Hellcat file photo

F6F Hellcat

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerGrumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation
Primary RoleFighter
Maiden Flight26 June 1942

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The F6F Hellcat design started development as a upgraded version of the F4F Wildcat design, but by the time a final design was completed it had became a completely different breed altogether, not even sharing any parts with her predecessor. F6F Hellcat fighters were designed to be produced efficiently, and additional features such as heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks were installed to provide additional safety to the pilots. The first of these carrier fighters took flight on 26 Jun 1942 and the first combat-ready squadron was deployed aboard USS Essex in Mar 1943. They first saw action against the Japanese six months later when F6F Hellcat fighters of USS Independence attacked and shot down a Japanese seaplane. On 23 Nov 1943, F6F Hellcat fighters engaged Japanese Zero fighters over Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands and scored 30 kills at the loss of only one. Repeated overwhelming victories hinted that the United States had finally produced a fighter design that not only matched but exceeded that capabilities of the feared Zero. By the end of the war, they participated in nearly every engagement in the Pacific since their introduction in 1943 and achieved a kill:loss ratio of 19:1.

US Navy Ensign George Orner, a F6F Hellcat fighter pilot aboard USS Franklin, recalled his liking for his fighter.

The Hellcat was a terrific airplane and very effective fighter. It was positively a piece of cake to fly; just a dream.... The difference between the F4F [Wildcat] and the F6F was night and day. We had more range, more speed, more power... more everything.

US Navy Ensign Byron Robinson, an aircraft maintenance officer also of USS Franklin, also shared similar fond memories of F6F Hellcat fighters. "I dearly loved the F6F", he said, "I could keep almost ninety percent of those aircraft in the air. It was very simple airplane to maintain because there was little [in the] way of a hydraulic system." The simplicity in design was a reflection of Roy Grumman's motto "build it strong, keep it simple, and make it work."

1,264 F6F Hellcat fighters were also sent to the British Fleet Air Arm under the Lend-Lease Act. The British initially called them Gannet fighters, but by early 1944 the designation of Hellcat was unified across Allied command. Under British command, the F6F Hellcat fighters saw action off Norway, in the Mediterranean, and in the Indian Ocean. The British F6F Hellcat fighters did not achieve as great a kill:loss ratio as their American cousins, but they were still considered great carrier fighters by British pilots.

In addition to the F6F Hellcat standard fighter variants, a night fighter variant and a photo reconnaissance variant were also produced. The 12,272th and last F6F Hellcat fighter was completed in Nov 1945. The stunningly high number of aircraft built was also attributed to the purposeful simplicity in the design.

Sources: Inferno, Wikipedia.

F6F Hellcat Timeline

26 Jun 1942 The Grumman XF6F-3 Hellcat prototype made its maiden flight. It went on to be, arguably, the most significant Allied carrier fighter of the war.
31 Aug 1943 The first combat mission of the US Navy's latest fighter aircraft occurred when F6F-3 Hellcat fighters of VF-5 operating from the carrier USS Yorktown assisted in an attack on Japanese installations on Marcus Island. This was a mere eighteen months after the prototype's first flight. Altogether some 2,545 examples of the F6F-3 aircraft were delivered during 1943.
5 Oct 1943 Ensign Robert W. Duncan of US Navy Squadron VF-5 became the first F6F Hellcat fighter pilot to shoot down two Japanese Zero fighters in a single engagement.

SPECIFICATIONS

F6F-3
MachineryPratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp 18-cylinder two-row radial engine rated at 2,200hp
Armament6x0.5in Browning M2 machine guns, optional six rockets under wings, optional 2,000lb of bombs
Crew1
Span13.06 m
Length10.24 m
Height3.99 m
Wing Area31.00 m
Weight, Empty4,101 kg
Weight, Loaded5,528 kg
Weight, Maximum6,000 kg
Speed, Maximum605 km/h
Rate of Climb17.80 m/s
Service Ceiling11,430 m
Range, Normal1,755 km

F6F-5
MachineryOne Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W 'Double Wasp' two-row radial engine with two-speed two-stage supercharger, rated at 2,000hp
Armament6x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns or 2x20mm cannon, 4x12.7mm M2 Browning machine guns, optional 6x127mm HVAR or 2x298mm Tiny Tim rockets, optional 1,800kg ordnance
Crew1
Span13.06 m
Length10.24 m
Height3.99 m
Wing Area31.00 m
Weight, Empty4,190 kg
Weight, Loaded5,714 kg
Weight, Maximum6,990 kg
Rate of Climb17.80 m/s
Service Ceiling11,370 m
Range, Normal1,520 km
Range, Maximum2,460 km

Photographs

F6F Hellcat fighters going through launch procedures aboard the carrier Saratoga, off Gilbert Islands, early 1943.F6F-3 Hellcat fighters on the flight deck of Saratoga as a TBM Avenger approached to land, circa 1943-44F6F-3 Hellcat of Navy Fighting Squadron 33 after dropping into a bomb crater at the Barakoma airstrip, Vella Lavella, Solomons, late 1943. Fighting 33 was one of the few land based fighter squadrons, a role later taken up by Marine squadrons.WAVES Specialist (T) 3rd Class Dorothy Knee and Specialist (T) Genevieve Close directing air traffic at Naval Air Station, Anacostia, District of Columbia, United States, in early or mid-1943
See all 110 photographs of F6F Hellcat Fighter



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Alan Chanter says:
    28 Oct 2007 01:09:57 AM

    In total 1,177 Hellcats reached the Royal Navy. These were 252 F6F-3s(known as Hellcat Mk.1) 849 F6F-5s and 76 F6F-5Ns (known as Hellcat Mk.11). Some of the latter were modified by Blackburn Aircraft and a limited air-to-ground capability, whilst others had cameras fitted for the photo-reconnaissance role.
  2. Dan Phantom says:
    22 May 2009 04:46:33 PM

    at least to me, it seems like as the war progressed, the Germans had the best tanks, the British had the best tank destroyers, and we had the best planes.

    Course, the Soviets and the Japanese held those titles in the early days of the war.
  3. Bill says:
    22 Jul 2010 11:05:05 AM

    Information about Hellcat file photo:

    Fine wartime photo of a F6F-3 as it appeared in 1943. Grumman buit 12,000 Hellcats between 1942 to 1945.

    "The Zero Killer"

    The US Navy used the Leader and Wingman team a pair of Hellcats would use this tactic in
    fighting the Zero.
    By 1944 the Zero was obsolete, but in the
    hands of a skilled and veteran pilot it was
    still a dangerous fighter.
    The replacement pilots were undertrained and
    were no match against the highly trained
    Americans.

    The Hellcat was armed w/ six fifty caliber
    machine guns, and a two second burst from
    those six .50's fired 130 rounds,the lightly
    built japanese aircraft could not absorb that
    firepower.
    The Hellcat was also a nightfighter armed
    w/ six fifty caliber machine guns, or four
    20mm cannons and carried onboard radar it
    was in service by 1944 and over 200 were
    supplied.

    During the Pacific War, the Hellcat ran up
    a 19 to 1 kill ratio destroying 5,000 enemy
    aircraft.
    To keep up demands for pilots, the US Navy
    was training 10,000 pilots a year, and Japan could never keep up with training replacement
    pilots.

    After World War II the Navy continued to use
    the Hellcat for training however, it was phased out of service and served with Naval
    reserve units into the 1950's

    Japan could never hope to win against the
    industrial might of the United States.
    In 1943 the Japanese produced 7.8 million tons of military equipment.
    The United States produced 90 million tons
    of military equipment. One complete escort
    carrier was built every 70 days!

    By 1944 the US Navy had more aircraft,pilots
    and carriers,than the Japanese could scrape
    together. The Japanese were short of planes,
    pilots and the carriers.
  4. Bill says:
    27 Jul 2010 01:07:15 PM

    The Grumman F6F Hellcat destroyed Japanese
    airpower, both the Navy and Marine fighter
    squadrons shot down 5,200 Japanese aircraft.
    306 fighter pilots became aces flying the Hellcat.

    Did you know...

    Its a myth that the Hellcat was designed to
    combat the Zero in fact,the Navy and Grumman
    new nothing about the Zero,when the Hellcat was on the drawing boards in 1941.
    The prototype didn't fly until after the
    Battle of Midway, June 1942. The Navy and
    Grumman did receive information about the
    Zero found in the Aleutians and added this into its flight testing program.

    The Hellcat was armed with six fifty caliber
    machine guns, same as the F4F Wildcat, but had more range,was faster was able to carry bombs and rockets for close air support.

    New Navy pilots with 300 hours flying time
    found the Hellcat easy to fly. The fighter was also used as a nightfighter and photo- recon aircraft. 12,000 Hellcats were buit from one factory, the Grumman Iron Works at
    Long Island.
    After World War II, the Navy continued to use
    the Hellcat However, it was phased out of
    front line service, and passed on to Naval
    reserve squadrons where it served until the
    early 1950's.

    Many F6F Hellcats survive today in museums
    or in private aircraft collections, many have
    been restored to flying condition.
    The F6F Hellcat was also used by the French,
    and British.
    In British service the Hellcat proved to be
    a match for the Bf 109 and Fw 190.
    Uruguay used the Hellcat until the 1960's it
    was the last Military operator.

    The F6F Hellcat ended its service life, as a
    target-drone.
  5. Armand says:
    16 Aug 2012 04:47:55 PM

    After WW2 many F6F's were donated to towns for use as a memorial. Our local airport had one until the airport manager dug a hole and buried it. I believe it is still there.
  6. Bill says:
    12 May 2013 09:54:14 AM

    TWILIGHT OF THE CAT:

    After WWII F6F Hellcats served for a few years with carrier groups. Later they were passed on to Naval Reserve Units, others were kept in storage or issued to operational training units, used as instructional airframes or converted into target drones. Survivors were passed on to friendly countries in South America.
    The last US Navy Hellcat flown by a military pilot was in 1961 and retired from active service
    others were still used as target drones.
    Today surviving F6F Hellcats are in museums or in private collections.
  7. David Etchell says:
    21 Jan 2014 02:57:29 PM

    Hi I was wondering if Armand could contact me

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F6F Hellcat fighters going through launch procedures aboard the carrier Saratoga, off Gilbert Islands, early 1943.
See all 110 photographs of F6F Hellcat Fighter



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