Grumman F6F Hellcat
Fleet Air Arm Hellcat E-T


The Grumman F6F Hellcat was an American designed carrier borne fighter. Its design began as a development of the F4F Wildcat  powered by the R-2600 engine, but soon evolved into a much larger and more capable aircraft, with the R-2800 engine. The Hellcat was designed and put into service in a very short period in order to counteract the A6M 'Zero' from the second half of 1943 onwards, and soon became the main shipboard fighter of the US Navy for the last two years of the Pacific War. The Hellcat was the most sucessful allied fighter in WWII with over 5,000 aerial victories, and credited with 76% of all aircraft destroyed by USN carrier fighters.

On 30 June, 1941 the US Navy ordered the prototypes XF6F-1 and XF6F-2,  rugged aircraft that lacked aesthetic appeal.  In order to keep the take-off and landing speeds at a reasonable level, Grumman made the wings proportionally larger than most aircraft (including the Thunderbolt) to reduce wing loading. In fact, the Hellcat had the largest wing area of any single engine fighter of WWII at 334 square feet (102 square meters). They were to have the Pratt-Whitney Double Wasp 2600-10 with a two-stage supercharger installed delivering 1,700 hp (1,269 kW) for take-off. Immediately after the first flight of the XF6F1 on 26, June, 1942, the craft was redesignated the "XF6F-3".

In 1942, the design of the prototype  was adapted to take into account the analysis of the first ever captured and undamaged Japanese Zero, found by a  US Navy PBY Catalina making a routine patrol over Akutan Island in the Pacific. The Zero was dismantled and shipped directly to the Grumman Aircraft factory in California where it was reassembled and flown. The information from the test flight of the Zero aided in the final design development of the Hellcat.  It was found the XF6F-1 was marginally slower than the Zero, thus the change from the Pratt-Whitney Double Wasp R-2600 to the R-2800. This engine boosted the Hellcat's top speed to 375 mph, 29 mph faster than the Zero. No other unfavourable differences between the two planes could be found and the Hellcat was deemed ready for production. The finalized version of the XF6F-3 was almost identical to the production F6F-3 and Grumman shifted the assembly line into high gear.

Hellcat production started in 1943 and a quick and effective distribution was subsequently organised. Well over 2,500 Hellcat were delivered during the first year, making it possible to re-equip Hellcat squadrons rapidly with this more potent fighter, and it remained in frontline service with the FAA and US Navy for the remainder of World War II.

The Hellcat was used extensively as a search aircraft and fighter-bomber,  playing a major and increasing part in strikes on Japanese warships and mercantile shipping in 1944 and 1945.  In this role, and for ground attack,  it could carry up to 2,000 lb of bombs, or be armed with six 5-inch rockets on underwing pylons.

By the time Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat production ended in mid-1944, a total of 4,423 Hellcats had been built. Their numbers included 18 F6F-3E night fighters with APS-4 radar mounted in a pod beneath the starboard wing, and 205 generally similar F6F-3N night fighters with APS-6 radar. Postwar some were converted into unmanned flying bombs, used in Korea.

 Hellcat I          FAA equivalent F6F-3, 252 lendlease, initial production model
 Hellcat II         NF.II, FAA equivalent of F6F-5, 5n. 930 lendlease, redesigned cowling, provision for
                          rockets or bombs, also nightfighter version (N)

The Royal Navy received 252 F6F-3s as Hellcat I under Lend-Lease. Production continued until November 1945 by which time 7870 F6F-5s had been built, of which some 930 had been supplied to the Royal Navy as Hellcat II and 1434 of the total had been completed as F6F-5N night-fighters. Ultimately, the Hellcat equiped 14 FAA front-line squadrons.

The first Hellcat Mark Is started to be delivered to the Fleet Air Arm on 13 March 1943,  FN321 and FN323 arriving three months later, in June 1943 to the A and C Flights of A&AEE, Boscombe Down for service trials by RN pilots, and in July 1943 FN330 was tested by 778 squadron at Crail.

Very soon afterwards the Hellcat was distributed to operational squadrons, 800 squadron receiving its first Hellcat in batches in July, August and October 1943 (eg FN337, FN334, FN332, FN334, FN332), and 1839 squadron from December 1943 (FN328). Not long after this, on 31 August, 1943 the first combat sorties were being flown by the USN VF9 and VF-5 squadrons aboard USS Yorktown against Japanese targets on Marcus Island (Minami-tori Island) some 700 miles southeast of Japan.

The first batch and second batches of 188 F6F-5 Hellcat Mark IIs started to be delivered to the Royal Navy from May 1944, primarily to 1840 squadron. By this time many Hellcats were being shipped to overseas FAA squadrons directly from Norfolk, Virginia, USA to HMS Thane 14 August 1944 and on to RNARY Wingfield, thence to 804 squadron in September 1944.

The subsequent batch of 295 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Mk F.II was also shipped directly to RNARY Wingfield (eg JX670 to JX720) in HMS Ranee in September 1944,  and on to RNARY Coimbatore. Many of these Hellcat were still in service in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) after the end of the war and into1946. However, quite a number were surplus to requirement after VJ-Day and dumped in the sea off Australia by HMS Colossus in 1945 (eg JX821).

The final 293 Hellcat II to be delivered to the Fleet Air Arm arrived between January and May 1945, the very last aircraft, KE265 being delivered on 11 May 1945.

The Hellcat served post war and some of the earlier batches managed to remain in RN service, for example JV247 in 709 squadron. After this aircraft was paid off it went to Fairey Aviation at Hayes in 1946. Whilst Grumman F.II KE209 remained as the personal aircraft of the Lossiemouth Station Flight Commanding Officer Caspar John until 1952, and the Aircraft Holding Unit in 1954 (this aircraft is extant in the Fleet Air arm Museum).

Fleet Air Arm history
    Total FAA 1939-1945:       3.1943
    First delivered to RN:         6.1943
    First squadron 1939-1945:   7.1943
    Operational squadron:         7.1943
    Last served with RN           1952

130 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat I delivered under Contract No NO(a)S90071
Serial Numbers: FN320-FNB449

First deld to RN          13.3.1943
First sqdn                  A and C Flt A&AEE 6.1943 (FN321 and FN323). FN330 with 778 sqdn at Crail,
                                Arbroath from 7.1943, 778 sqdn Crail 8.1943 (eg FN324),
Operational sdqn         800 sqdn from  7,8 and 10.43 (eg FN337, FN334, FN332, FN334, FN332)
                                1839 sqdn 12.1943 (fn328 (a no to 800 sqdn)

Last in RN service       FN353 recorded on the Gosport Dump 3.1946

122 Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat I under Contract No Noa(S)-846
Serial Numbers: JV100-JV221

First deld RN               1.44 to 809 sqdn (eg JV108), 1847 sqdn in 4.44(eg  JV112), 4-5.44 to 800 sqdn (eg
                                  JV102, JV119)

103 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Mk II under Contract No Noa(S)-846
Serial Numbers JV222 - JV324

First deld RN                 8.44 to C Sqdn A&AEE for performance (JV224)
First sdqn                      1840 sqdn 5.1944 (JV234), 8.44 to 1840 sqdn (eg JV227), 787 sqdn in 8.1944 (JV226)
                                    From JV305 and others shipped from Norfolk, Virginia, USA to HMS Thane 14.8.44
                                    to RNARY Wingfield 3.9.44, thence to 804 sqdn 9.44
 Last in RN service         JV247 in 709 sqdn in 1946, thence to Fairey Aviation at Hayes 1946.

85 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Mk II under Contract No Noa(S)-846
Serial Numbers JW700-784

First deld RN                 From JW709-JW772 shipped from Norfolk, Va, USA in HMS Thane 14.8.44, RNARY
                                    Wingfield 3.9.44, thence to 804 sqdn 9-10.44

43 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Mk II under Contract No Noa(S)-846
Serial Numbers JW857-JW899

First deld RN                 Many to RNARY Coimbatore 8.44-12.44

295 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Mk F.II under Contract No Noa(S)-846
Serial Numbers JX670-JX964

First deld RN                Many shipped from Norfolk, Va, USA in HMS Ranee 9.44 to RNARY Wingfield
                                    (eg JX670 to JX720), also many shipped to RNARY Coimbatore
Sqdn                            Many Hellcat in Ceylon etc after the end of the war, in 10.45 (eg JX882)
Last in service RN          Many in service 1945-46. Many dumped in sea off Australia by HMS Colossus in
                                   1945 (eg JX821)

3 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat II (NF)
Serial Numbers JX965 to JX967

First deld RN                 746 sdqn at Ford in 5.45 (JX965)
First op sqdn                 Non operational.

32 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat F.II
Serial Numbers JX969 to JX999

First deld RN                 12.44 to RNARY Wingfield - entire batch JX969-JX999 to RNARY Wingfield by
                                        12.1944 thence used to equip 881, 896 sqdn 5.45.
Last in service RN           Most still in service post war.

53 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat F.II under Contract NOa(S)-2676
Serial Number JX775-JZ827. Some delivered as II NF

First deld RN                12.44 RNARY Coimbatore JZ775, 896 sqdn 10.45

22 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: JZ890-JZ911
First deld RN:                1.45

22 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: JZ947-JZ959
First deld RN:                2.45

19 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (F.II) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers:JZ960-JZ978
First deld RN:               2.45

2 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: JZ979-JZ980
First deld RN:               2.45

14 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers:  JZ981-JZ994
First deld RN:              2.45

5 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers:JZ995-JZ999
First deld RN:              3.45

15 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KD103-KD117
First deld RN:              3.45

35 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat F.II under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KD118-KD152
First deld RN:              3.45

5 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KD153-KD157
First deld RN:              Renfrew 1945

2 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat F.II  under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KD158-KD180

42 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat F.II under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KE118-KE159-

20 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat II (NF) under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KE160-KE179
First deld                    4.45

35 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat FII under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KE180-KE214
First deld                    4.45

15 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat FII under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KE215-KE229
First deld                    5.45

36 Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat FII under Cont No NOa(S)-2676
Serial Numbers: KE230-KE265
First deld RN:            5.45

Aircraft Type:
Grumman F6F Hellcat
Primary Role:
Single-seat shipborne fighter - also fighter-bomber and night fighter 
First Flight: 
June 1942
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
August 1943
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation
One 2,173 hp (2800hp) Pratt&Whitney R-2800-10W engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan 42.8 ft (13.06 m) 
Length  33.6 ft (10.24 m) 
Height  13.1 ft (3.99 m) 
Wingarea 334 sq ft   (31.03 sq m) 
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
empty weight 9,154 lb    4,152 kg 
weight  max. 14,205 lb   6,443 kg 
Max. speed 380 mph (611 km/h) 
Initial climb rate 3,250 ft/min (990 m/min) 
Ceiling  37,400 ft (11,400 m) 
Max.range  1,305 miles (2,100 km)
Six fixed forward firing 0.5in Browning wing guns with 400 rounds per gun (some F6F-5 and F6F-5N Hellcats had two 20 mm cannon plus four 0.5 inch machine-guns) 
Underwing attachments for six rockets 
Centre-section pylons for up to 2,000 lb of bombs 
Battle honours:
Pacific, Japan, South of France
Additional references and notes:
Battle Honours and Operational History

The Hellcat was credited with destroying 6,477 Japanese aircraft. It made its mark particularly in the Pacific theatre of operations, accounting for about 75% of all carrier-based victories. Up to 4,947 of the enemy aircraft were destroyed by F6Fs of the USN carrier squadrons (209 of the others by land-based Marine Corps F6Fs, and the remainder by Hellcats of Allied Commonwealth countries).  The F6F's most spectacular exploit was the destruction of more than 160 enemy aircraft in one day - 19 June 1944 - in the Battle of the Philippine Sea,  in the aerial massacre usually known as "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

F6F Hellcat
Fleet Air Arm Hellcat Mk II of the 29th Naval Fighter Wing, 1945

The FAA's Hellcat's operated in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific aboard both Assault Carriers and Fleet Carriers. Although aerial combat encounters were limited with the FAA Hellcat, it still managed to account for 52 kills during the war. Unfortunately for the Fleet Air Arm, none of its pilots achieved 'Ace' status while flying the Hellcat. The highest scoring FAA pilot was Sub-Lt. ET Wilson, of 1844 Squadron, with 4.83 kills. The top scoring Squadron, embarked upon the carrier HMS Indomitable, was 1844 Squadron with total kills of 32.5.

The FAA Hellcat made other 'kills' whilst in the service ofthe Fleet air arm, such as one of two known tain attacks by Hellcat. On 22 August, 1944, Hellcat JV153 of 800 squadron of HMS Emperor flown by Lt RM Rogers, attacked a train on the line two miles from Befiers, near Villeneuve in France. However, it failed to pull out of its attack and the pilot was killed.

The second train attack was almost at the end of the war, when on 26 July, 1945 during Operation Liver, Sub Lt IT Dean flying Hellcat JX703 of 896 squadron took part in an attack on Dhung Song railway junction, Phunket island. His aircraft flew into a locomotive in a low strafing run, and burst into flames, after knocking off his tail assembly in a group of palm trees.

Photograph of Hellcat F6F-3 BuNo 41090 of VF-1 from Air Group 1 serving aboard USS Yorktown (CV-10) in June-July 1944. During this period Yorktown took part in the capture of Saipan, 1st Bonin raid, Battle of the Philippine Sea, 2nd & 3rd Bonin raids, capture of Guam, and raids on Palau, Yap, and Ulithi.

Surviving aircraft and relics
More than twenty Hellcat are preserved in Museums in Europe and North America. The Fleet Air Museum has a F6F-5N Hellcat FII KE209 which was first delivered to the FAA in April 1945, another is in the Fighter Collection (UK)  and the rest in USA.

Preserved Fleet Air Arm Hellcat I KE209 at the FAA Museum (UK)

Hellcat F6F-5K G-BTCC (BuNo80141) preserved with the Fighter Collection (UK)

US examples of the F6F Hellcat may be found at the National Museum of Naval Aviation (Grumman F6F-3 (Hellcat) Serial No: 66237, Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: 94203, Quonset Air Museum (Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: 70185), The Air Museum "Planes of Fame"(Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) serial unknown), New England Air Museum (Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: 79192), Planes of Fame Air Museum (Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: 94473), Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum (Grumman F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: 79683) and the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (F6F-5 (Hellcat) Serial No: Unknown).

Preserved and airworthy Hellcat F6F No32 with droptank (USA)

National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola Florida (USA) Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat SN: 66237

Associations and reunions
No information
Warbird Alley Warbird Alley, an online reference source for information about privately-owned, ex-military aircraft. Includes details and specs and a summary total of airworthy aircraft including the Hellcat
Grumman F6F Hellcat  Details of the American service of the Hellcat
The Grumman F6F Hellcat by Earl Swinhart  History, models and photographs.
Grumman Hellcat details by FAA SIG Hellcat details in close-up - FAAM museum example
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale The hellcat [in french]
Profiles are offered by Scott Fraser, owner of Tally Ho! decals  The following profiles are offered by Scott Fraser, owner of Tally Ho! decals Hellcat I, JV131, 800 squadron HMS Emperor, March 1944 during Tirpitz attacks, Hellcat II, JW872, 808 Squadron, HMS Khedive Malay Coast, June 1945, Hellcat II, JX899, 800 Squadron, HMS Emperor Singapore, Sept 1945, Hellcat II, JX995, 898 Squadron, HMS Pursuer, late 1945 , Hellcat II, JZ788, 808 Squadron, HMS Khedive, May 1945, Hellcat FR.II, JW723, 804 Squadron, HMS Ameer Malay Coast, August 1945, Hellcat I, JV141, 1839 Squadron, HMS Indomitable, May 1945, Hellcat II, 1844 Squadron, HMS Indomitable, April 1945
Dawn's Grumman Hellcat Shrine
 Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS  An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS including GRUMMAN HELLCAT Mk.I, 800 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Emperor, Mediterranean Sea, August 1944 Operation Dragoon - Invasion of Southern France, GRUMMAN HELLCAT Mk. II, 808 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Khedive, August 1945
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces Series
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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