June 5, 2009
Grumman has built some venerable seaplanes—think Goose, Albatross, Mallard, and Widgeon—but it ran aground when it put a portly F4F-3 Wildcat on floats and called it an F4F-3S seaplane fighter (a classic oxymoron). The only redeeming feature of the F4F-3S was its nickname: Wildcatfish.
In 1942, the U.S. Navy captured a Japanese “Rufe,” a Nakajima-built A6M2-N on floats, and was so smitten with its performance it asked Grumman to modify a hundred Wildcats into ocean-going vessels. However, the addition of the floats reduced top speed to a leisurely 250 mph. By this time, Navy Seabees were building airfields on captured Japanese islands, so the hundred on order were “oh, never mind”-ed back to F4F-3s.
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