As World War II started in Europe, the United States Navy had not yet started to seriously modernize.
After the jump, a look at a last generation bi-plane.
The US Navy was cautious with its budget in the inter-war period. This isn’t all bad, it means US Navy aircraft tended to be well tested and reliable by the time they entered service. But it also means Grumman’s last bi-plane stayed in fleet service until after the rest of the world had moved past them. It was actually retired from fleet carrier service in 1941 (!) and remained on strength as a trainer until 1943.
With a 700 HP R-1535 engine the F3F-1 could exceed 200 kts; that makes it faster than the Royal Navy’s Blackburn Roc fighter that came a little later. Metal fuselage, enclosed canopy and retractable landing gear would all be considered modern features. Fabric covered wings and light firepower of one .50 and one .30 would be much less modern. It was considered quick and maneuverable when it entered service in 1936. But it really was a stop gap. Development on the Wildcat and Buffalo had started even as the F3F entered service.
This subject is from the Accurate Miniatures kit. It was an absolute blast to build. It is shown in the Navy’s “Gold Wings” color scheme that was in use until it was replaced by “Neutrality Grey” in 1940. A fun aspect to these markings is how much they tell us about the aircraft. The Willow Green nose and fuselage stripe indicates it belongs to its squadron’s fifth section (three aircraft per section at this time). That the nose is a solid color means it belongs to the section leader, so solid green is number 13. The Lemon Yellow tail identifies the plane as being based on the Lexington. The side number is 3-F-13 which means aircraft 13 of Fighting Three. And serious Navy fanboys say “whaaat, you screwed up!” Because everyone knows Fighting Three was based on the Saratoga…
For three months in early 1939 Fighting Two and Fighting Three switched decks. I don’t know all the how and why of it. But from what I’ve read they did switch tail colors with their temporary assignments. So there!
~ Up Next: Panzer V Panther