YouTube - F6F Hellcat
6- .50 cal
33 ft. 7 in.
42 ft. 10 in.
F6F Hellcat aircraft, produced by Grumman, have been described as war winning fighters. They are credited with more than 6,000 victories over Japanese aircraft. Their victory ration was 19:1. They downed over 160 enemy aircraft in a single day and accounted for 75% of all the aerial victories by U. S. airplanes in the Pacific. The F6F Hellcat accounted for more pilot aces than any other U.S. World War II aircraft; a total of 306.
In a single 70 minute sortie, U.S. Navy Lt. Bill Hardy downed five enemy aircraft while flying the F6F Hellcat. U.S. Navy Lt. Alex Vraciu downed 19 enemy aircraft while flying Hellcats. In just eight minutes he was able to down six enemy aircraft. He described the F6F Hellcat as, "Tough, hard hitting, dependable, and one hell of an airplane".
When the F6F Hellcat first entered combat in August of 1943, it was formidable competition for the Japanese aircraft it encountered. While it could not turn with the Japanese aircraft at slow speeds, it was faster, had better climb and dive rates, and had better armor to protect the pilot, fuel tanks and other vital parts of the aircraft. The Hellcat changed the balance of air power in the Pacific in favor of the Allies. From its first combat, onward, all Pacific naval battles were dominated by the Hellcat.
The F6F Hellcat had a wide flight envelope. Unique to the aircraft were backwards folding landing gear and a wing area greater than any single engine fighter aircraft of World War II. The machine guns of the Hellcat carried 400 rounds of ammunition each.
In its first major air battle on December 4, 1943, 91 F6F Hellcat aircraft faced 50 enemy aircraft over the Kwajalein Islands. A total of 28 enemy aircraft were downed with two Hellcat loses.
The F6F Hellcat initially flew from the aircraft carriers Essex, Independence, and Yorktown. Eventually they participated in operations throughout the Pacific including Leyte Gulf, the Philippines, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, and Truk.
The history of F6F Hellcat development began as a more powerful replacement for Naval fighter aircraft. A prototype aircraft, produced in record time, was equipped with a 1,700 hp Wright R-2600 engine. However, by the time production started, all new aircraft employed a more powerful 2,000 hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine. This engine provided the F6F Hellcat with performance that was superior to that of many Japanese fighter aircraft.
The F6F Hellcat was the main carrier launched fighter aircraft during the last two years of the Pacific War. It was the primary U. S. Navy fighter used in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
In early 1944, night fighter versions of the F6F Hellcat were deployed with radar. The presence of the aircraft, flying both night and day, was called "the big blue blanket."
Great Britain's Fleet Air Arm was equipped with 252 F6F Hellcat aircraft commencing in April of 1943. The British called the aircraft the "Gannet". The aircraft saw action over Norway, in the Mediterranean, and the Far East. They were retired from Fleet Air Arm service in 1945.
The F6F Hellcat was deployed by France that used them in Indochina. Argentina and Uruguay used Hellcat aircraft until 1961.
During the Korean War six F6F Hellcat aircraft were converted into UAVs. They were fitted with 2,000 lb. bombs and launched against bridges in Korea. We do not have any details about the success of the drones.
A total of 12,275 F6F Hellcat aircraft were built from June of 1942 through November of 1945. Of those some 11,000 of the aircraft were produced before June of 1944. We are told that the aircraft could be produced in such great numbers so quickly due to their sound design. Few engineering changes were required after production began.