| Continued from above… July 26th of that year, the Hellcat was the result of specifications laid down by a large group of fighter pilots polled by the officials of the Grumman Aircraft Company. In addition to its duty as a carrier-based fighter, the Hellcat served with the U.S. Marine Corps as a potent fighter-bomber. |
It was powered by a Pratt and Whitney R2800-10. double wasp, 18 cylinder dual row radial engine, producing 2000 Hp. The fighter was armed with six wing mounted Browning .50cal. machine guns.
The American Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter from the same stable of the Grumman "Iron Works," shared a heritage with the earlier F4F Wildcat, but was a completely new design sharing only a family resemblance to the Wildcat. Some wags tagged it as "Wildcat's big brother" . The Hellcat and the Vought F4U Corsair were the primary United States Navy carrier fighters in the second half of World War II. The Hellcat proved to be the most successful aircraft in naval history, destroying 5,163 aircraft in service with the US Navy and US Marine Corps, plus 52 with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during World War II. After the end of World War II, the Hellcat aircraft was rapidly phased out of frontline service, finally retiring in 1954 as a night-fighter in composite squadrons.
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Grumman F6F Hellcat carrier-based fighter
Designed as a replacement for the obsolescent F4F Wildcat, the Hellcat reached operational units early in 1943 and made its combat debut in a raid on Marcus Island on August 31, 1943 during the Gilbert Islands campaign. The Hellcat provided Navy pilots for the first time in the war with a fighter that was superior in most respects to the agile Japanese Zero. Flying from the fast carrier forces that ranged the Pacific in 1944, Hellcat pilots broke the back of Japanese air resistance to the U.S. island-hopping campaign.
On June 19, 1944, the Japanese made a supreme effort to smash the carriers of Task Force 58 which were supporting U.S. landings in the Marianas. In what later became famous as "The Marianas Turkey Shoot," Hellcat pilots gunned down 366 of the 545 enemy aircraft sighted that day. On February 1, 1945, during one of the Navy's first large-scale raids on Tokyo, Hellcats of Air Group 80 set a new Navy record by destroying seventy-one defending Japanese fighters for the loss of three Hellcats.
Perhaps the most lethal use made of the Hellcat was the "mowing machine", devised by Lieutenant Eugene A. Valencia, the Navy's third-ranking ace of the war. The mowing machine was a flight of four Hellcats with one fighter always on the attack while the other three covered from behind and above. On April 17, 1945 Valencia and his flight put the idea into action during a strike at targets in Kyushu. Fourteen Japanese aircraft were shot down. On May 4, the mowing machine accounted for eleven Japanese planes near Okinawa and ten more on May 11. Living up to its appropriate name, the Hellcat destroyed a total of over 5,000 enemy aircraft during the war.