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The rare “Wildcatfish” — not a “wild catfish”

14 January 2015

The rare “Wildcatfish” — not a “wild catfish”

Grumman F3F-3S

Grumman F4F-3S “Wildcatfish” — San Diego Air & Space Museum photo from the Charles Daniels Collection

During World War II the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) flew the Nakajima A6M-2N Navy Type 2 Interceptor/Fighter-Bomber — which had the Allied codename of “Rufe” — a modified Mitsubishi A6M Zero Model 11. Employed often by night, and unchallenged in those early days prior to the advent of radar, Rufes especially challenged the U.S. Navy’s glamorous PT boats in southwest Pacific but also were initially effective in the north Pacific, as well.

The U.S. Navy (USN) investigated the utility of placing floats on the F4F Wildcat for the same reason as the IJN’s Rufe — these aircraft could be relatively easily operated from forward areas without airfields. The wide expanses of water in the Pacific Theater of Operations combined with the remoteness of many of the combat areas gave float planes, as well as flying boats, advantages over the penalty of additional drag inherent to their design which their airfield or flight deck dependent kin did not share.

A single F4F-3 Wildcat was modified with the addition of Edo made floats, becoming the F4F-3S, but better known by its “Wildcatfish” nickname. Like the Rufe the F4F-3S incurred a massive speed penalty with its floats making it all but helpless against conventional fighter aircraft of the day. Unlike the IJN, the  USN did not have to accept the drag penalty of float equipped fighters since their Seabees proved adept at rapidly building airfields — one of the deciding factors leading to the Allied victory since the IJN did not construct airfields readily or as often. This proved to be decisive especially in the Battle for Guadalcanal when the IJN were operating from Rabaul which was a great distance (mission times were several hours) from Guadalcanal.

Grumman F3F-3S

Grumman F4F-3S “Wildcatfish” — San Diego Air & Space Museum photo from the Charles Daniels Collection

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bart K. Logan permalink
    3 May 2015 22:46

    The F3F was the last BIPLANE fighter delivered to the US Navy. The aircraft, pictured above, is a Grumman F4F.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      4 May 2015 17:53

      Thanks for yelling out the word “biplane” — point goes to you and so smartly done by you. You must feel so proud!

      I agree that an F3F is a biplane and the post is about a version of the F4F — so my mistake was obviously a typographic error — but thanks go to you for presuming to educate us all (readers also view the comments so you are writing for an audience and not just the post’s writer in the comment section). Now you’re known to so many more than I, you see?

      Thanks, truly, for pointing out my typographic error which I’ve corrected (sincerely, thank you for that).

      So — aside from the typo — did anything catch your eye in the post that might be worth mentioning? Like an F4F on floats? I thought it was a remarkable and unusual set of images. But all you could apparently care to commit to writing was about an obviously silly typo (though it did need mentioning, of course).

      Again, thank you for noting my careless error — and for your smarmy rudeness, well, I just cannot thank you enough.

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