AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

Grumman F4F-3 and F4F-4 Wildcat / Martlet

Product Information

Publishers: Just Flight / Aeroplane Heaven

Description: WWII Allied Aircraft.

Download Size:
501 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Harold "Farmboyzim" Zimmer AVSIM Staff Reviewer - July 25, 2011

Introduction

Just Flight, in conjunction with Aeroplane Heaven (AH), have developed yet another aircraft out of the Warbird history books, with the Grumman F4F-3 and the F4F-4 Wildcat.  Included as part of this package is the Martlet Mk I and Mk IV, which was the British designation given to the F4F-3 and F4F-4.  I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing some of AH’s past models, and I still enjoy having them in my “Virtual Hanger”.  Let’s jump in with a little background history of the Wildcat/Martlet, and how it made a name for itself in World War II.

Many aircraft throughout history have started with questionable futures and the Grumman Wildcat was amongst these aircraft.  In 1936 the U.S. Navy requested a carrier based fighter to be developed. Biplanes were relied upon for the defense of the skies in these early days of aviation.  A competition between the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation and Grumman took place.  The contract went not to Grumman, and their XF4F-1 biplane fighter, but to the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation for its development of the XF2A-1 Brewster Buffalo.

The Brewster F2A-1 became the first operational monoplane fighter for the United States Navy.  Speed was the only advantage the Grumman XF4F-1 bi-plane had over the Buffalo, but that was not enough to win the contract.  The Brewster Buffalo was ordered and went into production in June of 1938.  This was not to be the end for the Wildcat though, just a delay.  The United States Navy remained skeptical about the long term performance of the Buffalo, and with that in mind, they requested that Grumman continue development of the original prototype, the XF4F-1, even though it was of biplane construction.  Grumman had shelved the plans for its biplane design in favor of the monoplane design, the “wave of the future”.  In July of 1936, Grumman received an order for a prototype monoplane fighter designated XF4F-2.  This new model was basically the same as the XF4F-1, but with a single wing.

The Wildcat took to the skies for the first time in September of 1937, piloted by Grumman company pilot Robert Hall.  Soon after its first flight, It was moved to a naval air station in Washington D.C. for more testing. Evaluations found that the 1,050 horse power Pratt and Whitney R1830–66 twin wasp engine could pump out a maximum speed of 290mph. The Wildcat was of an all-metal design with the wings set at mid-position on the fuselage and was equipped with stout, retractable landing gear for dropping onto the deck of aircraft carriers.

Big and Beefy…
Firing up the P&W
Sturdy landing gear
14 cylinders comin’ at ya!

After various improvements to the XF4F-3, the US Navy ordered 78 of these aircraft, and the name “Wildcat” was put into use from October 1941.  The first combat the aircraft saw however was in the hands of the British, as the “Martlet”.  When a naval pilot flew off the HMS Audacity to intercept and shoot down a four-engine Focke-Wulf Fw200 Condor, near Gibraltar in September of 1941.  Flying off the USS Lexington in February of 1942, Medal of Honor winner Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare shot down five Mitsubishi G4M bombers in as many minutes.  O’Hare became the US Navy’s first Ace of WWII.

Excellent flash effects
Hamilton constant speed 3-blade propeller
Three-blade, constant speed
Folding wings animated

US Navy VF-7 and VF-41 Squadrons were the first to be outfitted with the Wildcat.  More improvements were made to the F4F-3 Wildcat, having gained invaluable knowledge of the performance of the Martlet in combat, and so, the F4F-4 was developed.  Learning from the Martlet’s combat performance, improvements were made and the F4F-4 was born.  Two more machine guns were added (some pilots not liking this arrangement for reasons of added weight), and folding wings were employed for carrier use.  There were a few differences between the Wildcat and the Martlet models.  These differences can be seen within the cockpit as well as in the engineering of the models.  For example, the Martlet Mk I has no working cowl flaps, hence no lever in the cockpit for this function.  Other differences are engine and propeller types employed, as well as the inclusion of the P8 Compass that is only used with the Martlet models.  You should have no problems jumping from one aircraft variation to another, as overall, the models are quite similar.

Waiting for the go ahead…
Well protected “6 o’clock!
Common site in the Pacific!
Early variations of the Wildcat

As more Wildcat’s entered production, they were assigned to the carriers Enterprise, Hornet and the Saratoga.  Not commonly known is the fact that Grumman handed over production of the Wildcat to the eastern division of General Motors, where the majority of the 7,815 F4F’s were built.  The Wildcat played pivotal roles in the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal.  Tactics had to be developed for the effective use of these aircraft against the Japanese Zero, as the Zero had the advantage in just about all aspects of flight characteristics.

After analyzing Fleet Air Intelligence, USN Commander "Jimmy" Thach devised a defensive strategy that allowed Wildcat formations to act in a coordinated maneuver to counter a diving attack, called the "Thach Weave."  This was about the only way to defeat an aerial attack by the Zero.  The Martlet saw action in North Africa during Operation Torch nor operations throughout the Mediterranean and European Theaters.  The British adopted the name “Wildcat” to their aircraft after a time.  The F4F-4 flew effectively against the enemy until the development of the F6F- Hellcat.  The Wildcat served throughout the war however, flying from smaller support carriers, and serving very effectively in the ground support role as well.

USN Commander "Jimmy" Thach
Working Cowl Flaps
Light ‘em up!

Installation and Documentation

Downloading and installing products has become fairly easy and routine, especially if you have done business with a particular company already.  Such is the case with Just Flight.  Downloading instructions quoted from Just Flight…” New Download system - On 21st December 2009 Just Flight and Just Trains upgraded the system whereby products are unlocked on users' PCs to a much more user-friendly system that doesn't require complicated key codes. You simply enter, when prompted, your e-mail address and password from your Just Flight or Just Trains customer account and the product unlocks automatically. As with the earlier system you can re-install on the same PC as often as you like without the need to unlock.”  The download of the product proceeded without problems.

Download times depend on your connection speeds, although it did not take that long to download this particular product onto my HD.  It benefits you, the buyer, to create an account, as Just Flight offers “points” for purchases that can be used towards other products.  This product offers you various “Package” deals that are offered to you if you prefer just a certain set of these aircraft, which I find to be a very convenient and thoughtful option.

Test System

Computer Specs

HP Pavillion a420n,
160 GB Hard Drive
1GB RAM
2.16 GHz Processor
Windows XP  Service Pack 3
nVidia GeForce 7600 w/500 Mb Ram
CH Products Stick and Pedals

Flight Test Time:

15 hours

Wildcat & Martlet
This package includes ten aircraft: F4F-3 (3), F4F-4 (3), Martlet I (2) and Martlet IV (2).

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack A
This package includes five aircraft: F4F-3 (2), F4F-4 (1), Martlet I (1), and Martlet IV (1).

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack B
This package includes five aircraft: F4F-3 (1), F4F-4 (2), Martlet I (1), and Martlet IV (1).

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack C
This package includes six aircraft: F4F-3 (1), F4F-4 (1), Martlet I (2) and Martlet IV (2)

This review will cover all ten aircraft.  I do not yet have “Acceleration” loaded, so I will be unable to comment on the Carrier operations of this product.  I would surmise though, from flying this model in FSX SP2 and experiencing no problems, that carrier operations should operate just as smoothly.

Open and run the WildcatandMartlet.exe that you have downloaded, and have the password handy that you have received to unlock the product.  Make sure you read up on the ground rules of requesting new unlock codes and re-downloading of the product.

Choose the path for where  FSX is installed, make your way through the usual “I agree” statements, and load her up!  You’ll find it under “Grumman”, and once you load the model for flight, there will be a few dialog boxes regarding new gauges asking if you want to trust them in the future...agree to all of these requests.  If you’ve been flying in the FSX world for any amount of time, you should now be familiar with this routine.

Now, at this point, it is possible to just “jump in” and fly her off the runway into the great wild blue yonder, like I used to do with most new aircraft, but I have since learned that it pays to take a look, if only a brief one, at the manual that covers the aircraft functions.  In this case it is a 38 page manual in PDF format.  It is not only helpful in the operation of this aircraft, but is loaded with some interesting reading material as well.  One of the reasons I enjoy doing these reviews is that I am able to learn even more about the aircraft that I am reviewing!

A View From The Outside

In the manual, they take you by the hand for a tour of the outside of this old warbird, pointing out the various features and details.  Let’s take our own look and see for ourselves what the developer’s have come up with!  Looking at this aircraft, you can’t help but wonder just what the heck made this old tub of a flying machine to be reckoned with.  I think you could describe it as a rather “beefy” aircraft, not a sleek, trim fighter like a P-51 Mustang, which looks like its going fast while standing still.  The “tubbiness” did not reflect the performance of the Wildcat, however.  The Japanese Zero was still able to out fly this aircraft on a 1v1 basis the majority of the time, until tactics were developed to counter the threat of the Zero.

View ports on the belly…
In the dive!
Tubby, but a Beauty!
The Japanese Zero – a formidable foe

Looks are deceiving in the case of the Wildcat.  Looking at her from the various angles that are available to us, we can see that in fact, for a “Flying Ketchup Bottle” (my nickname for it), she’s got some very smooth lines and is fairly streamlined at that.  A look from the Tail View below shows the Wildcat at a good angle.  With the model itself, there is an absence of that “blocky” appearance that can sometimes be seen in models, especially in the tires or other curved surfaces.  Everything looks very well modeled and has smooth lines as well.  This aircraft model does the F4F and Martlet justice!

Loads of detail…
Fairly streamlined for her size…
Detailed wear and tear on paint…

Variations of the aircraft include models with and without extra fuel tanks.  I did not find a way to “jettison” these tanks however.  Not really an issue as the aircraft has the variation without tanks, reflecting proper fuel and weights as well.  All control surfaces (flaps, rudder, etc.) functioned smoothly and realistically, including all trim tabs.  There is only one flap setting, which is at an angle of 43 degrees.  That does not sound like much but it is plenty for getting her onto the ground or a carrier top.  I found that when taking off, no flaps were required at all.  With a bit of a headwind, the take-off distance is relatively short.  Great performance point for carrier ops.

It impresses me what the developers can do with the “Virtual Paintbrush”!  This product reflects a very talented set of “painters/artists”, creating a model that has high marks in giving you the illusion that you are sitting in the real bird!

The liveries included in this product reflect actual aircraft that flew in WWII, some of which carried their pilots into the history books as Aces.  Details of wear and tear, exhaust, and other minute items add to the realism of this model.  Up close or from a distance, these paint jobs look great, and have excellent attention paid to the smallest of details.  I like to let the screenshots do the most of the talking when it comes to the subject of “how it looks”!  She is a beauty of a model.

British
Invasion Markings
That’s a lot of aircraft!
Great performance at altitude

Animated details include the pilot, who wears the appropriate uniform depending on the aircraft flown.  He is very realistic looking with a great job done on the facial textures as well as the uniforms.  Incredible strides have come with how the virtual pilots look these days.  I contribute it to “patience with polygons” while in development!  The guns firing, as mentioned above functioned smoothly by incorporating the “Smoke” keystroke (set to repeat on slider) onto a joystick button or trigger.  Muzzle flash effects convey the ferocity of the guns, with flash effects not only on the muzzles, but lighting up the wings and fuselage as well!  Other animations such as movement of control surfaces, trim tabs (all) canopy, folding wings on the appropriate models, lifeboat hatch with lifeboat stowed away, and even the knobs and switches in the cockpit all were found to operate very smoothly.

Only one flap setting at 43 degrees
“I see you down there!”
Favored 2 guns per wing configuration
Animated canopy and pilot

Items such as engines (9 cyl vs. 14 cyl) and propeller types (fixed and adjustable), along with subtle differences between the “Wildcat” and the “Martlet” are accurately rendered.  You can really tell that quite a bit of research and development time went into this product.

Excellent details
Life raft stowage
Lighting them up!
Early morning patrol

Panel

The amount of functionality within the cockpit is impressive.  Authentic looking main panels, side panels, knobs, buttons, etc., are all very well made and textured.  The modeling of the main panel and general interior of the cockpit is excellent to look at and operate out of.  For the realistic flying techniques that are called for, you will find that all the proper instruments are in the cockpit, in the proper location, and operational.  There are some switches and levers that operate for realism purposes only, and have no effect in the model.

FSX offers you quite a good amount of interior views to view all instruments, and the developers have taken full advantage of this fact.  The “No Panel” View is reminiscent of Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator.  Clock, Airspeed in Knots, Airspeed in MPH, compass, manifold pressure and oil pressure are the gauges you will see in this view.  I liked the look of this modified panel view, but missed not having an altimeter and climb rate gauge, as well as a bank angle gauge for reference.

All gauges functioned with quick and smooth refresh rates.  Operations of instruments are done by various mouse clicks and mouse wheel.  You are able to tune in VOR’s as well as ADF frequencies on the radio, but I was unable to find the appropriate gauges (VOR/ADF) to navigate by.

Gauges were easily seen without having to zoom in for a closer view in most cases.  Night lighting on the panel looked very nice, subdued enough not to blind you, but bright enough to read the gauges.  Pop-up panels include the radio (looks to be a default FSX rig) and a P8 Compass which is in the Martlet models.  I would like to have seen a pop-up panel for the throttle quadrant included, just for the sake of convenience.  The HUD displays with a lit aiming reticule that can be shut off and turned on.  Especially impressive were the canopy textures and the effects that make the reflections dance upon it.  Quite realistic looking!

After flying these aircraft for a while, I felt quite at home in the cockpit.  It is not a difficult “office” to get used to.  The differences between the Martlet and the Wildcat panels and cockpit layouts are minor, but are rendered nonetheless, staying true to authenticity.  The frame rates while in the Virtual Cockpit were quite acceptable for my system, giving me a very smooth flying experience.  Reading the documentation will give you a heads-up on the layout and functions of everything you need to know.  In all, a beautiful job was done rendering an authentically functioning and looking aircraft interior and panel.

One of many views…
Wildcat Avionics
Wildcat Avionics
Firing Reticule looks real!
Left side cockpit view
Right side cockpit view
Well lit instruments at night
Canopy textures are very realistic

Sounds

The sounds in the package are well mated to the engine and other various aircraft sounds.  The engines have that familiar pop-pop that a radial will make when started, along with the accompanying sounds for all ranges of RPM…from idle to full throttle, the sounds make a very smooth transition.  Gear, control surfaces, such as the flaps, latches, switches, etc.; all ring with a note of reality to top off the sound files.  Sounds for the machine guns are also rendered very well, and quite realistic!

In researching this product, I was not able to find any references to the sound packages, and how they were created.  I am unsure if real F4F sounds were used or not.  I did a quick visit to YouTube to see what they had in the way of the Wright Cyclone Engine video’s, and was able to compare sounds from those video’s to the model.  I found great similarity in the sounds between the actual radial engines and the models.  I have to give a hearty thumb’s up to the sound package across the board for this model.

Airfile

This aircraft certainly is no Corsair or Mustang, but it is nimble and maneuverable for its size and shape. It paved the way for future fighter aircraft development by Grumman, aka “The Iron Works”.  The Wildcat/Martlet is a very hearty aircraft and was built to take a beating, not to be a “Ballerina”.  It’s not an aircraft that can make quick, snap-like moves.  It has a good climb rate and a rather slow roll rate.

In reference to the real world aircraft engines, there were slight performance differences.  For example climb rates varied a few hundred feet per minute, service ceilings were higher depending on the model, as well as top speeds and optimum climb speeds.  In the simulator, you will find that the performance data listed is the same for each of the models, regardless of the engine or variation, but the manual does reference the correct data.  The performance of all variations in this package seemed to be relatively the same.

The model can be trimmed for a more comfortable cruise or a steady climb/descent, but watch out for “over-trimming”, in other words, chasing the Horizon Line.  Slight adjustments to trim and throttle are the key for a nicely controlled flight.  No autopilot is included in this rendition of the F4F; however, within the simulator you can program a keystroke or joystick button for altitude and heading hold.  The AP Master Switch can also be assigned to a key or button.

Long flights in this aircraft are enjoyable as the F4F is fairly stable and easy to fly, even in turbulent weather.  Entering dives, even while throttled back, requires a bit of caution as the weight of the aircraft will get her moving like a locomotive going downhill. It would be wise to be aware of speed and descent angle/rates.  I have read interviews with former pilots of the Wildcat, and have read up on some of the performance specs of the actual aircraft, which are listed within the manual.  The aerodynamics described are represented within this model with a high degree of accuracy.

Nimble for its size
Excellent Views
VC is smooth and easy to fly with

Summary / Closing Remarks

A slight issue with the operation of the attitude indicator has been rectified with an update.  Variations affected were the F4F-4 and the Martlet IV.  While you’re there downloading this update, there is another update that provides you with an installer for weathered textures.  An excellent job was done on these paint jobs as well.  To revert back to the original textures, just run the installer and that’s that. Simple!  Also available is a paint kit for the repainters out there.  There were no known issues in the support forum for this product, which is a very good sign.

Aeroplane Heaven has done a very fine job recreating this World War II fighter aircraft in its early years.  Excellent modeling along with a large selection of variations and liveries makes this a hard product not to own if you are a WWII aircraft fan.  The Wildcat is a model that has not been presented to the simulation world in the same way as say, the P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lighting, or the British Spitfire, just to name a few.  I’m glad to see that this remarkable, history making bird has finally gotten some well deserved attention by the developer community.  I am also impressed with the hand-painted textures that were used inside and out of the aircraft models.  Very “artfully” done, and contributes to that good old “realism” factor that we all seek.

System requirements

•  Flight Simulator X (SP2 and Direct X 10 preview compatible)

•  2.5GHz PC or any Dual Core

•  512Mb RAM

•  256Mb 3D graphics card

•  Windows 7, Vista or XP

•  501Mb hard drive space

Acceleration pack required for correct aircraft carrier operations. The aircraft are fully compatible with FSX Acceleration and can be catapulted and trapped on the included carriers.

Wildcat & Martlet

This package includes ten aircraft: F4F-3 (3), F4F-4 (3), Martlet I (2) & Martlet IV (2).

£25.50 / €31.60 / $38.80

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack A

This package includes five aircraft: F4F-3 (2), F4F-4 (1), Martlet I (1), Martlet IV (1).

£15.30 / €19.35 / $22.45

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack B

This package includes five aircraft: F4F-3 (1), F4F-4 (2), Martlet I (1), Martlet IV (1).

£15.30 / €19.35 / $22.45

Wildcat & Martlet - Pack C

This package includes six aircraft: F4F-3 (1), F4F-4 (1), Martlet I (2) and Martlet IV (2).

£15.30 / €19.35 / $22.45

Here’s a product that is reasonably priced, either as a complete collection, or just a specific “Pack” that applies to your interests.  It is also a model that can appeal to both the experienced simmer and the novice, as the aircraft is an overall easy one to fly, but you still must be aware of those little “things” that make for the realistic touch (i.e. ground looping).

This model has prompted me (an old FS9 diehard fan), to go out and get the “Acceleration” Expansion for FSX to try this bird on the decks of some carriers!  I look forward to keeping this model in the “hanger” for quite a while.

 

What I Like About Wildcat and Martlet

  • Ease of download and installation.
  • Good frame rates.
  • Aerodynamics of all model variations have a very realistic feel to them.
  • Textures, to include propeller, exterior liveries, and interior cockpit and panels, all beautifully done and “hand-created”.
  • Excellent choice of aircraft liveries to cover majority of campaigns aircraft was involved in.
  • Top-notch attention to details, from aerodynamics to pilot’s uniforms.
  • Landing gear that can take a beating…good for the novice military prop flyer.

 

What I Don't Like About Wildcat and Martlet

  • Radio (default) has VOR/ADF capabilities, but…
  • …there is apparently no VOR or ADF gauges for navigational purposes.

 

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Wildcat and MArtlet

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