The F6F Hellcat is a Radial Piston Engined, carrier-based aircraft employed by the United States Navy during World War II, developed to replace the previous F4F Wildcat.
Design & development
Northrop Grumman was working on a successor to the F4F Wildcat prior to the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. While the F4F was a capable fighter, early air battles revealed the Japanese A6M Zero was more maneuverable and possessed a better climbing rate than the F4F. The F4F did have some advantages over the Zero: Wildcats were able to absorb a tremendous amount of damage compared to the Zero, and had better armament. The F4F was also much faster in a dive than the Zero, an advantage Wildcat pilots used frequently to elude attacking Zeros.
These advantages carried over into the F6F and, combined with other improvements, created a fighter that outclassed the Zero almost completely. The contract for the prototype XF6F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. The F6F was originally to be given the Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine of 1,700 hp (1,268 kW), but based on combat experience of F4F Wildcat and Zero encounters, Grumman decided to further improve their new fighter to overcome the A6M Zero's dominance in the Pacific theater. Grumman installed the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) estimating a 25% increase in performance would result. The first Cyclone-equipped prototype (02981) flew on 26 June 1942 while the first Double Wasp-equipped aircraft, the XF6F-3 (02982) had its first flight on 30 July 1942.
Proposed at the same time as the first Hellcat prototypes, the XF6F-2 incorporated a turbo-supercharger, but performance gains were only slight and until fleet demands for improvements in speed arose, this variant, along with the two-speed supercharger-equipped XF6F-3, languished. However, later F6F-4 and F6F-5 variants did benefit from these initial development programs.
The F-6F Hellcat was equipped with six 12.7mm (.50BMG) Browning M-2 Heavy Machine Guns, this was more than a match for the A6M Zeros two 7.7mm and two 20mm Cannon, in addition to its Browning 50's the Hellcat could also be equipped with up to 2000lbs. (907kg.) of Bombs and Rockets. This was a vast improvment to the Wildcats Payload of two 250lb. (113Kg.) Bombs or Six 5in. (12.7cm) Rockets.
In Ace Combat
While the Hellcat hasn't seen action in any Ace Combat title, a F6F-like plane can be seen in the most recent trailer for Ace Combat X2: Joint Assault; it appears a few seconds past the title drop, flying over Midway. This indicates that the plane will appear, although it's unknown if it'll be player-controllable or NPC-exclusive.
If the former is true, then the F6F Hellcat is the first ever player-flyable prop aircraft in the AC series.