General Motors FM2 Wildcat
The only effective U.S. Navy fighter early in the war, the Grumman F4F Wildcat was out-performed by the Japanese Zero. Creative air-to-air combat techniques and training turned the advantage to the Wildcat when in multiple-aircraft dogfights.
The Wildcat’s rugged construction and America’s better-trained pilots kept the advantage, with a reported kill ratio of nearly 7 enemy aircraft shot down for each Wildcat.
The F6F Hellcat replaced the F4F on larger aircraft carriers, but the compact F4F continued in production for use on smaller aircraft carriers. Grumman’s system of folding wings enabled more Wildcats to be stored in the confined space of an aircraft carrier than other contemporary Navy fighters.
After Grumman stopped producing Wildcats in 1943, General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division built them as the FM-1 and FM-2. The FM-2 had four .50-caliber machine guns, versus six on the F4F; it also had a taller vertical stabilizer and split flaps. Of the 7,825 Wildcats manufactured, 5,837 were FM’s.