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Grumman F6F Hellcat Fighter

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F6F Hellcat to Replace F4F Wildcat

F6F Hellcats - WWII American fighters.

Hellcats with tri-color camouflage and insignia with white bar and red outline. This U.S. insignia was used from June to September of 1943. US Navy photo.

Prior to the United States entry into World War II, Grumman Aircraft Corporation was working on a design to replace the F4F Wildcat.

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, encounters with the Japanese Zero further sanctioned the need for a larger, faster, carrier-based fighter. The first Hellcats entered the war in September 1943.

Hellcat Against the Japanese Zero and German Aircraft

F6F Hellcats on aircraft carrier

Landing crews on the USS Enterprise folding the wings on an F6F-3. More Hellcats are landing behind. US Navy photo.

Also in favor of the American pilots was the fact that a great number of Japanese pilots had been killed by the time the Hellcat was introduced, and the pilots who replaced them were poorly trained.

In British service (through Lend Lease) the Hellcat (once planned to be called the Gannet) performed well against the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Armament on the Hellcat

F6F Hellcat night fighter

6F-3N night fighter with AN/APS-4 radar. US Navy photo.

Armament usually consisted of six .50 cal. machine guns but later Hellcats carried up to 2000 pounds of bombs, and could be fitted for rockets. Wings were folded and spread manually and the aircraft accommodated only the pilot.

Variants of the Hellcat

Six variants of the Hellcat were designed during the course of the war and included night attack versions equipped with radar as well as a reconnaissance variant.

Hellcat Pilot and Aircraft Performance


Over 300 US Navy pilots became aces while flying F6Fs during WWII. These included David McCambell, the leading WWII naval ace and winner of the Medal of Honor, and at least five Hellcat pilots who became aces during Pacific night fighting.

The F6F Hellcat fighter performed well during World War II, amassing an impressive record of downed enemy aircraft, as well as success as a bomber escort. Rugged and easy to fly, some Hellcats remained in service into the 1950s.


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* F6F Hellcat facts

Category Fighter
Manufacturer Grumman
Introduced 1943
Used in

United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Royal Navy French Navy
Produced 1942–1945
Number built 12,275
Cruising speed 160 mph
Max. speed 400 mph
Altitude 37,800 feet
Maximum Range 1,800 miles
* Numbers are approximate