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Demonstrating the advantages of folding wings.

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  • Demonstrating the advantages of folding wings.

    With wings folded, five Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats can fit inside the same space occupied by two F4F Wildcats without wings folded.

    While it was originally intended to double the amount of aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier, a 50% increased appeared to be the most practicable.

    117799495_3180201672095964_9101897957983476157_o.jpg
    "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
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  • #2
    On interest to note, folding wings first appear in the F4F-4. Earlier version, F4F-3 had non-foldable wings.
    EXCERPTS-QUOTE:
    ....
    At the time of Pearl Harbor, only Enterprise had a fully equipped Wildcat squadron, VF-6 with F4F-3As. Enterprise was then transferring a detachment of VMF-211, also equipped with F4F-3s, to Wake. Saratoga was in San Diego, working up for operations of the F4F-3s of VF-3. 11 F4F-3s of VMF-211 were at the Ewa Marine Air Corps Station on Oahu; nine of these were damaged or destroyed during the Japanese attack. The detachment of VMF-211 on Wake lost seven Wildcats to Japanese attacks on 8 December, but the remaining five put up a fierce defense, making the first bomber kill on 9 December. The destroyer Kisaragi was sunk by the Wildcats,[36] and the Japanese invasion force retreated.

    In May 1942, the F4F-3s of VF-2 and VF-42, aboard Yorktown and Lexington, participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Lexington and Yorktown fought against the fleet carriers Zuikaku and Shōkaku and the light carrier Shōhō in this battle, in an attempt to halt a Japanese invasion of Port Moresby on Papua. During these battles, it became clear that attacks without fighter escort amounted to suicide, but that the fighter component on the carriers was completely insufficient to provide both fighter cover for the carrier and an escort for an attack force. Most U.S. carriers carried fewer than 20 fighters.
    ....
    A new version, the F4F-4, entered service in 1941 with six machine guns and the Grumman-patented Sto-Wing folding wing system,[39][40] which allowed more aircraft to be stored on an aircraft carrier, increasing the number of fighters that could be parked on a surface by more than a factor of 2. The F4F-4 was the definitive version that saw the most combat service in the early war years, including the Battle of Midway. The F4F-3 was replaced by the F4F-4 in June 1942, during the Battle of Midway; only VMF-221 still used them at that time.[citation needed]

    This version was less popular with American pilots because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time.[41] With the F4F-3's four .50 in (12.7 mm) guns and 450 rpg, pilots had 34 seconds of firing time; six guns decreased ammunition to 240 rpg, which could be expended in less than 20 seconds. The increase to six guns was attributed to the Royal Navy, who wanted greater firepower to deal with German and Italian foes. Jimmy Thach is quoted as saying, "A pilot who cannot hit with four guns will miss with eight."[42] Extra guns and folding wings meant extra weight, and reduced performance: the F4F-4 was capable of only about 318 mph (512 km/h) at 19,400 ft (5,900 m). Rate of climb was noticeably worse in the F4F-4; while Grumman optimistically claimed the F4F-4 could climb at a modest 1,950 ft (590 m) per minute, in combat conditions, pilots found their F4F-4s capable of ascending at only 500 to 1,000 ft (150 to 300 m) per minute.[22] Moreover, the F4F-4's folding wing was intended to allow five F4F-4s to be stowed in the space required by two F4F-3s. In practice, the folding wings allowed an increase of about 50% in the number of Wildcats carried aboard U.S. fleet aircraft carriers. A variant of the F4F-4, designated F4F-4B for contractual purposes, was supplied to the British with a modified cowling and Wright Cyclone engine. These aircraft received the designation of Martlet IV.
    ....
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grumman_F4F_Wildcat
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    • #3
      Two comments: 1. Thatch apparently miscounted. The guns increased to six, not eight guns.

      2. Increasing to six guns put more rounds per second into the target, enabling pilots to down enemy aircraft with shorter bursts; therefore, the trade-off actually increased effectiveness for many pilots.

      Six .50's became the standard for American aircraft.

      The greatest advantage to folding wings was the ability to get the aircraft down to the hanger deck on the elevator.

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      • #4
        I think Thatch was speaking metaphorically.
        TANSTAAFL = There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
        “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means” - von Clausewitz
        Present Current Events are the Future's History

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
          Two comments: 1. Thatch apparently miscounted. The guns increased to six, not eight guns.
          Clearly Thatch was exaggerating to emphasize his point.

          2. Increasing to six guns put more rounds per second into the target, enabling pilots to down enemy aircraft with shorter bursts; therefore, the trade-off actually increased effectiveness for many pilots.
          USN pilots in the Pacific, faced with lightly built Japanese aircraft found the trade off a poor one. Their firing time in a pass would have remained much the same with the same effect--the Japanese plane shot down. But the shorter firing time overall meant they could engage fewer targets and make fewer passes before running dry.

          Interestingly, the same problem was had on the Zero. The two 20mm cannon had just 60 rounds and these ran out quickly. After that the two 7.7mm machineguns were found by their pilots to be worthless against the heavier built and protected US aircraft. This meant they had to break off combat frequently when the cannons ran dry.

          Six .50's became the standard for American aircraft.
          In Europe and elsewhere this was sufficient for dealing with enemy fighters and the smaller bombers, etc., the Axis powers used. It would have been totally inadequate for tackling large four-engine heavy bombers with good protection. It was even inadequate compared to 4 x 20mm and on USN fighters used for night fighting this became the norm due to the need to ensure a quick and thorough kill.


          F6F-5N night fighter with 2 x 20mm and 4 x .50 machineguns. The F4U night fighter version was done the same way with 4 x 20mm



          The greatest advantage to folding wings was the ability to get the aircraft down to the hanger deck on the elevator.
          Aircraft elevators on US ships were sized to take non-folding aircraft. What made the speed of strike down to the hanger or up to the flight deck was the hydraulics on the elevator itself. The USN went for fast elevators.

          On British carriers, many had "letterbox" elevators installed that were designed specifically to be used with folding wing aircraft. This made folding wings a must-have for their naval air arm.


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          • #6
            There is a specific limit to elevator size on carriers due to the elevator in use incapacitating that portion of the flight deck. Leaves a large hole.

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            • #7
              There is also the positioning of where elevators are located. Deck edge elevators leave more room inside the hangars for shops and aircraft. Large elevators on the flight deck limited space in the hangars. Also, deck edge elevators can allow aircraft to be larger than the flight deck hangars will allow.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                There is a specific limit to elevator size on carriers due to the elevator in use incapacitating that portion of the flight deck. Leaves a large hole.
                On WW 2 US carriers, the flight deck was superstructure and not part of the hull girder so the elevators could be larger. On RN carriers the combination of using an armored flight deck and it being part of the hull structure restricted size and location. On IJN vessels, doctrine required the use of three elevators of varying size and the flight deck was part of the superstructure like on US carriers. The three elevators were specifically for use for one type of aircraft as the hanger(s) were segregated by type as well. Fighters used the forward elevator, dive bombers the amidships one, and torpedo planes the aft elevator.

                The US was the first to get around the whole problem by introducing deck edge elevators. These avoided the hull structure problem, made more room in the hanger deck, and were not a potential damage problem that could end flight operations.

                All elevators by nation had weight limitations. But, the biggest factor in their operation was lift speed. This determined the overall cycle time to getting a plane to or from the flight deck.

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                • #9
                  Aircraft elevators on US ships were sized to take non-folding aircraft. What made the speed of strike down to the hanger or up to the flight deck was the hydraulics on the elevator itself. The USN went for fast elevators.
                  You mentioned that previously.

                  Just saying that the number of aircraft aboard was not the sole reason for folding wings. Can't remember since I haven't read the reference in a long time, but the Me109's intended for the Graf Zeppellin were not, IIRC, fitted with folding wings, and the elevators were an integral part of the flightdeck,as shown on hi-res sonar scans of her wreck site.

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                  • #10
                    The GZ is in a class of mediocrity all its own. The aircraft were to be launched using a complex trolley catapult system requiring the flight deck and hanger to be fitted with tracks to roll the trollies around on (by hand). The Me 109T and Ju 87C weren't folding wing (the V11 had folding wings but by then the whole carrier program was falling apart). The Fi 187 torpedo planes were.
                    Last edited by T. A. Gardner; 17 Aug 20, 16:54.

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