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Grumman F3F Flying Barrel

The Grumman F3F-2 was the last Navy and Marine biplane fighter. It entered service in 1936, and retired from front-line service in 1941. Its short operational life served to underscore its role in the Navy’s transition from biplanes to monoplanes. A total of 147 F3Fs of three variants were delivered with this -2 having an upgraded, 950 horsepower engine.


The F3F inherited the Leroy Grumman-designed retractable main landing gear configuration used on an earlier Grumman aircraft design. This landing gear configuration was carried over to the much improved F4F Wildcat single wing fighter, the successor to the F3F.


The entire F3F-2 production series was delivered between 1937 and 1938. When deliveries ended, all seven Navy and Marine Corps pursuit (fighter) squadrons were equipped with Grumman single-seat fighters.


This aircraft had both a 0.30 caliber and a 0.50 caliber machine gun above the engine in the nose firing through the propeller. A major limitation was in the amount of ammunition—only 500 rounds for the 0.30 caliber and 200 for the 0.50 caliber. It could also carry one 116 lb. bomb under each wing.


This aircraft was originally assigned to Marine Fighting Squadron VMF 2, later re-designated VMF-211, in 1937. Records indicate it crashed into a mountain at Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii Jun 24, 1941. It was recovered in 1980s and subsequently restored to the magnificent, flyable aircraft it is today. The F3F was the basis for a design that ultimately became the very effective F4F Wildcat fighter of early WWII.


The insignia on the side of the aircraft include the blue wasp with boxing gloves of squadron VF-7 assigned to the U.S.S. Wasp and the fuselage ID of 6F6 of the Enterprise squadron. By December 1941, all carrier fighter squadrons had been re-equipped with F4F Wildcats. Only a handful of F3Fs remain, four or less are flyable.

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