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Produced in the mid to late 1930s the F3F-1 as well as the 2 and 3 variants belonged to what probably was the most colorful era in US military aviation history. Grumman took all the lessons learned from the F2F and incorporated them into the F3F. The Flying Barrel, as it was commonly called, had a wide fuselage to accommodate the large radial engine and a three-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. The plane had improved retractable landing gear, longer fuselage. The last F3F was retired by the USN in November 1943.
The US Navy took possession of the first of fifty-four F3F-1 aircraft in January 1936. They were dispersed between the fighter squadrons aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3) and the USS Ranger (CV-4). One of the Saratoga squadrons was VF-3 whose XO was the famous Jimmy Thach and well-known pilot Butch O’Hare who the Chicago Airport is named after. By late 1936 the more powerful F3F-2 was making its appearance and a year later the F3F-3 arrived. As the newer variants arrived the F3F-1 was assigned training duty.