Fighter Defense

The Thach Weave

"Fight as a team and you'll live longer," Lieutenant Commander J.S. "Jimmy" Thach told his men in 1942, after it became clear that the U.S. Navy's F4F Wildcat was no match for the Japanese Zero in single combat. One day while discussing the problem with other pilots Thach pushed matchsticks (representing aircraft) around on a tabletop until he came up with a workable solution. His solution was to fight in pairs, using the ingenious weaving tactic (above) that he devised.

The F4Fs would fly parallel courses until attacked, then bank steeply inward. "The quick turn toward each other does two things to the enemy pilot," Thach explained. "It throws off his aim and, because he usually tries to follow his target, it leads him around into a position to be shot by the other member of our team." Convinced by the results, the Navy made the "Thach weave" standard practice and ordered its originator to teach the tactic to other fighter pilots. This manuever was also adapted by the the U.S. Army Air Forces, the British RAF, and the Soviet Air Force.

TheWeave.JPG (69986 bytes)

Two Wildcats side by side initiate a Thach weave as a Zero attacks from behind. Here a kill is scored on the second turn.

(Source: The Carrier War, Time-Life Books)