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The Grumman F6F Hellcat represented the main American carrier fighter of the Pacific War. Continuing in the Navy tradition of the F4F Wildcat, the plane was a single-seat single-engine mid-wing monoplane with a three-point landing gear. From the planes first combat introduction in the autumn of 1943, it proved itself easily the match for the Japanese Zero fighter.
The design featured an all-metal aluminum alloy skin except for skin except for control surfaces. It featured such improvements as a much more powerful engine which resulted in at least 50mph increased speed and 33% greater increase in rate of climb. It incorporated more modern design elements such as enclosed, wing wells for the landing gear. The larger wing provided more stability crucial to its aircraft carrier environment, particularly on landing.
The F6F Hellcat featured other improvements over the F4F such as a roomier cockpit with bulletproof front window (by the F6F-3) and entirely bulletproof canopy by the F6F-6. The heavy, bulletproof backing plate for the cockpit provided extra protection.
The engine was a powerful upgrade to the F4F, an air-cooled turbo-supercharged 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney R2800 – 10 W “Double Wasp” design (two banks of 9 radial cylinders). The three-blade propeller was extra long to take advantage of the high-performance engine, clearing the ground by only 186 mm. The plane also featured a water-alcohol fuel injection system for extra bursts of speed.
The Bendix pressurized fuel system consisted of all self-sealing fuel tanks. The two wing tanks were augmented by a 75-gallon reserve fuel tank under the floor of the cockpit. The plane could add additional range via an optional 150-gallon exterior metal tank suspended beneath the fuselage and additional 50-gallon tanks under each half-wing.
The firepower of the Hellcat was also greater than that of the former F4F. Armament consisted of three Colt-Browning M2 12.7 mm machine guns in each wing with increased ammunition capacity. Beginning with some F6F-3Ns, and by the F6F-5, all Hellcats were equipped with two machine guns and one 20mm cannon in each wing. A wing bomb rack could accommodate two 227kg (for the F6F-3) or a single 454kg bomb (F6F-5). Beginning with the F6F-5 the Hellcat could carry six Mk.5 or Mk.6 unguided high velocity air-to-ground 127 mm. rockets under the wing.
English help by Peter Gunther
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