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Grumman G-23 / FF / SF / F3F / F2F-1

 

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In 1931 the XFF-1 prototype two-seat carrier-based biplane fighter flew for the first time. It was of advanced design with enclosed cockpits (the canopy made up of telescoping sections) and a landing gear that retracted into well-type recesses in the forward fuselage sides.


On 6 March 1931 Grumman signed a contract to supply, for $73,975, one XFF-1 (experimental fighter, Grumman, model 1). Not a cent was to be paid until the XFF-1 had been accepted by the customer. Grumman hired Bill McAvoy from the NACA to make the first flight on 29 December 1931, powered by a 575-hp Wright R-1820E Cyclone. It soon clocked 195 mph in level flight. Later, with a 750-hp R-1820F Cyclone, it achieved 323 km/h (201 mph).


In August 1932 Grumman flew the XSF-1 scout, with one of the fixed guns replaced by 45 gal of extra fuel, and this reached 207 mph. 33 SF-1s were ordered with revised internal equipment and R-1820-84 engines. These also served in the Lexington, with Scout Squadron VS-3B.


But the break-through came just before Christmas 1932, when everyone was about to be laid off because there were insufficient funds to pay the wages: the navy ordered 27 FF-ls. Deliveries of 27 FF-1s, with 559kW R-1820-78 engines, began to VF-5B (Lexington) in June 1933. Armament comprised two 0.30-in (7.62-mm) Browning machine-guns in the upper front fuselage, with another in the rear cockpit, and there was provision for one 45.36-kg (100-lb) bomb beneath each lower wing.

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FF-1


In 1934 similar but R-1820-84-powered SF-1 scouts were delivered.


FF-1s and SF-1s totalled 60 aircraft  and in 1933 these equipped fighter Squadron VF-5B aboard USS Lexington, and from then on the company never looked back. In 1935-36 the 25 surviving Fifis (the FF had to be called that) were modified with the cock-pits arranged for dual-control pilot training. All FF-1 s and SF-1 s were withdrawn from front-line service by the end of 1936, but served with reserve units (the former as FF-2 trainers) until late 1940.


Can-Car's entry into the aviation industry was in 1936 when the company obtained a licence to assemble the Grumman FF-2 (redesignated G-23 in Canada), a two seat, carrier-based, naval biplane fighter, which had first flown in 1931. It combined a duralumin stressed-skin fuselage and tail with wings consisting of metal ribs and spars covered with fabric. It was also the first of its kind to have retractable undercarriage. The G-23 was already close to being obsolete by the time assembly started and there could have been no obvious market among the major aviation powers, who already possessed higher performance biplanes or were developing faster low-wing monoplane fighters. By mid-1938, 42 G-23s had been assembled at the company's plant in Fort William, Ontario, one each for Nicaragua (The prototype Grumman G-23 was sold in Nicaragua and returned to the USA in the 1960s) and Japan and the remaining forty for Turkey. Thirty -four of the latter had been shipped when complaints were received from representatives of the Spanish Nationalists that Spain, not Turkey, was the final destination of these aircraft. The GE-23s were assembled in Barcelona and pushed into service as ground-attack and reconnaissance aircraft. Despite its retractable landing gear, the GE-23 was only marginally faster but considerably less agile than the CR.32 flown by the Italians and Nationalists, and only nine survived destruction in the air or on the ground to fall into Nationalist hands at the end of the war.

 

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GE-23


An additional ten G-23s were built and, with the exception of one sent to Mexico, these were offered to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) along with the remaining six from the 'Turkish' order. The RCAF was at first reluctant to accept the aircraft and the offer had to be made three times before the desperation produced by war forced them to take the G-23 into service as the Goblin in mid-1940. For a time, these fifteen obsolete aircraft formed the country's main fighter force on the east coast, but by April 1942 all of the Goblins had been scrapped.


Other G-23s survived a bit longer than that. Several of the Spanish machines were taken over by the Nationalist forces at the end of the Civil War and the last was only scrapped in 1955.

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FF-2


A single seat derivative of the FF-1, the XF2F-1 was flown by Paul Hovgard on 18 October 1933. Though a very tricky aircraft, needing (for example) care not to stall/spin off too tight a turn in the circuit, the single-seater had the outstanding speed range of 65 mph up to 230. The engine was the 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-1535-72 Twin Wasp Junior, rated at 700 hp. The navy placed its biggest order since 1918: 55 F2Fs. These were delivered in 1935, and not only out-performed everything in the Army Air Corps but probably any other fighter in service anywhere. Even so, it was still tricky, and after designer Bill Schwendler had suggested improvements the navy ordered that these should be incorporated in the last of the 55, to be called the XF3F-1.

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F2F-1
 
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Corsair V93S in Royal Thailand Air Force


After designer Bill Schwendler had sug-gested improvements to the F2F the navy ordered that these should be incorporated in the last of the 55, to be called the XF3F-1. This had a greater span, longer fuselage, bigger cockpit and other changes. During tests the pilot made a long vertical dive and then pulled out violently. He was aiming for 9 g but calculations afterwards showed he actually pulled 14 g leading to fatal break-up. But after a small ventral fin had been added under the tail of a second prototype the navy placed another record order, for 54 F3F-ls, priced at over $lm. The F3F-1, powered by the 484kW R-1535-72, was good, and it carried one 0.5-in gun, one 0.3-in and two 116-lb bombs, but it could do with a bigger engine. The upshot was that on 23 March 1937 the navy placed another record order: 81 F3F-2s, priced at $1,674,310. These were powered by the 850-hp Wright Cyclone, turning a Hamilton propeller with three controllable-pitch blades. Grumman had to farm out the wings and tails to rival Brewster, but when fitted with the Cyclone R-1820-22 rated at 950 hp and the result was an order for 27 F3F-3s. They were so good the last did not come off the line until May 1939.

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F3F


FF-1
Engine: Wright R-1820-78, 750 hp.
Seats: 2.
Wingspan: 36 ft 6in.
Length: 7.47 m (24 ft 6 in)
Gross Weight: 2110 kg (4655 lb)
Maximum speed: 333 km/h (207 mph).
Armament: 3 x 0.3 in mg, 200 lb underwing bomb load.

FF-2
Engine: 1 x Wright R-1820-78, 552kW
Max take-off weight: 2190 kg / 4828 lb
Empty weight: 1474 kg / 3250 lb
Wingspan: 10.52 m / 34 ft 6 in
Length: 7.47 m / 24 ft 6 in
Height: 3.38 m / 11 ft 1 in
Wing area; 28.80 sq.m / 310.00 sq ft
Max. speed: 333 km/h / 207 mph
Ceiling: 6400 m / 21000 ft
Range: 1428 km / 887 miles
Armament: 3 x 7.62mm machine-guns
Crew: 2

F2F-1
Engine: 1 x Pratt-Whitney R-1535-72 Twin Wasp, 485kW / 700 hp
Max take-off weight: 1745 kg / 3847 lb
Empty weight: 1221 kg / 2692 lb
Wingspan: 8.69 m / 28 ft 6 in
Length: 6.53 m / 21 ft 5 in
Height: 2.77 m / 9 ft 1 in
Wing area: 21.37 sq.m / 230.02 sq ft
Max. Speed: 383 km/h / 238 mph
Cruise speed: 225 km/h / 140 mph
Range: 1585 km / 985 miles
Armament: 2 x 7.62mm (0.3 in) machine-guns, 200 lb underwing bomb load.
Crew: 1

GE-23
Engine: 1 x Wright R-1820-F52, 596.5kW (800hp).
Span: 10.515m (34ft 6in).
Length: 7.467m (24ft 6in).
Max T/O weight: 2190 kg (4,828 lb).
Max speed: 216 mph at 7,000 ft.
Operational range: 921 miles.
Armament: 3 x 7.62-mm (0.3-in) mg.

F3F-1
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1535-72, 700 hp.
Armament: 1 x 0.5 in & 2 x 0.3 in mg, 232 lb underwing bomb load.
Seats: 1.

F3F-2
Engine: Wright Cyclone R-1820-22, 850 hp.
Wing span: 32 ft.
Armament: 2 x 0.3 in mg, 200 lb underwing bomb load.
Seats: 1.

F3F-3
Engine: Wright Cyclone R-1820-22, 950 hp / 708kW
Wingspan: 9.75 m / 31 ft 12 in
Length: 7.06 m / 23 ft 2 in
Height: 2.84 m / 9 ft 4 in
Wing area: 24.15 sq.m / 259.95 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 2175 kg / 4795 lb
Empty weight: 1490 kg / 3285 lb
Max. speed: 425 km/h / 264 mph
Cruise speed: 241 km/h / 150 mph
Ceiling: 10120 m / 33200 ft
Range: 1577 km / 980 miles
Crew: 1
Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine-guns

 

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Grumman F2F

 

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Grumman F3F-1

 

 

 


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