by: Andy Brazier [ ]
History There are few aircraft types that took part in combat during World War Two, that can be described with such one sided outcomes in terms of kill : loss ratio as the Hellcat. Representing the middle of the Grumman Cat lineage, the Hellcat was a unique type right from its beginnings.
Success of its older brother, the Wildcat, which carried on its shoulders the bulk of the strain of the Pacific air war in 1942, prompted the US Navy to give Grumman free reign over the independent development of a new fighter. This type was to act as insurance in the event the concept of the F4U Corsair turned out unsuccessful.
The first prototype took to the air on June 26th, 1942, and by January, 1943 equipped the first Navy unit, VF-9, on the deck of the USS Essex. The new type was called Hellcat. The name not only suggested the place to which her enemies would be sent, but was also a play on words. The term in the old west referred to barroom brawlers, and that was what the Navy wanted: a tough fighter with hard fists, that could absorb punishment and had stamina.
The Hellcat line didn't result in the most elegant of fighters. It was, after all, over twice as heavy as its main adversary, the Japanese A6M Zero. But elegance certainly doesn't play a pivotal role in terms of the potential survival of the pilot. It was a fighter first and foremost in every sense of the word, designed around the requirements of the pilot to fulfill the combat mission for which it was designed and he was trained.
The initial version, F6F-3, was supplanted by the dash five, which modified the canopy, cowl, bombracks and droptanks.
The first combat engagement of the enemy occurred on September 1st, 1943, when an Emily was flamed by the half inch guns of two Hellcats. Their advantage over Japanese fighters was well demonstrated on February 16th, 1944, when, in the vicinity of Truk, over 100 fighters were claimed in the air and over 150 on the ground for the loss of four aircraft. Five days later, in the Marianas, a further 160 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air and on the ground Often one sided combat was documented in the battle for the Philippine Sea that culminated on June 19th, 1944 in the now legendary 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot', where Hellcat pilots claimed some 350 enemy aircraft destroyed. A further turkey hunt took place between October 12th and 14th, 1944 over Formosa, seeing the destruction, at the hands of Hellcat pilots, of 300 enemy aircraft for the loss of 27. In October, 1944, the Japanese began to escalate night attacks, bringing on a requirement for night fighters to counter them. USAAF P-61s were too far off.
Although the Hellcat was progressively replaced by its stablemate F4U Corsair, it served in the combat role up to the end of the war. Under the designation Hellcat F Mk 1 and II, several hundred served with the Royal Navy, notably in the Atlantic covering convoys, and also in the Far East. According to statistics, there were 12275 Hellcats of all versions made. For the loss of 270 of these, Hellcat pilots claimed 5156 kills. That accounts for over half of USN and USMC victories. The Hellcat also became the most successful carrier based fighter in the Pacific in under two years of ops. Lumbering, awkward at first glance, lacking in elegance, barroom brawler - wild, tough, a fearless hulk, able to clear a saloon before turning three times…..that was the Hellcat in the skies over the Pacific.
Info from Eduard
In the bag The F6F-5 kit is packed Eduard's new packageing for thier Super44 range of kits, which is a plastic bag with a cardboard backing inside.
The kit comprises of two grey sprues, 1 clear sprue, a set of instructions, a decal sheet and a set of masks.
The plastic parts of the kit date back to 2008 and was first produced by Platz as the F6F-3 version with the F-5 following in 2010. When it was first released it came with two complete aircraft in the box, unlike this incarnation which only has the parts for one aircraft.
As you would expect from a small 1/144th scale kit, there isn't a great deal of parts, with the Hellcat only having a total of 39 parts.
The parts are well cast with no flash, and pin marks are hidden on the completed kit.
The interior is pretty good for such a small kit, with an instrument panel, and a seat. The instrument panel has a decal for the dials, and the seat comes with a decal for the harness.This might not sound like much detail, but some 1/144th kits don't have any cockpit at all.
The undercarrige bays have a little detail for the undeside of the wings, with a representaion of spars. The landing gear legs are quite well detailed with oleos moulded onto the legs. The wheels are one pieceand have a nice spoked effect moulded onto them. The tail wheel is one piece.
The exterior fuselage surface consists of finely engraved panel lines which represents the overlapped panels on the rear fuselage quite well.
The wings also sport recessed panel lines. The rudder and elavators are moulded onto the wings and tail and are set at the neutral postion.
A seperate one piece cowling is supplied and covers a one piece engine face.
External stores for the kit consist of two bombs and a centerline fuel tank. The bombs are only for marking option "B", with the fuel tank not installed for marking option "D", so the small mounting hole will need to be filled.
The canopy is crystal clear and has well defined frames and separate quarterlights.
A set of masks are supplied for the canopy, which wil help in painting this very small area. The masks also cover the tyres for the main wheels, so the hubs can be painted.
Decals and markings The instruction booklet is A4 size with the build sequence taking place over four sections.
The build is easy to follow in the black on white line drawing style.
The build takes place over two pages.
Any parts that are required for filling, drilling and optional parts are clearly highlighted along the build sequence.
Internal and external colours are given for the Gunze Aqueous, Mr Color, and Mission Model paints.
The marking and painting options are a full page each and in full colour.
A smallish decal sheet is supplied which holds all the markings for the aircraft. Printing is crisp with good colour registration, and is printed in-house by Eduard.
Four marking options are supplied, three of which are in the Sea Blue scheme with a target drone in a rather nice orange paint scheme as the fourth option.
The four marking options are -
A - F6F-5, flown by Lt. Daniel Archibald Carmichael Jr., VBF-12, USS Randolph, April 1945.
B - F6F-5, VF-83, USS Essex, March 1945.
C - F6F-5, VF-46, USS Independence, April 1945.
D - F6F-5K, Chincoteague Naval Air Station, Virginia, 1949
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