Grumman F6F Hellcat Color Photographs Part II – Drones

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/?s=assault+drone 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.
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Another variation of the high-visibility paint scheme is seen on this rather worn F6F-5K, a weathering challenge for an experienced modeler.
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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).
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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.
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Several Hellcat drones were modified with wingtip pods in a variety of configurations. Some sources identify these as fuel tanks.
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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)
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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)

Grumman F6F Hellcat Color Photographs Part I

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An early F6F-3 Hellcat positioned in front of the island of the Essex-class carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10). The first Hellcats were delivered in the standard Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme with national insignia in six locations. This photograph was taken in May, 1943.
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Yorktown again, but three months later. These Hellcats are finished in the graded scheme and feature the barred insignia with blue outline in four locations. The wings have extensive cordite staining from the guns.
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Hellcats recovering aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3). Saratoga survived the war, only to be expended as a target for atomic bomb tests.
F6F_04_USS Lexington (CV-16), en route near New Guinea, early April, 1944
F6F Hellcats and SBD Dauntless dive bombers warm up aboard the USS Lexington (CV-16) off New Guinea in April, 1944. Close examination of the photo shows kill markings displayed on Hellcats 5 and 20.
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Plane handlers sunbathing on the wing of a Fleet Air Arm Hellcat Mk.1 of the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, 18 January 1945.
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Hellcats warming up on the light carrier USS Cowpens (CV-25) prior to the strike on Wake Island. US aircraft carriers stained their decks Deck Blue to make the ships harder to detect from the air.
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Pilots and deck crew await the order to start engines. (LIFE magazine photograph)
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Rocket-armed F6F-5’s of VF-11 Sundowners prepare for launch aboard USS Hornet (CV-12) in the summer of 1944. Avengers and Helldivers await their turns at the aft end of the flight deck.
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F6F-5’s being serviced on the flight deck. The -5 Hellcats were finished in an overall glossy Sea Blue scheme. Here they are fitted with white drop tanks, a hold over from the previous graded camo scheme.
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An F6F-5 secured to the deck of the USS Randolph (CV-15) with a Fletcher-class destroyer in the background. US carriers typically operated in Task Groups of four aircraft carriers, screened by battleships, cruisers, and up to sixteen destroyers.

New York City Vintage Photographs Part III

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A flight of Boeing Y1B-17 Flying Fortresses banks in to fly over Manhattan on 28 March 1937. The bombers were assigned to the 96th Bombardment Squadron, which had twelve Y1B-17s on strength. At the time these were the only heavy bombers in the USAAC inventory. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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The Royal Mail Ship Queen Elizabeth pulls into the pier with the skyscrapers of New York in the background. The Queen Elizabeth was a huge ship even by today’s standards – 1,031 feet in length and displacing 83,000 tons.

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Here is the RMS Queen Mary in her gray warpaint. She served as a troop transport during World War Two and was capable of carrying as many as 15,000 troops at a time. Because of her high speed she was thought to be immune to attacks by German U-boats and made the majority of her trans-Atlantic crossings unescorted. She is pictured returning U.S. servicemen home on 20JUN45. Currently Queen Mary is preserved as a museum in Long Beach, California. She is reputed to be haunted.

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The French battleship Richelieu on her way to the Brooklyn Naval Yard on 18FEB43 for repairs and modernization. While under Vichy control she was hit by the British battleship HMS Barnham and suffered an internal explosion in her number seven 15” (380 mm) gun in turret two. After her defection to the Free French she was outfitted for service in the Pacific.

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The Dornier Do-X makes an eye-level pass along New York’s skyline on 7 August 1931. The largest aircraft of her time, the Do-X was powered by twelve 524 horsepower Bristol Jupiter engines which can be clearly seen in this view.

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A Swedish Airlines DC-4 seen over Manhattan in 1946. It did not take long after World War Two for the international airline industry to establish regular routes between major cities around the world.

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Three U.S. Coast Guard Grumman JRF-2 Goose (Geese?) fly formation over New York on 10 April 1940. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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Another Coast Guard amphibian in pre-war livery, this time it is a Hall Aluminum PH-3. This photograph was taken on 21 February 1940. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)

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The USS Nautilus (SSN-571) enters New York harbor on 13 May 1956. The Nautilus was the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, and the first to travel to the North Pole under the ice sheet.

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The aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) travels up the Hudson River in 1939.  Considered too slow for combat in the Pacific she operated in the Atlantic for the majority of the war.  She supported the landings in North Africa on 8 November 1942, where her fighters engaged Vichy French aircraft and her dive bombers hit the French Battleship Jean Bart.

Grumman TBM Avenger Color Photographs Part 2

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An atmospheric color photograph of an Avenger making an arrested landing aboard an escort carrier as plane handlers rush to release the arresting wire and move the aircraft forward.  The large yellow “buzz numbers” indicate a training aircraft.  The national insignia carry the red border which was only authorized from 28JUN43 to 14AUG43.

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A similar photograph showing the buzz number carried on the starboard wing.  Also note where the national insignia further outboard on the wing has been painted over in accordance with directives.  On the yardarm the ship is displaying the two black ball dayshapes which indicate that she is restricted in her ability to maneuver while conducting flight operations.   Escorting ships quickly learn to keep a close watch on aircraft carriers as they will often alter course to steer into the wind with little or no notice.

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As American wartime production became sufficient to meet the needs of the front-line units, older aircraft were rotated back to the States, often to be used in training commands.  This Avenger shows heavy fading and wear to the Blue Gray over Light Gray camouflage along with areas where the paint has been touched up.

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This perspective shows details of the wing fold and landing gear.  The interior of the wing fold is finished in the upper surface color Blue Gray, the landing gear is finished in the under surface color Light Gray.

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Carrier aircraft often displayed small numbers in various locations to help crews in identifying specific airframes when the side numbers were not easily visible.  This aircraft carries the number “7” on the cowl sides and wing leading edges.  Interestingly, this does not appear to correspond to the aircraft’s buzz number on the wing upper surface.

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A sailor ties off an Avenger at the landing gear attachment point.  The decks of U.S. aircraft carriers were provided with slotted steel strips to anchor the lines, one of which is faintly visible in the lower left-hand corner of this photograph.  As soon as the aircraft was spotted on the deck the wheels were chocked and it was secured with lines or chains – aircraft could easily roll of the deck of a ship underway.

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A fine view of the Avenger’s Wright R-2600-8 powerplant.  The engine was rated at 1,700 horse power.  The Avenger was the heaviest single-engine aircraft to serve during WWII with a maximum weight of 13,667 pounds – just 400 pounds more than the P-47 Thunderbolt.  (NASM, Rudy Arnold Collection)

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The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm was a major user of the Avenger, taking over one thousand aircraft into service.  In FAA service it was called the Tarpon until 01JAN44 when the American name was adopted.  These 846 Squadron Tarpon are shown on a training flight in the U.S. in late 1943, they would be assigned to the escort carrier HMS Ravager.

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The FAA also operated the Avenger in the Pacific.  This obviously staged photograph gives us a good look at the uniforms of both the flight and ground crews which differ little from their American counterparts.  Note the upper wing roundel which has minimized the white area and eliminated the red altogether to reduce the possibility of confusion with Japanese markings.

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A yellow-nosed torpedo is wheeled into position.  Red has also been removed from the Avenger’s fin flash.  Friendly fire incidents remain a problem to this day in spite of precautions to minimize their likelihood.