1 Design and development
1.1.1 Change of powerplant
1.2 Further development
2 Operational history
2.1 U.S. Navy and Marines
2.1.1 Sortie, kill and loss figures
2.2 British use 2.3 Postwar
3.1 XF6F prototypes 3.2 Series production
4 Operators 5 Surviving aircraft
5.1 United Kingdom 5.2 United States
6 Specifications (F6F-5 Hellcat) 7 See also 8 References
8.1 Notes 8.2 Citations 8.3 Bibliography
9 External links
Design and development XF6F
The unpainted XF6F-1 prior to its first flight
An F6F-3 aboard USS Yorktown has its "Sto-Wing" folding wings deployed for takeoff
An early F6F-3 in Blue-Gray over Light Gull-Gray
The F6F series were designed to take damage and get the pilot safely back to base. A bullet-resistant windshield and a total of 212 lb (96 kg) of cockpit armor was fitted, along with armor around the oil tank and oil cooler. A 250 gal (946 l) self-sealing fuel tank was fitted in the fuselage. Standard armament on the F6F-3 consisted of six .50 in (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning air-cooled machine guns with 400 rounds per gun. A center-section hardpoint under the fuselage could carry a single 150 gal (568 l) disposable drop tank, while later aircraft had single bomb racks installed under each wing, inboard of the undercarriage bays; with these and the center-section hard point late model F6F-3s could carry a total bomb-load in excess of 2,000 lb (900 kg). Six 5 in (127 mm) HVARs (High Velocity Aircraft Rocket) could be carried; three under each wing on "zero-length" launchers. Two night fighter sub-variants of the F6F-3 were developed: the 18 F6F-3E's were converted from standard-3s and featured the AN/APS-4 radar in a pod mounted on a rack beneath the right wing, with a small radar-scope fitted in the middle of the main instrument panel and radar operating controls installed on the port side of the cockpit. The later F6F-3N, first flown in July 1943, was fitted with the AN/APS-6 radar in the fuselage, with the antenna dish in a bulbous fairing mounted on the leading-edge of the outer right wing; approximately 200 F6F-3Ns were built. Hellcat night fighters claimed their first victories in November 1943. A total of 4,402 F6F-3s were built through until April 1944, when production was changed to the F6F-5.
An early production F6F-5 being tested with eight 5 in.
The F6F-5 featured several improvements including a more powerful
R-2800-10W engine employing a water-injection system and housed in a
slightly more streamlined engine cowling, spring-loaded control tabs
on the ailerons, and an improved, clear view windscreen, with a flat
armored-glass front panel replacing the F6F-3's curved plexiglass
panel and internal armor glass screen. In addition, the rear
fuselage and tail units were strengthened, and, apart from some early
production aircraft, the majority of the F6F-5's built were painted in
an overall gloss sea blue finish. After the first few F6F-5s were
built, the small windows behind the main canopy were deleted. The
F6F-5N night fighter variant was fitted with an AN/APS-6 radar in a
fairing on the outer-starboard wing. A small number of standard F6F-5s
were also fitted with camera equipment for reconnaissance duties as
the F6F-5P. While all F6F-5s were capable of carrying an armament
mix of one 20 mm (.79 in) M2 cannon in each of the inboard
gun bays (220 rounds per gun), along with two pairs of .50 in
(12.7 mm) machine guns (each with 400 rounds per gun), this
configuration was only used on later F6F-5N night fighters. The
F6F-5 was the most common F6F variant, with 7,870 being built.
Other prototypes in the F6F series included the XF6F-4 (02981, a
conversion of the XF6F-1 powered by an R-2800-27 and armed with four
20mm M2 cannon) which first flew on 3 October 1942 as the prototype
for the projected F6F-4. This version never entered production and
02981 was converted to an F6F-3 production aircraft. Another
experimental prototype was the XF6F-2 (66244), an F6F-3 converted to
use a Wright R-2600-15, fitted with a Birman manufactured mixed-flow
turbocharger, which was later replaced by a Pratt & Whitney
R-2800-21, also fitted with a Birman turbocharger. The
turbochargers proved to be unreliable on both engines, while
performance improvements were marginal. As with the XF6F-4, 66244 was
soon converted back to a standard F6F-3. Two XF6F-6s (70188 and
70913) were converted from F6F-5s and used the 18-cylinder
2,100 hp (1,567 kW) Pratt and Whitney R-2800-18W two-stage
supercharged radial engine with water injection and driving a
Hamilton-Standard four-bladed propeller. The XF6F-6s were the
fastest version of the Hellcat series with a top speed of 417 mph
(671 km/h), but the war ended before this variant could be
The last Hellcat rolled out in November 1945, the total production
being 12,275, of which 11,000 had been built in just two years.
This high production rate was credited to the sound original design,
which required little modification once production was under way.
U.S. Navy and Marines
The U.S. Navy much preferred the more docile flight qualities of the
F6F compared with the
The Hellcat first saw action against the Japanese on 1 September 1943 when fighters off USS Independence shot down a Kawanishi H8K "Emily" flying boat. Soon after, on 23 and 24 November, Hellcats engaged Japanese aircraft over Tarawa, shooting down a claimed 30 Mitsubishi Zeros for the loss of one F6F. Over Rabaul, New Britain, on 11 November 1943, Hellcats and F4U Corsairs were engaged in day-long fights with many Japanese aircraft including A6M Zeros, claiming nearly 50 aircraft. When trials were flown against a captured A6M5 model Zero, they showed that the Hellcat was faster at all altitudes. The F6F out-climbed the Zero marginally above 14,000 ft and rolled faster at speeds above 235 mph. The Japanese fighter could out-turn its American opponent with ease at low speed and enjoyed a slightly better rate of climb below 14,000 ft. The trials report concluded:
Do not dogfight with a Zero 52. Do not try to follow a loop or half-roll with a pull-through. When attacking, use your superior power and high speed performance to engage at the most favourable moment. To evade a Zero 52 on your tail, roll and dive away into a high speed turn.
Hellcats were the major U.S. Navy fighter type involved in the Battle
of the Philippine Sea, where so many Japanese aircraft were shot down
that Navy aircrews nicknamed the battle "the Great Marianas Turkey
Shoot". The F6F accounted for 75 percent of all aerial victories
recorded by the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. Radar-equipped Hellcat
night fighter squadrons appeared in early 1944.
A formidable opponent for the Hellcat was the Kawanishi N1K, but it
was produced too late and in insufficient numbers to affect the
outcome of the war.
Sortie, kill and loss figures
U.S. Navy and Marine F6F pilots flew 66,530 combat sorties and claimed
5,163 kills (56% of all U.S. Navy/Marine air victories of the war) at
a recorded cost of 270 Hellcats in aerial combat (an overall
kill-to-loss ratio of 19:1 based on claimed but not confirmed
kills). Claimed victories were often highly exaggerated during the
war. Even so, the aircraft performed well against the best Japanese
opponents with a claimed 13:1 kill ratio against the A6M Zero, 9.5:1
against the Nakajima Ki-84, and 3.7:1 against the Mitsubishi J2M
during the last year of the war. The F6F became the prime
ace-maker aircraft in the American inventory, with 305 Hellcat aces.
The U.S. successes were not only attributed to superior aircraft, but
also from 1942 onwards, they faced increasingly inexperienced Japanese
aviators as well as having the advantage of increasing numerical
superiority.[Note 6] In the ground attack role, Hellcats dropped
6,503 tons (5,899 tonnes) of bombs.
The U.S. Navy's all-time leading ace, Captain
A section of
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
Postwar service: A bright orange F6F-3K target drone
Postwar, the Hellcat was succeeded by the F8F Bearcat, which was
smaller, more powerful (powered by uprated Double Wasp radials) and
more maneuverable, but entered service too late to see combat in World
The Hellcat was used for second-line USN duties, including training.
In late 1952, Guided Missile Unit 90 used F6F-5K drones, each carrying
a 2000 lb bomb, to attack bridges in Korea; flying from
USS Boxer, radio controlled from an escorting AD Skyraider.
XF6F-1 First prototype, powered by a two-stage 1,600 hp (1,500 kW) Wright R-2600-10 Cyclone 14 radial piston engine. XF6F-2 The first XF6F-1 prototype revised and fitted with a turbocharged Wright R-2600-16 Cyclone radial piston engine. R-2600 replaced by turbo-charged R-2800-21.
XF6F-2 showing the later R-2800-21 installation with Birman turbo-charger.
XF6F-3 Second prototype fitted with a two-stage supercharged 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 Double Wasp radial piston engine. XF6F-4 One F6F-3 fitted with a two-speed turbocharged 2,100 hp (1,567 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-27 Double Wasp radial piston engine. XF6F-6 Two F6F-5s that were fitted with the 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-18W radial piston engine, and four-bladed propellers.
F6F-3 (British designations
F6F-3N Another night fighter version, equipped with a newer AN/APS-6 radar in a fairing on the starboard outer wing. F6F-5 Hellcat (British Hellcat Mk. II) Improved version, with a redesigned engine cowling, a new windscreen structure with an integral bulletproof windscreen, new ailerons and strengthened tail surfaces; powered by a 2,200 hp (1,640 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W (-W denotes Water Injection) radial piston engine. F6F-5K Hellcat A number of F6F-5s and F6F-5Ns were converted into radio-controlled target drones.
F6F-5N night fighter with AN/APS-6 radar and 2 20mm M2 cannon.
F6F-5N Hellcat (British Hellcat N.F. Mk II) Night fighter version, fitted with an AN/APS-6 radar. Some were armed with two 20 mm (0.79 in) AN/M2 cannon in the inner wing bays and four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in the outer. F6F-5P Hellcat Small numbers of F6F-5s were converted into photo-reconnaissance aircraft, with the camera equipment being fitted in the rear fuselage. Hellcat FR Mk II This designation was given to British Hellcats fitted with camera equipment. FV-1 Proposed designation for Hellcats to be built by Canadian Vickers; cancelled before any built.
A relatively large number of
Fleet Air Arm
Chino Warbirds' F6F-3 painted as a
Fleet Air Arm
41930 – Comanche Warbirds Inc. in Houston, Texas.
Commemorative Air Force
National Naval Aviation Museum
70185 – was on display at the
Quonset Air Museum at Quonset State
Airport (former NAS Quonset Point) in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The
Quonset Air Museum closed in December 2016 and the current location of
this aircraft is unknown.
Naval Air Facility Washington
40467 – to airworthiness by
Yanks Air Museum
80141 - to airworthiness by Spitfire Aircraft LLC in San Antonio, Texas. 94385 – to airworthiness by American Aircraft Sales LLC in Hayward, California.
Specifications (F6F-5 Hellcat)
An F6F-5 flown by Air Group Commander (CAG), Cdr. Louis H. Bauer of Carrier Air Group 3 (CVG-3), leads a formation of CVG-3 aircraft in 1946.
Data from WWII Aircraft PerformanceJane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War IIStandard Aircraft Characteristics General characteristics
Crew: 1 Length: 33 ft 7 in (10.24 m) Wingspan: 42 ft 10 in (13.06 m) Height: 13 ft 1 in (3.99 m) Wing area: 334 ft² (31 m²) Airfoil: NACA 23015.6 mod root; NACA 23009 tip Empty weight: 9,238 lb (4,190 kg) Loaded weight: 12,598 lb (5,714 kg) Max. takeoff weight: 15,415 lb (6,990 kg) *Fuel capacity: 250 gal (946 L) internal; up to 3 × 150 gal (568 L) external drop tanks Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0211 Drag area: 7.05 ft² (0.65 m²) Aspect ratio: 5.5 Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W "Double Wasp" two-row radial engine with a two-speed two-stage supercharger, 2,200 hp (1,491 kW) Propellers: 3-blade Hamilton Standard
Propeller diameter: 13 ft 1 in (4.0 m)
Maximum speed: 330 kn (391 mph, 629 km/h) Stall speed: 73 kn (84 mph, 135 km/h) Combat radius: 820 nmi (945 mi, 1,520 km) Ferry range: 1,330 nmi (1,530 mi, 2,460 km) Service ceiling: 37,300 ft (11,370 m) Rate of climb: 3,500 ft/min (17.8 m/s) Wing loading: 37.7 lb/ft² (184 kg/m²) Power/mass: 0.16 hp/lb (260 W/kg) Time-to-altitude: 7.7 min to 20,000 ft (6,100 m) Lift-to-drag ratio: 12.2 Takeoff roll: 799 ft (244 m)
6× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, with 400 rounds per gun, (All F6F-3, and most F6F-5) or 2 × 0.79 in (20 mm) AN/M2 cannon, with 225 rounds per gun and 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns with 400 rounds per gun
6 × 5 in (127 mm) HVARs or 2 × 11¾ in (298 mm) Tiny Tim unguided rockets
Bombs: up to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) full load, including:
Bombs or Torpedoes: (Fuselage mounted on centreline rack)
1 × 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb or 1 × Mk.13-3 torpedo;
Underwing bombs: (F6F-5 had two additional weapons racks either side of fuselage on wing centre-section)
2 × 1,000 lb (450 kg) or 4 × 500 lb (227 kg) 8 × 250 lb (110 kg)
Alexander Vraciu, who had 19 victories on Hellcats flying with VF-6
(9) and VF-16 (10) during World War II.
David McCampbell, the top U.S. Navy ace of
World War II
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
North American P-51D Mustang
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
List of aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
List of aircraft of the
^ The insignia red outline around the national markings indicate that
this picture was taken circa June–September 1943.
^ This can be broken down as 5,163 in the Pacific and eight more
during the invasion of Southern France, plus 52 with the FAA during
World War II.
^ On the previous day, while receiving the
Medal of Honor
^ "U.S. Naval Aircraft Marking." U.S. Naval Historical Center.
Retrieved: 11 March 2008.
^ "Uruguayan Navy." Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
aeroflight. Retrieved: 27 May 2012.
^ Ferguson 2005, pp. 149–175.
^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 135.
^ a b Sullivan 1979, p. 4.
^ Kinzey 1996, p. 4.
^ Tillman 1996, p. 81.
^ Tillman 1996, pp. 78–79.
^ Murray, Williamson (2002). War In The Air 1914–45 (2002 Paperback
ed.). Wellington House, London: Cassell. p. 202.
^ Kinzey 1996, p. 16.
^ a b c Taylor 1969, p. 503.
^ Kinzey 1987, p. 14.
^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 166.
^ Ewing 2004, p. 182.
^ Ewing 2004, p. 86.
^ Ewing and Lundstrom 2004, pp. 155–156.
^ Tillman 1979, p. 6.
^ Francillon 1989, p. 200.
^ a b c d Kinzey 1996, p. 6.
^ Ewing and Lundstrom 2004, pp. 155, 156.
^ a b Kinzey 1987, p. 6.
^ Sullivan 1979, pp. 24, 30, 33.
^ Parsch, Andreas. "5 inch FFAR/HVAR." designation-systems.net, 2010.
Retrieved: 28 October 2012.
^ Kinzey 1996, pp. 30–31.
^ Kinzey 1996, pp. 28–29.
^ Green 1975, p. 91.
^ Kinzey 1996, pp. 6–7.
^ Kinzey 1996, p. 7.
^ Green 1975, pp. 93–94.
^ Kinzey 1987, p. 27.
^ Kinzey 1996, p. 32.
^ White 2001, pp. 260, 508.
^ Kinzey 1996, pp. 17–18.
^ Kinzey 1996, pp. 50–51.
^ Sullivan 1979, p. 46.
^ Winchester 2004, p. 110.
^ Styling 1995, p. 67.
^ Tillman 1996, p. 6.
^ a b c Dean 1997, p. 559.
^ Spick 1983, p. 118.
^ Tillman 1979, p. 9.
^ "Fact Sheets: Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden Kai." National Museum of the
US Air Force. Retrieved: 23 November 2015.
^ a b Barber 1946, Table 2.
^ Barber 1946, Table 28.
^ "Airpower Classics." Air Force Magazine, April 2006, p. 98.
^ Kinzey 1987, p. 58.
^ OPNAV-P-23V No. A129, 17 June 1946, p. 15.
^ Green 1975, p. 93.
^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 181.
^ Tillman 1996, p. 96.
^ Tillman 1996, p. 78.
^ a b Thetford 1994, p. 217.
^ O'Leary 1980, pp. 147–148.
^ Jackson 1998, p. 126.
^ Donald, 1995, p. 145.
^ "Historical aircraft of the Blue Angels." Archived 19 April 2012 at
the Wayback Machine. Blue Angels. Retrieved" 31 March 2015.
^ Norton 2008, p. 38.
^ Krist 2006, pp. 91–92.
Anderton, David A. Hellcat. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd.,
1981. ISBN 0-7106-0036-4.
Barber, S.B. Naval Aviation Combat Statistics: World War II,
OPNAV-P-23V No. A129. Washington, D.C.: Air Branch, Office of Naval
Bridgman, Leonard, ed. “The
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
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FF F2F F3F F4F XF5F XP-50 F6F XP-65 F7F F8F
F9F-1 to -5 F9F-6 to -8 F-9 XF10F F11F/F-11/F11F-1F G-118 F-111B F-14
TBF XTSF TB2F AF S-2 A-6
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UC-103 JF J2F OA-12 JRF J3F OA-9 OA-13 OA-14/J4F U-16/JR2F/UF C-1 C-2
Mallard Ag Cat Kitten Tadpole Gulfstream I Gulfstream II
Apollo Lunar Module E-8 E-10 EF-111 Q-4/C Q-8/C Q-180 X-29 X-47A X-47B X-47C Bat Firebird Switchblade
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United States Navy
General Aviation Brewster
FA2 F2A F3A
FB F2B F3B F4B F5B F6B F7B F8B
CF F2C F3C F4C F5C1 F6C F7C F8C F9C F10C F11C F12C F13C F14C F15C
XFD F2D2 F3D F4D F5D F6D
FD F2D to "H"
FF F2F F3F F4F F5F F6F F7F F8F F9F-1 to -5 F9F-6 to -8 F10F F11F F12F
FH F2H F3H F4H
Berliner-Joyce North American
FJ F2J F3J
FJ-1 FJ-2/3 FJ-4
FL YF2L-1 F2L-1K F3L
FM F2M F3M
Naval Aircraft Factory
FO (I) FO (II)
FR F2R F3R
FU F2U F3U F4U F5U F6U F7U F8U F8U-3
WP F2W F3W
FW2 F2W2 F3W2 F4W
1 Not assigned • 2 Assigned to a different manufacturer's