Grumman F6F Hellcat Color Photographs Part II – Drones

Grumman produced a total of 12,275 Hellcats. With the end of the war and the dawning of the jet age the F6F quickly became surplus to requirements. Many were transferred to foreign nations or passed on to Naval Reserve units. One of the more interesting uses for the Hellcats was conversion to drones, which allowed the aircraft to be piloted remotely, usually from another aircraft.
The drones were used for several functions, most commonly for targets. These drones with their colorful tails were used in Operation Crossroads for atmospheric sampling during the 1946 atomic bomb tests.
A shot of the Operation Crossroads test aircraft with their wings folded on the ramp. The additional antenna wires required for remote operation can be seen at the tops of the vertical tails.
Another more tactical mission was performed during the Korean War when the Hellcats were converted into flying bombs in the tradition of the WWII TDR and TDN assault drones: This bomb laden F6F-5K drone is seen about to be launched from the USS Boxer (CV-21) off Korea in August of 1952. Douglas Skyraiders were used as controlling aircraft. Note that the bombs lack tail fins as they were not intended to be dropped.
Another variation of the high-visibility paint scheme is seen on this rather worn F6F-5K, a weathering challenge for an experienced modeler.
The target drones could also be launched from carriers for live-fire exercises. Here is an F6F-5K of VU-3 aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31).
The Navy operated F6F-5K target drones until the 1960’s. This very clean example is seen set up for public display at an airshow.
Several Hellcat drones were modified with wingtip pods in a variety of configurations. Some sources identify these as fuel tanks.
Another variation on the high-visibility drone paint scheme, Orange Yellow with Insignia Red trim. The conversions retained the ability to be directly piloted.  (NASM, Rudy Allen Collection)
A close-up of the unit insignia, a bee dodging bullets. The landing gear covers and cowling are trimmed in Insignia Red, but the landing gear legs (and likely the wheel wells) are in Orange Yellow. Note the prominent exhaust staining. (NASM, Rudy Allen Collection)