Deck fighter "Grumman" F6F "Hellcat", the development of which began in 1941 year, was a logical continuation of the line of fighters F4F "Wildcat". "Hellcat" absorbed the rich combat experience of its predecessor, which he had to replace, and, most importantly, got rid of his inherent flaws: insufficient speed, mediocre maneuverability and high accident rate due to the narrow gauge of the chassis.
Grumman fighter Hellcat F6F-3 (Fig. Wardrawings.be site)
The first flight of the F6F "Hellcat" made in 1942 year, and the delivery of serial machines in the combat squadron began in January next year. The main serial modifications of the deck fighter were the F6F-3 and F6F-5 (from May 1944), supplied under the lend-lease to the UK, as “Hellcat” Mk.I and “Hellcat” Mk.II, respectively.
Fighter "Grumman" "Hellcat" Mk.I (F6F-3) (Fig. Site wardrawings.be)
The installation on the Hellcat of a heavier and more powerful engine, additional tanks, an increase in ammunition for six 12.7-mm machine guns, as well as a new chassis led to an increase in the size and take-off weight of the fighter. The plane received a low wing, the folding mechanism of which was like that of its predecessor. The Hellcat became the largest single and single-engine carrier-based fighter of the Second World War.
F6F-3 “Hellcat” in readiness for take-off with the help of an aircraft carrier catapult, 12 May 1944 (Photo by wordpress.com)
Of the shortcomings of the new aircraft, the pilots noted the sagging of the fighter at the time of touch during landing, when the propeller could touch the surface of the deck. The cause of this phenomenon was a large course of the fighter landing gear. With proper observance of the speed and angular parameters of the landing approach, this was avoided.
Fighter "Grumman" "Hellcat" Mk.II (F6F-5) (Fig. Site wardrawings.be)
Modifications of the Hellcat differed from each other mainly in the power of the engine being installed. On the F6F-3, the 2000-strong engine accelerated the plane in horizontal flight to a maximum speed of 605 km per hour and ensured the speed of 990 meters per minute. The F6F-5 horsepower 2250 engine provided the fighter with maximum speed already in 644 km per hour with a 1032 climb rate of meter per minute. F6F-3 had a flight distance (without PTB) 1755 km and a practical ceiling in 11430 meters. For F6F-5, these figures were: 1520 km and 11370 meters, respectively.
In flight, the F6F-3 "Hellcat" fighter that has survived to our days (Photo from www.warbirddepot.com)
Located in the wing (outside the circle of rotation of the screw) machine-gun armament "Hellcat" was supplemented with outboard. Under the center section, one 454-kg bomb or an additional fuel tank could be suspended. Under the wing consoles there were attachment points for two more 454-kg or four 227-kg bombs. At F6F-5, fuel tanks dropped in flight could be suspended instead of bombs. On special units could be placed six 227-mm unguided missiles such as HVAR. On the bomb holders under the wings hung two missiles of a larger caliber - 298-mm. Outdoor units for the suspension of weapons in the factory were installed only for F6F-5. On the F6F-3 modification, similar work was carried out in the field of aircraft repair shops.
Multipurpose fighter F6F-3 "Hellcat" with a suspended arms in flight. (Pic. Site badfon.ru)
The F6F-5 could carry three 454-kg bombs on the external hangers, and the F6F-3 only two. Two central large-caliber machine guns on the "five" could be replaced by 20-mm guns.
The British Hellcats, the Mk.I and the Mk.II, were equipped with quad-rigs for the suspension of eight 76-mm (27-kg) national-made unguided missiles.
Night fighter "Grumman" F6F-5N "Hellcat". (Fig. Site wardrawings.be)
On the released small batch of the Hellcat F6F-3E / N night fighters, the AN / APS-6 radar was installed on the front edge of the left wing console, which allows detecting large enemy aircraft (bombers) at a distance of seven to eight kilometers. All aircraft modification F6F-5 already in the production process received the technical ability to install radar in field conditions, which, if necessary, turned them into night fighters.
F6F-5N Hellcat night fighter with radar on the right wing, two 20-mm cannons and an outboard fuel tank. (Photo site www.mediafire.com)
F6F “Hellcat” inherited from its predecessor “Wildcat” high survivability, which was achieved by reserving the cockpit and oil radiators, retrofitted fuel tanks, as well as the strength of the airframe design. It was the most "hard-to-break" American carrier-based fighter during the Second World War.
Thanks to the powerful weaponry and fire resistance of the enemy, the F6F “Hellcat” was successfully used as a strike aircraft, providing direct support during landing operations.
British fighter "Hellcat" Mk.II missile attack Japanese airfield (Fig. Site www.artes.su)
In air battles with Japanese “Zero”, yielding to him in horizontal maneuverability, the F6F “Hellcat” in most cases won the victory thanks to the tactic of “strike and leave”. Possessing higher speed characteristics, the robust design of the F6F easily left the Zero under the blow, half looped down, first sharply turned over on its back. A major role in the results of the fights was influenced by the experience and quality of pilot training. In this regard, the Japanese pilots were noticeably inferior to the allies.
Fighter F6F-3 "Hellcat" in a dogfight with A6M5 "Zero". (Fig. Site www.findmodelkit.com)
F6F-5 "Hellcat" and A6М5 "Zero" at the airshow. Our days (Photo site www.airshowfan.com)
The results of the air battle over Leyte Bay in October 1944 of the year are indicative, when the Japanese lost one hundred Zero in one day. A quarter of this amount was on the account of the F6F “Hellcat” deck fighters.
In air combat F6F-5 "Hellcat" of the aircraft carrier "Essex", 25 October 1944 g. (Fig. Site warwall.ru)
In air battles with land army Japanese fighters such as the Ki-84 or Ki-100, the results of the fights were not always in favor of the Hellcats, which were inferior to the enemy in speed and firepower. So, in August, 1945, the Japanese ace Iwamoto in his Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-Kai, in aerial combat with the six Hellcat, shot down four of them and left the pursuit of the remaining two.
Hellcat Mk.II at our air show in California, USA, our days (Photo site wikimedia.org)
In flight F6F-5 "Hellcat". Our time (Photo site fanpop.com)
The development of the new carrier fighter from Grumman, the F8F Birkat, was launched in the 1943 year. The new aircraft was a further development of the F4F Wildcat and Hellcat F6F deck fighter aircraft and was designed to eliminate one of their main drawbacks: insufficient horizontal maneuverability, to ensure a significant increase in maximum speed and rate of climb.
Deck fighters of the firm “Grumman” F4F “Wildcat”, F6F “Hellcat” and F8F “Birket” (Photo site avmil.net)
The new fighter resembled the Hellcat in its appearance, and was comparable in size to the Wildcat and made its first flight in July 1944 of the year. On tests, Birkat showed excellent maneuverability and speed characteristics.
The fighter provided excellent maneuverability with a new wing, equipped with firing tips (prevented its destruction when the aircraft reached critical speeds in a dive and provided an opportunity to make a trouble-free landing after exiting the battlefield) and special “combat flaps” operating at high flight speeds and providing the necessary lift force of the wing in the horizontal maneuver. Air brakes installed on the lower edge of the wing helped to maintain accelerating speeds when diving within safe limits.
Fighter "Grumman" F8F-1 "Birket" ("Rossomakha") (Fig. Site www.wardrawings.be)
Production of the first serial modification of Birkat, the F8F-1, was launched in December of the 1944 year. The single deck fighter was equipped with an 2100-powerful engine that provided him with a maximum horizontal speed of 681 km per hour at an altitude of 4570 meters and a climb speed at the ground of 1722 meters per minute. The flight range with the PTB was 1778 km and the practical ceiling 10575 meters.
Fighter "Grumman" F8F-1 "Birkat" at the airshow in Texas, USA, October 17 2015 (Photo by www.airliners.net)
The fighter’s small arms consisted of four 12.7-mm machine guns (300 rounds of ammunition for the barrel) located in the wing outside the four-bladed propeller area of rotation (3.83 m in diameter). On the F8F-1В modification, which was launched into production after the end of the war in the autumn of 1945, four 20-mm guns were installed instead of machine guns.
Fighter "Grumman" F8F-1B "Birkat" (Fig. Site www.wardrawings.be)
At the bottom of the Birkat node, the outboard fuel tank with a capacity of 568 liters was usually suspended, which, thanks to its drop-shaped form, had low aerodynamic resistance and could not be discharged when maneuvering air combat was conducted. Under the wing could be suspended two 454-kg bombs (or 757-l PTB) and four 127-mm unguided HVAR missiles.
Fighter F8F-1В "Birkat" in the Museum of the Air Force of Thailand, Bangkok, 14 January 2010. (Photo site www.airliners.net)
The pilot of "Birkat" was protected by armored pads and armored pods. The plane received a protective fuel tanks and armored protection of the oil system.
Grumman fighters F8F-1 Birkat of the Blue Angels piloting group, August 25 1946 (Photo by site en.wikipedia.org)
The first naval squadron of deck fighters F8F-1 Birket was deployed in July 1945 on the aircraft carrier Langley. Until the end of the war, new fighters did not take part in the hostilities.
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To be continued ...