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U.S. NAVY AIRCRAFT - 1922-1962 DESIGNATION SYSTEM

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighters

In 1942, automobile manufacturer General Motors converted several of its east coast factories to aircraft production under the name Eastern Aircraft Division. Eastern received contracts to build F4F-4 "Wildcat" fighters and TBF-1 "Avenger" torpedo planes, allowing Grumman to gradually reconcentrate its energies on the new, urgently-needed F6F "Hellcat" fighter. The GM F4F-4s, redesignated FM-1s, had only four .50 caliber machine guns, but were otherwise little changed from the original model. Well over a thousand FM-1 fighters were delivered in 1942-43, including some three hundred for the British Royal Navy.

Meanwhile, Grumman had prototyped a new "Wildcat" under the designation XF4F-8, which was to be produced by Eastern Aircraft as the FM-2. With lightened structure and a more powerful Wright R-1820 radial engine, the FM-2 was notably quicker, faster climbing, longer ranged and more maneuverable than its predecessor. To help control the increased power, the new plane had a distinctive, taller vertical tail. All-in-all, it was a great improvement, and more than four thousand FM-2s were built in 1943-45. Of those, over three hundred went to the British.

The U.S. Navy FM-2s operated exclusively from escort carriers (CVEs), small ships with notoriously lively flight decks. They were used in the Atlantic, teamed with TBM "Avengers" for anti-submarine work, the escort carriers' original purpose. In the Pacific, CVEs did ASW too, but also employed their "Avengers" and "Wildcats" to provide air cover for invasion forces and close air support for ground troops. Those missions produced opportunities for aerial combat against Japanese planes, and two Navy pilots achieved "ace" status in FM-2s. The GM "Wildcat" also played an important role in the 25 October 1944 Battle off Samar, in which a force of the slow CVEs and their escorts out-fought a vastly superior Japanese surface fleet.

FM-2 "Wildcat" characteristics:

  • Dimensions: Wing Span, 38 feet; Length, 28 feet 11 inches; Wing Area, 260 square feet.
  • Weights: Empty, 5448 pounds; Gross, 8271 pounds
  • Powerplant: One 1,350 horsepower Wright R-1820-56 "Cyclone" single-row radial engine.
  • Armament: four .50 caliber Browning machine guns; Two 250-pound bombs or six 5-inch rockets.
  • Performance: Maximum Speed, 332 m.p.h. (@ 28,800 feet).

This page features, and provides links to, selected views of General Motors FM-2 fighters.

For more images of FM-2 fighters, see:

Pictorial coverage of other types of "Wildcat" fighters:



Photo #: 80-G-224669

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter
(Bureau # 15953, the second production FM-2)

Undergoing flight testing, circa late 1943.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 91KB; 740 x 615 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-222824

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

In flight in the Atlantic area, 10 February 1944.
The plane is from USS Card (CVE-11).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 71KB; 740 x 615 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-269036

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

Flies near USS Core (CVE-13), during operations in the North Atlantic, 12 April 1944.
Plane has its landing gear and tailhook down, in preparation for landing on board.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 64KB; 740 x 620 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-287594

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

On combat air patrol over USS Santee (CVE-29), during the Leyte Invasion, 20 October 1944.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 90KB; 740 x 615 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-384058

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighters

From USS White Plains (CVE-66), fly an escort mission, probably during air strikes on Japanese facilities on Rota Island, Marianas, 24 June 1944.
Note island in the distance.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 85KB; 740 x 615 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-287497

Battle off Samar, 25 October 1944

USS Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) prepares to launch FM-2 "Wildcat" fighters during the action.
In the center distance, Japanese shells are splashing near USS White Plains (CVE-66).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 80KB; 650 x 675 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-K-1601

FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

Prepares to take off from USS Charger (CVE-30) during training operations in the Chesapeake Bay area, 8 May 1944.
Another FM-2 is passing overhead with its tail hook down, apparently having received a "wave-off" due to the carrier's fouled flight deck.
Note the light Atlantic area paint schemes worn by these planes.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 83KB; 590 x 765 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 94870

FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

Receives the "launch" signal on USS Makin Island (CVE-93), 1945.

Courtesy of PHC John Highfill, USN (Retired).

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 61KB; 740 x 530 pixels

 
Photo #: 80-G-269035

General Motors FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter

Is catapulted from USS Core (CVE-13), in the North Atlantic, 12 April 1944.
Taken by Photographer's Mate N.H. Seehafer.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 82KB; 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 94880

USS Makin Island (CVE-93)

A FM-2 "Wildcat" fighter makes the ship's last catapult launching, off Honolulu, Hawaii, in October 1945.
Note the catapult bridle dropping away below the plane's wheels.

Courtesy of PHC John Highfill, USN (Retired).

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 83KB; 740 x 605 pixels

 



More images of FM-2 fighters:

Pictorial coverage of other types of "Wildcat" fighters:


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.



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