Grumman F6F Hellcat
1942
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Grumman F6F Hellcat

It is probably true to say that the Hellcat was designed in the spring of 1942, as important changes to the XF6F-1 and XF6F-2 prototypes led to the XF6F-3, which flew for the first time on 26 June 1942 (sometimes stated to be August). Large-scale production of the F6F-3 began at the end of that year and the Hellcat was first reported in action with a US Carrier Task Force in an attack on Marcus Island on 1 September 1943, flying from USS Yorktown.

The F6F-5 differed from its predecessor by having a redesigned engine cowling, improved windshield, new ailerons, strengthened tail surfaces, additional armour behind the pilot and a waxed high-gloss skin finish. It could also carry two 454kg bombs under the centre-section or drop-tanks, and was equipped to carry rocket projectiles and search radar as the F6F-5E. Night-fighter (F6F-5N) and photographic-reconnaissance (F6F-5P) versions were also in service.

The F6F-5K was a long-range radio-controlled pilotless drone conversion of the Hellcat. The modification was undertaken by the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit at Johnsville. Several were used in the Bikini operations.

The F6F-5 was the last operational version of the Hellcat, which was finally withdrawn from production in November 1945. The 10,000th Hellcat was delivered to the US Navy in March 1945 and final production amounted to 12,275. Interestingly the Hellcat was the only US aircraft designed and built after Pearl Harbor to be produced in this quantity and proved one of the most significant fighters flown in World War II, achieving a major victory against the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. It was also flown by the Royal Navy as the Hellcat I and II.

F6F-5 Hellcat


Specification 
 MODELF6F-5
 CREW1
 ENGINE1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp, 1491kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight6991 kg15413 lb
    Empty weight4152 kg9154 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan13.06 m43 ft 10 in
    Length10.24 m34 ft 7 in
    Height4.11 m14 ft 6 in
    Wing area31.03 m2334.00 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed612 km/h380 mph
    Cruise speed270 km/h168 mph
    Ceiling11370 m37300 ft
    Range w/max.fuel2462 km1530 miles
 ARMAMENT6 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 2 x 454kg bombs or 6 x 127mm missiles

3-View 
F6F-5 HellcatA three-view drawing of F6F-5 Hellcat (1280 x 874)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
ron, 24.07.2017

If the F6F-5N had the 20mm Hispano Mk II cannon which was improved by the RAF, it was acceptible. If it was just the 20mm Hispano M2 from the USAAF, then it was rejected by the USN for fighters. I concur. The M2 misfired due to a 2cm gap in striking the cartridge. The RAF Mk II version fixed this for the Spitfire, the USAAF would not; not until the 1950s with the M39!
The 20mm Hispano M2, then the M3, then the M24, same problem. Stubborn USAAF Ordinance Dept through 2 wars, that's all!
The RAF had patience but that ran out in 1942. They wanted the US to help supply them Hispano cannons as good as theirs. Not a prayer!

Ron, 07.10.2015

Gary,
The F6F-6 prototype may have gone 417 mph but it's climb was only 3,070 fpm, putting it between the -3 and -5!
I was surprised.
Perhaps they were wise to go with the F8F.
I would have put off the fancy wingtips till later to get the Bearcat into action faster.

The F6F-6 still had no rear view canopy! Most Japanese fighters had it from the start!
If it had the F8F canopy I might favor the F6F-6 to relieve the -5 before the end of WW2.

I like the firepower upgrade too. But I would exchange the M2 Hispano (and even the postwar M3) for the much superior MkII and then MkV Hispano of the RAF! That goes for all US Hispano armed fighters like the F6F-5N, P-38, A-36, and F4U-1C and so on.

The razorback canopy and the unreliable US version of the Hispano 20mm cannon were crying out for upgrade more so than the overdue power improvement for awhile already.
The US Hispano story is an embarassment.

Ron, 07.10.2015

I just recently learned that the survivability of the F6F was far better than the F4U. The unprotected oil tank on the F4U-1 to -4 was toast with a rifle hit!
For this reason, the F6F had a 30% better durability.
I used to think the Corsair was tough, which it was but for that achilles heel.
The losses bear this out, especially on ground support missions. This was not lost on the Japanese like it was on the US brass. This was remedied postwar.
I have newfound respect for the Hellcat.
It doesn't have the vulnerability of the P-47's boost plumbing either. So the F6F may be the best protected US fighter!
Pilots never referred to it as 2 lbs stuffed into a 1 lb bag like P-47N pilots did about their fighter.

OK, so the Grumman was slower but in the Pacific it was fast enough.
Being a solid all-around fighter paid dividends.

Don't forget it gave a good account of itself against the Luftwaffe in limited action too.

Ron Kron, 02.04.2015

For George Townsend : And the takeoff trim was 0-0-3R.Great a/c, fun and forgiving. Cabaniss and Barin Fields 1953.

GARY BEDINGER, 01.04.2015

GRUMMAN CAME UP WITH A WINNER BACK IN 1942 WHEN THE "HELLCAT" WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE U.S. NAVY IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC DURING WW2.THE "HELLCAT" FLEW AT 380mph AND THE "HELLCAT" COULD CARRY A BOMB LOAD OF 2,000lbs.MTHE U.S. NAVY PILOTS WHO FLEW THE "HELLCAT" LANDED ON THE DECKS OF U.S.NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ALIVE WHILE FLYING THE F6F "HELLCAT".THERE WAS A HANDFUL, I MEAN A HANDFUL OF F6F "HELLCATS" WHICH COULD FLY AT 400mph BUT THESE "HELLCATS" WERE IN THE TESTING STAGE.WW2 WAS OVER WHEN THE 400mph "HELLCAT" FLEW.THIS WAS THE F6F-6

GARY BEDINGER, 01.04.2015

GRUMMAN CAME UP WITH A WINNER BACK IN 1942 WHEN THE "HELLCAT" WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE U.S. NAVY IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC DURING WW2.THE "HELLCAT" FLEW AT 380mph AND THE "HELLCAT" COULD CARRY A BOMB LOAD OF 2,000lbs.MTHE U.S. NAVY PILOTS WHO FLEW THE "HELLCAT" LANDED ON THE DECKS OF U.S.NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ALIVE WHILE FLYING THE F6F "HELLCAT".THERE WAS A HANDFUL, I MEAN A HANDFUL OF F6F "HELLCATS" WHICH COULD FLY AT 400mph BUT THESE "HELLCATS" WERE IN THE TESTING STAGE.WW2 WAS OVER WHEN THE 400mph "HELLCAT" FLEW.THIS WAS THE F6F-6

Ron, 17.05.2014

I would like to hear more about the 2x20 mm, 4x12.5 mm armed F6F. I believe some -5N night fighters at least had that mix.

That reminds me of the A6M5c and A6M7s with roughly equal firepower (many A6M7s were night fighters too).

While the Hispano 20 mm cannons were classed as unreliable by the USN, suplementing them with 4 HMGs seems prudent (in contrast to the 4 Hispanos on the F4U-1C or -4B).

The Hellcat thus would be more likely to jam than the slower Mk4 and faster Mk5 cannons on these A6Ms but they only have 3x13.2 mm MGs vs the 4x12.5 mm MGs for this version of Hellcat.

Of course this is the not to say these are comparable in any other way except maybe in the dark.

Dick Ryan, 08.02.2014

I'm a volunteer at the Yanks Air Museum,Chino,Ca. One of our ongoing restoration projects is an F6F-3 Hellcat. We have a set of alleged -3 wings but the undersides have a difference. One has a series of long, horizontal access panels over the flap actuating rod/assy. The other has a series of smaller(about4x5) access plates. We are trying to determine which is the newer or visa versa. If you can help, contact me at aeroman2@verizon.net.

George Powell, Capt. USN ret, 28.12.2013

Flew the Hellcat during advanced training, circa 1954. Favorite memories: Blowing a jug while flying formation over Corpus Christi Bay and chasing cattle across the King Ranch.

Bob, 19.11.2013

My dad worked as a mechanic on the carrier USS Marcus Island, and he said the Hellcat was terrific. He also said while the Corsair was a real screamer, it was a plumbers nightmare to work on. Hydraulic back ups for everything.

Harold Haskins Capt. USMCR Re, 30.10.2013

Flew this marvelous A/C in ATU-300, Corpus Christi, Tex.
Spring-Summer 1954 . Returned to Pensacola Fla. Carrier
qualified in the Hellcat in early July 1954 .

Ron, 24.04.2013

Hey Steve,
That's a myth.
Sounds good but ... not factual.
Many believe the F6F was designed after capturing a Zero anyway and keep publishing this myth. As the text at the top states, the Hellcat was in the air by June 1942 already.
What matters is that it delivered the same effective combat results as if that myth was true. So chalk it up to poetic license. Quite a work horse wasn't it!

willis E. Vanderberg, 01.03.2013

Just for the record, we had F4U-5N'S aboard the USS Salerno Bay CVE 108 in the early fifties. This was the smallest carrier class built. If the Corsair was so dangerous on carriers we never saw it in our experience.

Chuck, 10.11.2012

My Father became an ACE while flying the F6F-3, station aboard the USS Wasp CV-18. He was in VF-14 "the Iron Angels" and is a plank owner of the Wasp.

Naga, 14.07.2012

My great grandad had an affinity for this plane. While stationed on Iwo Jima, his line was attacked by a Mitsubishi G4M. The commanding officer told his men to stay in their foxholes, but when a pair of Hellcats teamed up and brought down the Betty, they got up and cheered, with their officer yelling at them to get back in their d*** foxholes.

David Bonnot, 22.06.2012

Stationed at Point Mugu, Ca. 1956/1957 we use the f6f for drones and fired sparrow missles at them. The drones were painted bright red and controlled from another aircraft. Probably in over the year I was at Point Mugu a hundred were distroyed in flight. On one flight, the sparrow missles both missed and the drone lost radio control operation. Heading for downtown Los Angles, the air force was called in with f89 interseptor aircraft. After firing a large number of rockets the f6f finally gave up by running out of fuel and crashing.

Gene L oveland, 03.06.2012

Flew the 1o,ooo Hellcat we received on board the Ticnderoga on two occasions.The cockpit had notes and telephone numbers of every girl who worked on it.I did not follow up. All the The F6's we flew were just great and gave you a feelig of confidence that you were flying the very besy.

George Townsend, 08.05.2012

The F6F Was the Navy Advanced Trainer in Feb 1954 When I graduated at Pensacola. I did my final CARQUAL in The F6F-5.Wonderful airplane. R2800 PW. I loggged about 100 hrs.T/O 54in MP and 2660 RPM. I still remember.

Steve Gorek, 18.02.2012

Don't know if this is true but I believe I read the F6F was the only plane in history designed to combat another aircraft, The Zero. Has anyone ever read this?

Rich, 17.02.2012

Controversy has swirled concerning whether the Grumman F6F Hellcat or the Chance Vought F4U Corsair was the best US Navy fighter of WW II. And, some of that is occurring above. You must know some engineering and considerable history to accurately describe the relationship. I happen to love both fighters.

You will notice, if you check, that radial engines produced much less horsepower only a few years before. Technology advances at the beginning of the war were beginning to promise some amazingly powerful engines. Very powerful engines could only be exploited with large diameter propellers. Grumman and Chance Vought approached this problem very differently. The Corsair came along earlier. To keep the larger prop away from the ground or deck, it was designed with an inverted-gull wing to allow shorter, stouter landing gear for the rigors of carrier landings. Center-of-gravity considerations moved the cockpit further aft. The unfortunate byproduct of this design was that the very long and large nose and the rearward positioning of the pilot caused the carrier deck to be hidden in the last seconds of landing. For a confident, experienced pilot, this was tolerable. But, for inexperienced pilots, the Corsair was a 'killer'.

The Hellcat, on the other hand, put the pilot forward and 'beefed up' the taller landing gear to withstand carrier landings. The Hellcat didn't challenge the inexperienced pilot's abilities. When the Hellcat became available and was deployed, the Corsairs were reassigned to land bases with some Navy but mostly Marine squadrons where landing on airstrips with wide, long runways was the rule and little problem.

Before you think that I'm defending the Hellcat, the Corsair actually had slightly better performance and maneuverability. The Japanese called the Corsair 'Whistling Death' because the oil-cooler intakes in the wing-roots made a distinctive whine during a dive.

Regards, Rich...

1-20 21-40 41-60

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