FTER studies convinced Grumman that the performance of the F4F Wildcat couldn't be improved by the installation of a larger engine, the company opted for an entirely new design—the Grumman 50. The model carried six .50-caliber machine guns and was powered by the 1,600hp Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone engine. It differed most from the F4F in that its wing was lower and it had rearward-retracting landing gear, which was in the wing rather than in the fuselage. Also, the landing gear retracted aft while rotating 90 degrees to lay flat in the trailing edge of the wing in the same manner as the Curtiss P-40. Retained from the F4F was the manually folding wing with a 45-degree hinge.
An early production F6F-3 Hellcat with the two-tone gray camouflage that was still used in early 1943. Note the use of stars on both wings and the use of fairings around the muzzles of the six wing guns (later deleted).
new design was built for Navy inspection, which took place on January 12,1941. In June, the Navy placed an order for two XF6F-1 prototypes with 1,700hp (T.O.) R-2600-10 engines.
As is often the case, many changes were made between the mock-up and the first flying prototype, most notably an increase in wingspan, from 31 feet, 4 inches to 33 feet, 6.5 inches; wing area, from
F6F-5s on the deck of the USS Essex in April 1945. Note the belly tanks and underwing rockets on both airplanes, and the deck crew manually folding one plane's wing (center). The various white markings shown here were adopted in late 1943 to identify airplanes from different aircraft carriers.
290 to 334 square feet; and length, from 41 feet, 6 inches to 42 feet, 10 inches. There were also many changes in installed equipment. The first XF6F-1, now officially named "Hellcat," flew on June 21, 1942. A notable detail not seen on the production Hellcats was a large propeller spinner.
The second prototype would have had a turbo-supercharged version of the R-2600 engine and been redesignated "XF6F-2." The Navy, however, directed a change to the 2,000hp (T.O.) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 engine, so the airplane was redesignated "XF6F-3" and became the prototype of the production articles. It first flew on July 30, 1942. After a crash caused by engine failure, the XF6F-3 was rebuilt as the XF6F-4 with an
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