A fine study of an early F6F-3 fresh from the factory in the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme. (NASM, Rudy Allen Collection)
Grumman finished their aircraft with superior craftsmanship, the rugged designs soon earning them the nickname “Grumman Iron Works” for their ability to withstand damage and still keep flying. The quality of the workmanship is apparent in this photograph. (NASM, Rudy Allen Collection)
The red surround to the national insignia was unpopular and short-lived, only being used for a short time during the summer of 1943. Some commanders were so concerned that any red on the insignia might lead to confusion with the Japanese Hinomaru that they refused apply the outlines, which were soon changed to use Insignia Blue paint. (NASM, Rudy Allen Collection)
This F6F-3 is finished in the graded camouflage scheme and insignia with blue surrounds authorized in August 1943. The numbers sprayed on the cowling and tail were to identify the aircraft prior to her delivery and usually were the last digits of the Bureau Number.
Sailors hoisting an F6F-3 aboard the old-fashioned way using a block and tackle. The large yellow buzz numbers V5 on the wings indicate a training aircraft. (80-GK-2625)
An F6F-5N nightfighter with an AN/APS-6 radar pod mounted to the starboard wing. Most of the Hellcat nightfighters replaced the inboard .50 machine gun with a 20 mm cannon in each wing.
A mechanic works on the Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp radial engine, which produced 2,000 horsepower. Modelers note the primer showing through on the wing leading edges and the oil staining on the cowling.
Flight deck crewmen await the signal to pull the chocks from this F6F-3 prior to launch. The gun muzzles have been taped over to prevent fouling, and the last two digits of the aircraft number are repeated on the landing gear doors and cowling.
Commander David McCampbell poses in the cockpit of his F6F-5 “Minsi III”. McCampbell was the leading U.S. Navy ace of WWII with 34 victories, including 9 in one mission during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
LTJG Eugene R. Hanks in his F6F-3 Hellcat of VF-16. Hanks became an “ace in a day” after downing five Japanese Zeros in as many minutes while operating from the USS Lexington (CV-16) off Makin on 23 November 1943. He was awarded the Navy Cross for this action. (Eduard Steichen photograph, 80-G-K-15562)
Part I here:
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: 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.
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)
Part III here:
Very little needs done to improve Eduard’s Hellcat. The bar which supports the shoulder straps is molded as a ridge on the aft cockpit bulkhead. I shaved that off and replaced it with a wire bar. Simple fix, and the detail is prominent. I also replaced the center canopy section with vacuform. I re-used a set of Eduard canopy masks from an earlier build, they will work fine if they are removed carefully and placed on their backing sheets.
I didn’t originally plan to build an FAA bird, but I liked the markings on Xtradecal’s Yanks with Roundels sheet. They worked like a champ, and the sheet includes several other schemes which I plan to use at some point. The kit is one of the very best in our scale, and just about anything needed to build any service variant of a Hellcat is included in the box. If you haven’t built one yet, give yourself a treat and try one!
The model represents the Hellcat Mk. I of Sub. Lt. Spencer, , 800 NAS, HMS Emperor, Southern France, September 1944.
An F6F-5 Hellcat moments before striking the ramp. The Landing Signal Officers are fleeing across the flight deck to avoid what comes next. Note that the Hellcat is still carrying its’ drop tank, which is white.
Another Hellcat with a drop tank, this is an F6F-3 recovering aboard the USS Cowpens (CVL-25) on 20NOV43. The pilot was LTJG Magee. One has to wonder if he knew his aircraft was on fire.
Another view of the same incident. The flames are coming from behind the engine, likely a ruptured fuel line. The drop tank does not appear to be involved at this point.
An F6F-3 flipped on its’ back aboard the USS Monterey (CVL-26). Clear photographs of the underside of aircraft are comparatively rare so this view is particularly useful for modelers. The patterns of the dirt and grime are worth studying.
This F6F-5 was saved from a watery fate by getting tangled in the catwalk of USS Sable (IX-81). Sable was one of two Great Lakes steamers which were converted to training carriers (the other being the USS Wolverine (IX-64)). They both featured paddlewheel propulsion, and neither had hanger decks. Here the crew is securing the Hellcat in place until a pierside crane can recover the aircraft.
Here an F6F-3 has missed hooking the arresting gear and wound up in the after elevator well aboard the Bogue-class escort carrier USS Barnes (CVE-20). The Hellcat didn’t miss the wires entirely, they can be seen fouled on the landing gear.
Grumman earned a reputation for building tough aircraft, but even aircraft built at the “Iron Works” had their limits. The sudden jolt of an arrested landing has pulled this Hellcat in two just aft of the cockpit. The pilot can be seen exiting what’s left of his aircraft, apparently no worse for wear.
Sometimes your most useful role is that of a sandbag with legs. Flight deck sailors aboard the USS Monterey (CVL-26) tip an F6F-5 back onto the deck and out of the catwalk.
This Hellcat has wandered off the coral runway and come to grief in a large hole. Armorers are removing ammunition from the wing guns before recovery operations can start. The aircraft has attracted a large crowd of recovery vehicles and onlookers despite the rain.