The Grumman F2F was a single-engine, biplane fighter aircraft with retractable undercarriage, serving as the standard fighter for the United States Navy between 1936 and 1940.
Grumman’s success with the two-seat FF-1, which was significantly faster than even the single-seat fighters of its time, resulted in a contract for the single-seat XF2F-1.
Armed with two .30 calibre (7.62 mm) machine guns above the cowl, the new design also incorporated watertight compartments to reduce weight and improve survivability in the event of a water landing.
The prototype first flew on 18 October 1933, equipped with the experimental 625 hp (466 kW) XR-1534-44 Twin Wasp Junior radial engine, and reached a top speed of 229 mph (369 km/h) at 8,400 ft (2,600 m) – 22 mph (35 km/h) faster than the FF-1 at the same altitude.
Manoeuvrability also proved superior to the earlier two-seat aircraft.
The Grumman F3F was a biplane fighter aircraft produced by the Grumman aircraft for the United States Navy during the mid-1930s.
Designed as an improvement on the F2F, it entered service in 1936 as the last biplane to be delivered to any American military air arm.
It was retired from front line squadrons at the end of 1941 before it could serve in World War II and replaced by the Brewster F2A Buffalo.
The F3F, which inherited the Leroy Grumman-designed retractable main landing gear configuration first used on the Grumman FF, served as the basis for a biplane design ultimately developed into the much more successful F4F Wildcat that succeeded the subpar Buffalo.
The Navy’s experience with the F2F revealed issues with stability and unfavourable spin characteristics, prompting the 15 October 1934 contract for the improved XF3F-1, placed before F2F deliveries began.
The contract also required a capability for ground attack, in addition to the design’s fighter role.
Powered by the same Pratt & Whitney R-1535-72 Twin Wasp Junior engine as the F2F, the fuselage was lengthened, and wing area increased over the earlier design.
A reduction in wheel diameter allowed greater fuselage streamlining, eliminating the prominent bulge behind the cowling of the F2F.
The prototype, BuNo. 9727, was delivered and first flown on 20 March 1935 with company test pilot Jimmy Collins making three flights that day.
Two days later, six dive-recovery flights took place; on the 10th dive, the aircraft’s pull-out at 8,000 ft (2,438 m) registered 14 g on the test equipment.
The aircraft broke up in mid-air, crashing in a cemetery and killing Collins.
A second, strengthened prototype was built, but it crashed on 9 May of the same year following the pilot’s bailout during an unsuccessful spin recovery.
The second prototype was rebuilt in three weeks, flying on 20 June 1935.
An order for 54 F3F-1 fighters was placed on 24 August of that year, following the conclusion of the flight test program.
United States Navy designation for the Grumman Model G-8 prototype with a 625 hp (466 kW) XR-1534-44 Twin Wasp Junior radial engine, one built
Production variant with a 700 hp (522 kW) R-1535-72 Twin Wasp Junior radial engine, 55 built
Company designation for F3F-1 carrier-borne fighters
Three prototypes of the F3F, powered by single 700 hp (520 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1535-84 Twin Wasp Juniors
Initial production version for the US Navy, 54 built.
Company designation for the F3F-2 and F3F-3
A single prototype (BuNo 0452), powered by a single 850 hp (630 kW) Wright XR-1820-22 Cyclone G
Second production model for the US Navy, powered by a single 950 hp (710 kW) Wright R-1820-22 Cyclone, 81 built.
A single prototype (BuNo 1031) of the F3F-3 with curved windshield, a modified forward fuselage with a widened diameter and cowling with a single cowl flap on either side
Final production variant for the US Navy, 27 built. Featured a redesigned forward fuselage forward of the aft cabane struts.
G-22 Gulfhawk II
A single hybrid F2F/F3F, powered by a 1,000 hp (750 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclone, for display pilot Al Williams, sponsored by the Gulf Oil Company for demonstration flights and aerobatic displays.
The G-22 Gulfhawk II was retired to the National Air Museum in October 1948.
G-32 Gulfhawk III / G-32A
A two-seat civilian variant of the F3F series, powered by a 1,000 hp (750 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclone.
Two aircraft were built, one (G-32, NC1051) for noted Gulf Oil pilot Alford Williams as the “Gulfhawk III”, and the second (G-32A, NC1326) retained by Grumman as a fast executive transport-chase aircraft.
Both of these aircraft incorporated landing flaps into the lower surface of the upper wing, the only variant of the series to be so fitted.
Both G-32 aircraft were impressed into the USAAF in 1942; Williams’s G-32 Gulfhawk III was destroyed in a crash in Florida and the G-32A survived until 1971 when it crashed after being abandoned due to an inflight fire