F6F-5N Hellcat. (Coll Gaubert)
It made its first flight on June 26th 1942. The F6F embodied the early lessons learnt by users of Grumman's previous fleet fighter, the F4F Wildcat, in the Pacific, as well as general pointers from the air war in Europe. Following receipt of the US Navy's order for the fighter in June 1941, Grumman modified the paper aircraft by lowering the wing centre section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitted more armour-platting around the cockpit to protect the pilot and increased the fighter's ammunition capacity. Less than a year after being ordered, the prototype XF6F-1 made its first flight, and it was soon realised that a more powerful engine was needed to give the fighter a combat edge - a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 was duly installed, resulting in the F-1 being redesignated an F-3. The aircraft made its combat debut in August 1943, and from that point on, the question of aerial supremacy in the Pacific was never in doubt. Hellcats served aboard most US Navy's fleet carriers, being credited with the destruction of 4 947 aircraft up to VJ-day. Amazingly, only three major variants were produced - the -3, of which 4 423 were built between October 1942 and April 1944, the improved -5 and the -3N/ -5N nightfighters. The Fleet Air Arm (UK Naval Aviation) was also a great believer in the Hellcat, procuring almost 1 200 between 1943-45. It could accommodate one pilot. A total of 12 275 aircraft were built !!!
The French Navy bought 124 F6F-5s and fifteen F6F-5Ns between 1950 and 1953. They were used by the 11F (ex-1F) and 12F combat squadrons, and by the 54S, 57S and 59S training squadrons. Those aircraft used to intervene over Indochina from various carriers such as CV Arromanches, CVL Lafayette and CVL Bois-Belleau. They were scraped in 1960.
It was equipped with :
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