F6F HELLCAT

1943

Plane facts


GRUMMAN F6F-3 HELLCAT SPECIFICATIONS

Wingspan: 41 ft. 10 in.


Length: 33 ft. 7 in.

Height: 13 ft. 1 in.

Empty Weight: 9,023 lbs

Gross Weight: 13,221 lbs

Top Speed: 391 mph

Service Ceiling: 39,400 ft.

Range: 1,850 miles

Engine/Horsepower: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800/2000

Crew: 1

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Design

Having begun production of the f4f wildcat fighter, Grumman began to work on an aircraft before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In creating the new fighter, Leroy Grumman and his chief engineers, Leon Swirbul and Bill Schwendler, sought to improve upon their previous creation by designing an aircraft which was more powerful with better performance. The result was a preliminary design for an entirely new aircraft rather than an enlarged F4F. When the U.S. Entered the war in December 1941, Grumman began utilizing data from the f4fs early combats. By assessing the wildcats performance against the a6m zero Grumman was able to design the new aircraft to better encounter the Japanese fighter. The initial prototype, designated XF6F-1, was intended to be powered by the Wright R-2600 Cyclone (1,700 hp), however information from testing and the Pacific led it be given the more powerful 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp.

Production

Moving into production with the F6F-3 in late 1942, Grumman quickly showed that the new fighter was easy to build. Employing around 20,000 workers, Grumman's plants began to produce Hellcats at a rapid rate. When Hellcat production ended in November 1945, a total of 12,275 F6Fs had been built. During the course of production, a new variant, the F6F-5, was developed. This possessed a more powerful engine, a more streamlined cowling, and numerous other upgrades. The aircraft was also modified for use as the F6F-3/5N night fighter. This variant carried the AN/APS-4 radar in a fairing built into the starboard wing

Weaponry

The f6f hellcat was primarily used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine corps, Royal Navy, and the French navy. Thanks to its engine it gave it superior speed and and a faster rate of climbing. It carried six .50 inch browsing machine guns in each wing and each gun had 400 rounds which gave it a powerful punch. It was able to carry 2000 pounds of bombs and also allowed it to attack ships. The f6f was designed to take damage and get the pilot back safly back to base. A bullet resistant windshield and a total of 212 lb of cockpit armor was fitted along with armor around the oil tank and oil cooler. Six 5 inch High velocity aircraft rocket could be carried, three under each wing on zero length launchers.

Hellcat in action

The Hellcat was introduced in the war in 1943. It accounted for 4497 of the 6477 shoot downs achieved by American carrier pilots. Overall the hellcat ran up a 19 to 1 victory ratio. The hellcat helped to seriously damage Japan's naval power at the battle of the Philippines in June 1944 and shot down over 6000 Japanese aircraft.The F6F first saw combat on August 31, 1943, during an attack on Marcus Island. On October 5-6, the F6F saw its first major combat during a raid on Wake Island. In the engagement, the Hellcat quickly proved superior to the Zero. Similar results were produced in November during attacks against Rabaul and in support of the invasion of Tarawa . From late 1943 forward, the F6F saw action during every major campaign of the Pacific war.


Quickly becoming the backbone of the US Navy's fighter force, the F6F achieved one of its best days during the battle of the Philippine sea on June 19, 1944. Dubbed the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," the battle saw US Navy fighters down massive numbers of Japanese aircraft while sustaining minimal losses. During the course of World War II, 305 Hellcat pilots became aces including US Navy top scorer Captain David McCampbell (34 kills). Downing seven enemy aircraft on June 19, he added nine more on October 24. For these feats he was awarded the Medal of Honor.



During its service in World War II, the F6F Hellcat became the most successful naval fighter of all time with a total of 5,271 kills. Of these, 5,163 were scored by US Navy and US Marine Corps pilots against a loss of 270 Hellcats. This resulted in a remarkable kill ratio of 19:1. Designed as a "Zero killer," the F6F maintained a kill ratio of 13:1 against the Japanese fighter.