The Grumman F4F Wildcat was an American carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy (as the Martlet) in 1940. First used in combat by the British in Europe, the Wildcat was the only effective fighter available to the United States Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during the early part of World War II in 1941 and 1942.
With a top speed of 318 mph (512 km/h), the Wildcat was outperformed by the faster and more nimble 331 mph (533 km/h) Mitsubishi Zero, but its ruggedness, coupled with tactics such as the Thach Weave, resulted in an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 5.9:1 in 1942 and 6.9:1 for the entire war.
Lessons learned from the Wildcat were applied to the faster F6F Hellcat which could outperform the Zero on its own terms. The Wildcat continued to be built throughout the remainder of the war to serve on escort carriers, where larger and heavier fighters could not be used.
Source: Wikipedia, "Grumman F4F Wildcat", available under the CC-BY-SA License.
As Described In
Aces of the Pacific: The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat served as the standard carrier fighter for the USN until mid-1942. Its greatest asset was the strength of its airframe, but it could not turn or climb with a Zero. The F4F-4 was not a significant improvement on the -3. It carried less ammunition, had a shorter range and a lower climb rate. It did possess folding wings, which allowed more to be deployed on each carrier.
1942 Pacific Air War: The F4F is a squat, ugly, tough bird. It’s not as maneuverable as the Zeros, but it can take a lot more punishment. She’s got some heavy firepower, too. Her flying stability is pretty good, and the roll rate is fast. Even with the right pilot behind the stick, though, a Wildcat is often not a match for a Zero. Take them on in teams only, never one-on-one.