Grumman F6F Hellcat

Responsible for the destruction of just under 5,000 Japanese aircraft, Grumman's F6F was started as a replacement for the company's F4F Wildcat well before Pearl Harbor. The Hellcat was clearly a Wildcat descendant, although it was a much more powerful aircraft, with a lowered wing and wing-mounted landing gear.

A definitive powerplant was no specified early on, with four engines being considered:

XF6F-1: R-2600-10. First flown in June 1942.

XF6F-2: R-2600-16

XF6F-3: R-2800-10. First flown July 1942.

XF6F-4: R-2800-27

The XF6F-3 was chosen to be the basis for production Hellcats, the first of these, with Hamilton Standard propellers and revised main gear fairings, began arriving in October 1942. VF-9 would be the first operational user, taking the Hellcat to sea in early 1943 aboard the USS Essex. The arrival of both the F6F and the CV-9 class carriers in 1943 represented a turning point of sorts in the Pacific War, as despite the successes at Coral Sea and Midway, US forces were still reliant on the prewar-designed F4F and the surviving 1920s and 1930s-vintage carriers. New aircraft and ships, both coming on line in large numbers, gave the USN an increasing advantage in both technology and quantity, while the japanese were finding it hard if not impossible to keep up with their losses. Four Hellcat squadrons, from Essex, Yorktown, and Independence conducted the first F6F combat missions on 31 August 1943, hitting Japanese bases in the Marcus Islands.

F6F-5: Reinforced tail and a new cowling design.

France's Aeronavale received 139 F6F-5/5Ns from US surplus stocks in 1950-53, with the type seeing combat against the Viet Minh in Indochina. Hellcats remained in French service for some time after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, with the final aircraft not being retired until 1960.

Book Review: Richard S. Dann "Walk Around Number 9: F6F Hellcat" 

I've long been a fan of Rich Dann's books on naval aircraft types, and this volume is no exception, mixing coverage of both restored aircraft and vintage Grumman photography. There are numerous useful tidbits, including scrap drawings showing the differences between the early and late bomb racks used on Hellcats, shots showing how the drop tank was fitted, gun and rocket installations, a good image of the F6F-3E's APS-4 radar pod, and much more.

Color profiles include aircraft from VF-5, VF-6, VF-27, VF-83, VMF(N)-533, No.804 Squadron, French Aeronavale, and an Operation Crossroads drone.

Hellcat Bibliography: "Grumman Hellcat"  Flight November 18, 1943  p.556

Picture: Retrieving sampler boxes from F6F drone after Bikini A-Bomb test  Naval Aviation News  October 1946  p.16
"Carrier photo Recco"  Naval Aviation News  November 1946  Includes several photos of Hellcats.

"Navy uses obsolete F6F drones"  Aviation Week  September 29, 1952  p.17

"This Hellcat had many lives"  Naval Aviation News September 1962  p.27  Retirement of F6F-5K BuNo 77722, the last Hellcat drone.

Sam Whitney  "Jolly Rogers Hellcat"  Scale Modeler  August 1980. diorama using the Hasegawa 1/32 F6F-3 to depict an aircraft of VF-17 aboard USS Hornet.

Scale Models - Warplane Special, 1982   Hellcat 1/72 scale drawings with cross sections, undercarriage drawings & photos

Ken Brill  "McCampbell's Cat"  Scale Modeler  April 1982  Building the 1/48 scale Monogram kit as Lt. Commander David McCampbell's aircraft. Includes color profiles of an F6F-3 in GSB aboard USS Princeton, F6F-3 of VMF-222, F6F-3 from VF-15.

Flugzeug 1/1990   photo: side-view of XF6F-3 BuNo 8962

Photo: F6F-3 BuNo 08825 / N4965V  Warbirds International Jan/Feb 2000 p.54-55

Mike Ashey  "Detailing Minsi II"  FineScale Modeler  February 2005. Building the 1/32 scale Hasegawa F6F.

"Hellcat given FAA markings"   Aeroplane May 2005 p.9   F6F-3 N30FG/BuNo 41930

AIR Modeller April/May 2011  preview of the F6F-3/5 in 1/72 from Italeri  p.54

"That Hellcat Grin"  Review of Eduard's 1/72 scale F6F-3 kit. Military Illustrated Modeller November 2011 p.40-41


Peter M. Bowers WWII Scale Aircraft Drawings   p.64-69  Two pages of F6F general arrangement drawings, plus two pages of plans with cross sections and structural details.

Phil Butler Air Arsenal North America: Aircraft for the Allies 1938-1945 - Purchases and Lend-Lease  p.212-213 Royal Navy Hellcats, including aircraft aboard HMS Ocean, and a 1950s shot.

David Mondey The Hamlyn Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II  p.141-145 color profiles include F6F-5s of the Aeronavale and Uruguayan Navy, FAA Hellcat Mk.I, USN Reserve F6F-5; large color 3-view

W. Wayne Patton Aces 3, Squadron/Signal Publications 2004   p.55 color profile of a VF-11 F6F-5 flown by Charles Stimpson.

Al Adcock On Deck: USS Lexington (CV-16)  Squadron/Signal Publications 2002  p.72 color profile of a VF-16 F6F-3

Robert Lawson, Barrett Tillman Carrier Air War in Original WWII Color p.173 color photo of F6F-3K drones destined for use in the Crossroads test at Bikini Atoll

David Donald editor   American Airplanes of World War II  ISBN 0-7607-2274-9  p.138-139: F6F-5 cutaway

       US Naval Aviation

F-14 Tomcat         F4U Corsair

Grumman Biplane Fighters

Aircraft Walk Arounds and other References

A massive 50cc R/C F6F-5 model - extensive photo coverage of this big Hellcat taking shape

Build article on the 1/48 Hasegawa Hellcat

F6F-5 Hellcat, from the Naval Historical Center (PDF format)

F6F-5 cockpit photo

Walk around pictures of the NMNA's Hellcat

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