The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft conceived to replace the earlier F4F Wildcat in United States Navy (USN) service. Although the F6F resembled the Wildcat, it was a completely new design, powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same power-plant used for both the Navy’s earlier Chance Vought F4U Corsair and the United States Army Air Force’s (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 début in early 1943, to counter the Mitsubishi A6M and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theatre. Such was the quality of the basic simple, straightforward design, that the Hellcat was the least modified fighter of the war, with a total of 12,200 being built in just over two years.
Hellcats were credited with destroying 5,223 aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. This was more than any other Allied naval aircraft. Postwar, the Hellcat was phased out of front line service, but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter.