26 June

The Grumman F6F Hellcat was an American carrier-based fighter aircraft designed to replace the earlier F4F Wildcat in United States Navy (USN) service.

The Hellcat competed with the faster Vought F4U Corsair for use as a carrier based fighter. The Corsair had significant issues with carrier landings which the Hellcat did not, allowing the Hellcat to become the Navy’s dominant fighter in the second part of World War II, a position the Hellcat did not relinquish. Although the F6F resembled the F4F Wildcat in some ways, it was a new design, powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same power plant used for both the Corsair and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. Some military observers tagged the Hellcat as the “Wildcat’s big brother”.

The F6F was best known for its role as a rugged, well-designed carrier fighter which was able, after its combat debut in early 1943, to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Such was the quality of the basic simple, straightforward design, that 12,200 were built in just over two years. Hellcats were credited with destroying a total of 5,223 enemy aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. This was more than any other Allied naval aircraft.