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U.S. Navy. Via Wikipedia Commons
Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
|42’10” x 33’7” x 13’1”
13.06m by 10.24m by 3.99m
|334 square feet
31 square meters
|376 mph (605 km/h) at 17,300 feet (5300 meters)
335 mph (539 km/h) at sea level
|Rate of climb
|54 feet per second
16.5 meters per second
|One 2000 hp (1491 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp 18-cylinder two-row radial engine driving a 13'1" (3.99 m) Hamilton Standard Hydromatic three bladed propeller
|6 Browning M2 0.50 machine guns (400 rounds per gun) in outer wings
|1080 miles at 200 mph on internal fuel
1740 km at 322 km/h on internal fuel
|250 gallons internal plus 150 gallons in centerline drop
946 liters plus 568 liters in centerline drop tank
|At Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, Bethpage, New
6681 F6F-5 (from 1944-4)
All production types:
1942-9 to 1942-12: 10
| The F6F-5 had Mark 57-1 racks for two 1000 lb (450kg) bombs or two 100 or 150
gallon (379 or 568 liter) drop tanks. Later production also
had pylons for 6 5" rockets.
The power plant on the -5 was the R-2800-10W with water
injection power boost to 2250 hp (1680 kW). A few –5s
replaced two of the 0.50 machine guns with 20mm cannon (200
rounds per gun).
The F6F-5P was a photoreconnaissance
version that retained its armament.
The F6F Hellcat was the replacement for the Wildcat as the principal carrier-borne
fighter of the U.S. Navy. It was a war-winning aircraft, being
largely responsible for sweeping the Zero from the Pacific skies.
Indeed, its design was refined on the basis of test flights of a
Zero that was recovered intact near Dutch Harbor in June 1942,
when the Hellcat was in the prototype stage.
Design work began in June 1941 and was rushed to completion, the
prototype making its first flight on 26 June 1942. The original
concept was of a "super Wildcat" updated with a much more powerful
engine but otherwise modified as little as possible. However, this
required larger wings and fuselage and a different propeller to
take full advantage of the increased engine power, and the design
team soon realized (and persuaded the Navy) that a completely new
design was required. The Double Cyclone
on the prototype was replaced with the Double Wasp within a month
and the first production aircraft were completed in October 1942.
Deliveries began in January 1943 and the Hellcat saw its first
combat in August 1943. By then the aircraft had already equipped
The Hellcat was superior to the Zero in every respect save
low-speed maneuverability, which its designers had concluded was
the least important performance characteristic of a modern
fighter. It was much more rugged, being even more heavily armored than the Wildcat, and it
carried almost twice as many rounds per machine gun as the
Wildcat. It was not as fast as the best U.S. land-based planes,
but had a better climb rate and maneuverability. It had replaced
the Wildcat on American fleet
and light carriers by
mid-1944. Early models suffered a high rate of tire failure during
carrier landings, either due to poor quality tires or tired pilots who landed too
violently, but the bugs were worked out and about 75% of
air-to-air combat kills by U.S. Navy pilots in the Pacific War
were scored from Hellcats.
The Hellcat's armament was six 0.50 Browning machine guns with an ample loadout of 400 rounds per gun (compared with just 240 rounds per gun for the 6-gun versions of the Wildcat.) There was a selector switch for each pair of guns, which were aimed using a Mark 8 reflector gunsight, and there was a port for a gun camera in the inner left wing. However, the gun camera was often omitted, because it was subject to such severe vibration that the footage was often nearly useless. Some commanders also fered that cameras encouraged pilots to do dangerous things, such as chasing a crashing enemy aircraft to film its demise rather than keeping up their situational awareness.
Pilots admired the Hellcat's sensible instrument layout and good
visibility, the latter aided by the high position of the pilot's
seat and a rearview mirror in the upper canopy. They also
appreciated the armor protection, which included two sets of
plates in back of the pilot, another set of plates under the nose
protecting the oil system, heavy bullet-resistant glass in the
canopy, and the huge Double Wasp engine itself. Smaller plates of
armor behind the instrument panel covered the gap between the top
of the engine and the bullet-resistant canopy. The aircraft
retained fabric-covered control surfaces, which saved weight and
which were thought to be less affected by battle damage, since
bullets and shrapnel passed through leaving only small punctures.
The ability of the F6F-5 Hellcat to operate as a fighter-bomber was important during the final months of the war, when the kamikaze threat became serious enough that most of the aircraft complement of American carriers had to be devoted to fighters. The aircraft could carry two 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs or a pair of drop tanks. Later production F4F-5s also had pylons for six 5" HVAR rockets. In the final months of the war, the Hellcat sometimes carried a pair of "Tiny Tim" antishipping missiles, though these were more often used against hardened ground targets than the few surviving Japanese ships. There were even experiments with carrying a single centerline torpedo.
The F6F-5P was a photoreconnaissance version of the Hellcat that
retained its full armament and could blend in with conventional
Hellcats on a strike mission. However, it suffered noticeably in
performance from the heavy camera mounted behind the pilot. The
camera was aimed by the pilot putting the aft wingtip of his left
wing on the point he wished to photograph, and the pilot activated
the shutter with a cockpit control.
About 1200 Hellcats were supplied as Lend-Lease to the British, who operated
the F6F-3 as the Hellcat I and the F6F-5 as the Hellcat II.
Rickard (2007; accessed 2011-4-30)
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