The F4F Wildcat was a formidable fighter bomber entering service during world war ii. In air combat early on against Japanese naval pilots, the Wildcat fared poorly. While it was better armored, could absorb a lot of firepower and still fly, it was also considerably slower than the Mitsubishi AGM Zero. The Zero sacrificed armament for speed. Any round from an American plane would rip through a Japanese Zero. Air warfare favors the aggressive and the bold and those that perform. Japan had been training pilots and maintaining a military stance for years before Pearl Harbor. Dare we say their pilots were far more experienced than ours?
The Japanese Zero easily out-climbed the Wildcats and Japanese pilots led inexperienced US Navy pilots into vertical chases. The Zero could climb straight up for a good distance. The Wildcats couldn’t keep pace and eventually bled off speed chasing the Zero and stalled. As the Wildcat pilot tried to regain control of his plane, the Zero turned around and finished him off. The Wildcat pilots were decimated in early fighting.
Grumman was already planning for a replacement for the Wildcat and had the skeleton of he upcoming F6F hellcat on the drawing boards.
The F6F Hellcat rolled off the assembly lines in the end of 1942. We built over 12,000 Hellcats and they accounted for over 5200 planes shot down mostly in the Pacific theater.