VC-27 "The Saints"
An FM-2 Wildcat
As a "composite squadron", VC-27 operated both FM-2 Wildcat fighters and TBM-1C Avenger torpedo-bombers. The FM-2s flew CAP (Combat Air Patrol) to protect the fleet and attacked both ground and sea targets. The Avengers attacked sea targets using torpedoes, bombs, rockets and 50 caliber ammunition and ground targets using bombs, rockets and 50 caliber ammunition .
By pure happenstance, both aircraft were Grumman aircraft built by the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as "Eastern Aircraft" or "General Motors" aircraft.
|FM-2 Wildcat||TBM Avenger||A6M Zero|
|Wingspan||38' 00"||54' 02"||39' 04"|
|Length||28' 09"||40' 11"||29' 09"|
|Height||11' 05"||15' 05"||10' 00"|
|Takeoff Weight||8,221 lbs||17,893 lbs||5,313 lbs|
|Horsepower||1,350 hp||1,900 hp||950 hp|
|Speed||322 mph||276 mph||331 mph|
|Range||1,350 miles||1,000 miles||1,929 miles|
|Armament||4 x 50 cal||4 x 50 cal||2 x 7.7mm|
|2 x 20 mm|
|Bombs||N/A||2 x 500 lbs|
A sampling of FM-2 pictures available on airliners.net. Note that in the lower right picture, the pilot is bent over cranking up his landing gear by hand - one of the "features" of the Wildcat.
The General Motors FM-2 Wildcat was a lightweight and more powerful version of the Grumman F4F Wildcat.
The F4F Wildcat was originally designed in the 1930s as an all-metal biplane with retractable landing gear. Although it was a nimble fighter, it was not quite able to keep up with the Zero. It was heavier and did not climb as fast (although it was faster in a dive). By mid-war, the F4F was phased out in favor of more powerful aircraft such as the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair. However, when Naval planners needed a lightweight fighter to operate from the decks of Escort Carriers, they decided to upgrade the F4F.
The FM-2 differed from the F4F in a number of ways. The FM-2 had a lighter, yet more powerful Wright R-1820 radial engine. The plane carried four rather than six .50 caliber machine guns and was often fitted with HVARs (High-Velocity Aircraft Rockets) for use against ground targets, ships or surfaced submarines. The FM-2 also had a larger tail than the standard F4F to counter the increased torque produced by the Wright engine.
These changes increased the climb rate and made the FM-2 capable of dog-fighting with all Japanese aircraft. It was quite similar in size and performance to Zero fighter. The FM-2 weighed more, partly because the Zero did not have self-sealing tanks or significant armor plating, making the Zero very vulnerable to machine gun fire.
Navy aircraft used several different paint-schemes - including 3 tone, 2 tone and 1 tone. Each squadron also had different markings. The above picture appears to show the correct markings for VC-27. However, veterans of VC-27 advise that the squadron used a 2 tone paint scheme, with light gray on the bottom.
Like most Navy planes, the FM-2 used a Mark 8 reflector gunsight. The pilot looked through a circular pane of glass. When turned on, a lamp projected a gunsight image on the glass. One advantage was that the image was focused "at infinity" so that the gunsight image remained sharp when the pilot focused on the target. A version of this gunsight was also used on the F4U Corsair and the P-47 Thunderbolt.
The landing gear on the Wildcat was an odd mechanism. Unlike most
aircraft, which had a single strut, the gear on the Wildcat was a "Rube
Goldberg" contraption that drew the wheels into the fuselage.
Furthermore, the gear was not motorized. The pilot had to crank the
gear up and down by hand using a crank on his right side. This meant
that the pilot had to take his left hand off the throttle (hoping that he
had secured the friction lock), so that he could fly the plane with his left
hand and crank with his right hand - 31 times. This led to pilot-induced wobbling
immediately after takeoff and before landing.
The landing gear also had a narrow wheelbase (the distance between the front wheels), which led to an increased tendency to "ground loop" on landing.
Of course, ground-looping would not be a problem on a carrier landing - as long as the hook caught the wire - since the wire would be holding the tail back.
Performance - FM-2 vs. Zeke 52 (Zero)
Although the F4F Wildcat and the FM-2 looked alike, the FM-2 was able to
hold it's own in a turning fight with a Japanese Zero (Zeke). Many
Japanese pilots learned this the hard way.
Oddly, after conceding that the "remarkable" maneuverability of the Zeke was only slightly better than the FM-2, the report suggests that the FM-2 not dogfight with the Zeke. This recommendation was probably ignored by the men of VC-27.
The TBM typically carried a crew of only 3 - the pilot, the gunner and the
radioman/gunner. The space behind the pilot was generally empty.
The TBM typically carried a crew of only 3 - the pilot, the gunner and the radioman/gunner. The space behind the pilot was generally empty. However, on occasion, they carried an additional passenger, such as an artillery spotter.