From The Archives: Fighter Planes Defend The Home Front

The evolution of battle technology

Popular Science archives, F4F-3 fighter planes, WWII

February 1941

Popular Science

In early 1941, the United States had yet to enter into World War II, but weapons and warplanes were already a topic of national interest. One of those planes was the F4F-3 Wildcat, which the Naval Air Force deployed to monitor the coasts. The fighter, which graced the February 1941 cover of Popular Science, could drop 100-pound bombs while flying at speeds greater than 250 mph. As we wrote then, "Perhaps our patrol bombers and flying fortresses can't send capital ships with heavy deck armor to the bottom, but they can certainly send them to dry dock, back where they came from." Aviation technology has advanced significantly in the 70 years since World War II, and it stands to change even more. Future air battles will likely be fought by unmanned craft carrying much heavier artillery. Read about the weaponry, airborne and otherwise, being developed for new global conflicts here.

Aerial Faceoff

F-35A CTOL (2015) F4F-3 (1941)
Top Speed: 1,200 mph 328 mph
Top Altitude: 50,000 feet 37,500 feet
Weapons: 18,000 lb. total payload, including laser- and GPS-guided bombs and air-to-air missiles Four .50-inch machine guns and two 100-pound bombs
Weight: 70,000 lb. 8,152 lb.
Cost Per Plane: $108 million $30,000

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title "Fighter Planes Defend The Home Front."