Grumman F6F Hellcat Carrier-Borne Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft
The classic Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter was known to make an Ace out of the many pilots who flew it during World War 2.
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The F6F Hellcat was the successor to - and a logical evolution of - the capable F4F Wildcat series of carrier-borne aircraft fielded by the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War 2. In the conflict, the Hellcat served under the banners of the USN, United States Marine Corp and Britain's Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. The system featured a powerful Pratt & Whitney brand engine, multiple heavy caliber machine guns and the ability to carry conventional bombs and air-to-surface rockets all the while operating from the mobile flattops of the aircraft carriers. The aircraft was known to make aces of most pilots who flew her and total topped 12,275 examples of various models, 11,000 of those appearing in a short 24 months of production.
Design of the F6F followed closely the lines of the F4F. Where the F4F was originally intended as a biplane design - and therefore developed the stout look to the fuselage - the F6F was entirely a monoplane fighter from the start. The cockpit was situated just above the low-mounted large wings (as opposed to the mid-mounted ones found on the F4F) and forward in the design, though just aft of the engine placement, and offered up adequate visibility through a framed canopy. Power came from the mighty Pratt & Whitney R-2800 series radial piston engine delivering some 2,000 horsepower and providing speeds in excess of 375 miles per hour. The engine cowling dominated the front of the design while a conventional single-vertical tail surface rounded out the empennage. Landing gear were unique in that they retracted in a backwards fashion.
As with the F4F before it, the F6F featured 6 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns in pairs of threes to a wing with 400 rounds to a gun. Additional and optional armament came in the form of air-to-surface explosive rockets (a strike role which the Hellcat excelled at) and conventional drop bombs as needed. A fuel tank could be carried in the centerline fuselage position for improved range. The flexibility and firepower inherent in the system provided a one-two punch when paired with the equally devastating Vought F4F Corsair fighters. The success of the F6F was noted and a nightfighting variant appeared with radar by 1944 and identified by the use of "N" in their designations (as in F6F-3N).