The F3F was the third airplane design from Grumman accepted by the US Navy, it was also the last biplane fighter to be purchased by the United States military. The two seat FF-1 (Grumman Model 5) of 1931 was the first US Navy aircraft to incorporate retractable landing gear, followed by the single seat F2F (Grumman Model G-8) of 1933. All three of these designs featured radial engines with the landing gear retracting into the fuselage resulting in the fuselage having a portly look that was to be a characteristic of the next few Grumman fighters.

       Although the F2F had performance that was superior to other contemporary US Navy carrier fighters of the time the Navy asked Grumman to perform a major redesign to increase maneuverability, level speed, climb and dive performance, improve spin recovery and enhance directional stability. The result of the redesign was the F3F (model G-11) which had a 1 foot 10 inch increase in fuselage length, a 3 foot 6 inch increase in wing span as well as other aerodynamic improvements. The XF3F-1 first flew on March 20, 1935. Two prototype were lost during testing with a third example completing the test program in August of 1935. Including the 3 prototypes 57 examples of the F3F-1 were built.

       In 1936 the original Prat & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior Radial engine was replaced with the Wright R-1820 Cyclone Supercharged Radial Engine resulting in the F3F-2 of which 81 examples were built. The increased power of the Wright Cyclone also required a change from the earlier 2 bladed propeller to a 3 bladed one.

       The F3F was withdrawn from frontline squadron service by the end of 1941. However 117 examples were used until December of 1943 as squadron hacks and for training duties. The US Army also used the type as a ferry pilot trainer as the UC-103. A civilian aerobatic version the G-22 “Gulfhawk II” was also produced.

       There are several examples of the F3F-2 and Gulfhawk II still flying today. I have photographed a few in museums that I have visited.

FF-1Grumman FF-1 9351 F3F-2Grumman F3F-2 0968 F3F-2Grumman F3F-2 0976
F3F-2Grumman F3F-2 1028 GulfhawkGrumman Gulfhawk

       Accurate Miniatures Kit # 3413 “Grumman F3F-1 Classic U.S. Navy Fighter” in 1/48 Scale is the subject of this build. I found it at a GraniteCon 2016 for $20 and jumped at the chance to buy it.

       The kit lives up to the reputation Accurate Miniatures has for accuracy and ease of build. As per the instruction sheet I assembled and painted the cockpit interior, which is highly detailed. Once the cockpit interior was completed it was assembled into the fuselage halves.

       Once the fuselage was glued together it was time to glue the front landing gear in place. This was a tricky operation as I tried to use the minimum amount of glue necessary to hold the many parts in place without over doing it. I was very satisfied with the results.

       The major assemblies, wings, tail surfaces and fuselage were all painted before final assembly. As the fuselage was aluminum on the real thing I chose Testors Model Master Aluminum Non-Buffing Metalizer. Testors Model Master Chrome Yellow was used for the upper wing. The wings on the F3F were made with metal spars covered with fabric then painted with aluminum dope so, other than the top of the upper wing all wing surfaces were painted using Model Master Aluminum Lacquer. Classic White for the tail surfaces and Insignia Red for the fuselage and nose bands.

       Once painting was completed I began final assembly. I was very happy with my efforts to this point, the kit looked awesome. However, following the kit instructions I used the phot etched wing wires to finish the model and I had a very hard time doing so. It was difficult to glue one end of the wire down and then stretch it enough so it was taut and glue it in place on the other end. There are several spots were the Loctite Super Glue I was using spilled over and left marks on the otherwise pristine finish of the wings. On previous biplanes I had used 3 Lb. test fishing line to represent the wing wires, I wish I had done so on this model.

Bibliography:

       Air International Volume 10 Number 3 March 1976 - The Corpulent Long Islanders

       Combat Aircraft of the World, Edited and Compiled by John W.R. Taylor, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, ISBN 425-03633-2

       Wikipedia article on the Grumman F3F

       The National Museum of Naval Aviation's F3F-2

       Aviation History Online Museum article on the F3F

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