts.
     
  10. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Agree - while I'll put the Sea Hurricane as the better performer of the two, basing their over all performance on kills alone is kind of silly. One would have to look on how, when and where both aircraft were deployed to really make that assertion IMO.
     
  11. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    According to Eric Brown, RN, the Martlet was at least as good as the Sea Hurricane as a shipbord fighter and probably superior.
     
  12. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Brown admitted, that in mock combat with a Sea Hurricane, that the Hurricane could usually get in more gun camera shots than a Martlet, but the problem is that the original unarmoured , fixed wing Martlets were much lighter than the later variants.

    However, look at the performance figures for the folding wing Martlet IIs used by 806 squadron on Indomitable:

    Max speed = 292 mph at 6000ft, 300mph at 14000ft and 8min to 15000ft. AUW = 7740lb. These numbers just don't cut the mustard in mid 1942.

    http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/f4f/wildcat-II-ads.jpg

    While RAE testing shows considerably poorer performance.
     
  13. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #13 oldcrowcv63, Oct 13, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
    Just to reiterate the point, the early Martlet marks were neither F4F-3 or F4F-4s. They were poorer performers in general although Lundstrom has told me that (based on his interviews) USN Pilots felt the Grumman F4F-4 performance figures were inflated and rarely achieved in operational settings. I expect that whatever the reality of the F4F-4 performance at lower altitudes, its high altitude performance made it a formidable interceptor. It's ceiling and climb rate were roughly comparable to the Merlin powered P-40F. Data from USN and USAAF pubs AHT. P-40D weight at 8,100 lbs (is heavy), P-40E at 8,700 lbs The P-40 values are somewhat heavier than a likely interceptor configuration which I would expect to be about 8,000 lbs for the P-40D and 8,400 lbs for the P-40E.
     

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  14. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #14 oldcrowcv63, Oct 13, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
    Couldn't figure out how to exchange graphs for the one that includes the P-40F (doing this on the fly) Should have added labels sorry! X-axis (horizontal) is time in minutes and Y-axis (vertical) is altitude in feet. I think there is at least one error in these plots with respect to the F4F-4 and P-40E. I am attempting to make a correction. There, I believe its a bit more accurate.

    Would be interesting to hear Rich Leonard's take on land-based F4F-4 performance in combat. As I understand, in the PTO land-based F4F-4s did quite well against IJN aircraft and in the MTO land based Martlett IIIs (P&W 1830 with the one stage supercharger) equivalent to the F4F-3A also did well. It is my assumption that Martlet IIIs were armored, but perhaps not so much as the Martlet II or later marks.
     
  15. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, that's what I'd like to know, as that's where I'd think they'd be the most likely to have encountered the German air power, i.e., from over land. At sea, it wasn't until the convoys and fleets got close to their destinations, i.e., the continents, that that possibility even existed, much less had a chance to materialize, if it even did.
     
  16. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    But it's your earlier conclusion based on those tallies represented that's somewhat misleading. And, let's acknowledge a few things. These planes don't fly themselves, for one. And, for two, combat conditions are a lot more demanding than trial conditions. Case in point, if the Navy had concluded on the trials before having given the go ahead on the F6F, we'd have ended up with Army Air Force planes on those carriers.

    Probably the biggest factor to consider, though, is the difference between these two wars. The Pacific war was an air war, a carrier war. I don't recall any big German carrier fleets in the Atlantic. The Atlantic war was about spotting and bombing gun boats and primarily submarines. A submarine, of course, is blind in the water; it has to ascend to periscope depth just to see what's going on, much less to get a shot off. That's how our planes got them. Simply put, that war wasn't the air war the Pacific war was. The volume in terms of air encounters simply wasn't there in that war.
     
  17. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    There's a couple of points to consider. The first is that the P-40 was also badly outperformed by comparable Luftwaffe aircraft, but also that the Merlin/Allison engined fighters could use their combat ratings to appreciably increase their climb rates where the F4F was already at it's maximum, military rating. I have rather crudely inserted the time to climb figures for the Hurricane/Hurricane IIC, both at ~6.5lb boost. 12lb boost would reduce time to climb by 40-50%:
    F4F-4 vs P-40E D  F  HH Climb.jpg
     
  18. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    RN CVs fought extended battles with Axis "unsinkable" aircraft carriers in both the Med and Atlantic oceans.
     
  19. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    That's very interesting. Maybe that's where I need to look into, then, as the Martlets had to engage. I didn't know that.
     
  20. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Here's the results on one such battle, on May 08 1941:
    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation/fulmars-finest-hour-33978.html

    Operation Pedestal and Operation Torch were the only large scale operations where RN CV used the Martlet, although some were used against Madagascar and during the Italian landings.
     
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