The F6F Hellcat is the iconic US Navy fighter of WWII, credited with the destruction of over 5,000 Japanese aircraft in a roughly two year period against a loss of just over 200 Hellcats in the air, a 19:1 kill/loss ratio. The Hellcat was not designed in response to the famed Japanese A6M Zero. There were ideas being tossed around about what the future fighter would be as early as 1939, but serious work didn’t begin until June 1940, when Grumman abandoned work on the twin engine XF5F prototype fighter and finally focused on what was needed in a single engine airplane. The aircraft design moved forward, given a priority after December 7, 1941. By June of 1942, a prototypeF6F-1 had been built, powered with a turbo supercharged Wright R-2600 It was joined shortly after by a prototype F6F-3, powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10 18 cylinder radial engine. The F6F-3 was selected as the production model and began rolling out in September of 1942. It would enter combat just under a year later, in August, 1943, with VF-5 and VF-9 aboard the new Essex and Yorktown. They would claim their first kill on their very first mission.
The Hellcat would prove to be an outstanding fighter. It was very rugged, easy to fly and forgiving. Leroy Grumman reportedly said something to the effect of wanting to design an aircraft for wartime amateurs, a life saver rather than an ensign killer. The Hellcat was certainly that. It would soon be operating on all large and light carriers, as well as being used by British and Commonwealth pilots as the Hellcat I. Over 300 US Navy pilots would make “ace” in the Hellcat. It could out fly and out-perform its competition, while at the same time the quality of training for US pilots would increase against a decline in the quality of Japanese training. For further information on the introduction of the F6F Hellcat, check this article at www.history.navy.mil
Cyber-Hobby has previously released the F6F-5(N), the night fighting variant of the late production Hellcat. They have now followed up with the F6F-3, the earlier variant of the Hellcat.
The kit comes in a smallish, top opening box with artwork on the top showing the aircraft in flight. The sides and bottom of the box show CAD images of the kit contents and full color profiles of the aircraft that can be made from the included decal markings.
Inside the box the individual styrene sprues are all carefully packaged. Included is a small card with the clear parts sprue and a small photo etch fret, separately bagged, taped to it to further protect them. Decals are also separately bagged, with a protective paper placed over the surface. Inspection of the contents showed no broken or damaged parts. Everything was very clearly and cleanly molded, with a very high standard of detail present. The kit looks beautiful. However, there are some issues that will be addressed further down.
This has the fuselage halves, R-2800 engine, cowling and propeller. The fuselage halves look very well molded and show good panel detail. The fuselage bottom and lower wing join is a separate molding, and should ensure that the wings line up properly with the fuselage. I don’t have specific enough references to determine if every access panel is correct or in the proper place. However, the engine cowling appears to be for the F6F-5 and lacks the exhaust fairings that were present on all but the last production F6F-3, and is also present in the box top artwork and the line drawings in the instructions. The upper cowling flaps are molded open. While it appears that the lower cowling flaps are included, part A-1, there is no mention in the instructions as to their placement, and no clear indicator on the cowling part that they would be installed. The cowling opening looks like it has the “grin” of the Hellcat down fairly well, but it is flat at the bottom, rather than rounded and the dividers look a little close. The propeller blades appear to be either too fat or too short, although I don’t have a tool to measure them with accurately. The engine cylinders are nicely rendered in two separate banks and the exhausts are hollowed out slightly at the openings. The rudder is a separate part so it can be positioned.
There are three. The first has the two main wing sections from the folding joint to the wing tip. Molding is very good but there is an extended gun shroud for what looks like the 20mm cannon from the F6F-5(N). It will have to be removed. The second sprue has the separate control surfaces, both of which feature both types of trim tab, which again is not correct. The extended trim tab should be on the right wing, the trim actuating rod should only be on the left wing. There are some small differences between the -3 and -5 wings, but again I don’t know enough about them or have references sufficient to specifically state whether the wings are correct or not. The third sprue has small detail bits that are for the landing gear. They are tiny but will add significant detail to the kit.
This has the landing gear struts, wheels and rear wheel, which comes with the tire separate from the two piece frame. There is a set of landing gear in the raised position if you want to show the airplane flying, although there is no pilot to go with it. The tires have the diamond tread pattern which looks a little heavy. There is also a drop tank and two retaining straps.
This has the cockpit with what is excellent detail on the instrument panel and side walls. There is also framework for the engine mount that will be hidden from view once the kit is assembled. The folding mechanism for the wings is also included here, as an option for kit construction.
Sprues E, F and G.
These are the bombs, rockets and guns, respectively. “E” also has a radar pod marked not for use, so I would venture to guess that there is an F6F-3(N) in the works. The rockets have separate fail fin assemblies. I don’t know if the F6F-3 was set up to carry bombs and rockets, at least for the first production runs. There are two sets of guns. G3 and G4 are the gun parts shown for use. They appear somewhat thicker and the outer-most gun is longer. On the F6F-3 the outermost gun should not protrude forward of the wing edge.
is the clear parts, with options for a closed canopy or an open canopy. The parts are clear and distortion free. They appear to me to be of the later canopy type, and no armored glass screen is included for inside the canopy. Two small windows are included for behind the canopy.
Part MA, etch fret.
This has the seatbelt harness for the pilot. This must be the simplest and most thoughtful inclusion in the kit and I really wish more manufacturers would make this effort to include such an obvious part of equipment for the airplane, especially with the effort made in detail on the other parts.
For those that built the previous Cyber-Hobby F6F-5(N), the sprues are identical with the exception of the “G” sprue which replaces the “H” sprue for the main armament.
The decal sheet has full stencils and markings for 6 aircraft, again a very generous inclusion.
The instructions are in line drawing style with sub-assemblies in small drop boxes to the side, indicating where they go. They indicate clearly where parts are optional for the different wing assemblies. There are 6 steps to construction, and they are fairly busy, but do appear to be clear. A paint chart is included providing color references for GSI Corp Aqueous color, Mr. Color, and Testors Model Masters paints. A painting guide is included at the end of the instructions, with a generic stenciling guide for all aircraft, followed by decal and painting for the six aircraft. Considering that the US Navy variants were in blue shades and the instructions are in blue shades as well, the US Navy color guides would be in near proper color.
The six aircraft are:
- VF-27, USS Princeton, 1944, tri color scheme of non-specular sea blue over non specular intermediate blue over white. The instructions state midnight blue for the uppermost surface area. The marking scheme includes the painted snarling cat face worn by VF-27 aircraft. There are actually markings for three different aircraft from VF-27, giving you 8 options for markings. No. 13, flown by Lt. William Lamb with 5 kills, No. 17, flown by Lt. Richard Stambook, 10 kills, and No. 23, flown by Lt. James Shirley, 7 ˝ kills, (8 shown on the scorecard.)
- VF-1, USS Nassau, 1943, tri color scheme, with the sea blue extending down the fuselage side at the wings, red outline on national insignia, numbered G29. I was not able to identify a pilot. USS Nassau was an escort carrier. She took part of VF-1 aboard on Nov 7 and sent 22 F6F-3 to Tarawa on Nov 25. For three days prior to deployment on Tarawa VF-1 aircraft operated off of Nassau and Barnes.
- VF-5, 1943, no carrier designation, but records show VF-5 was on Yorktown in 1943. White 29, (Here you can a picture of this plane at Navsource.org) she is visible in the background, tri color scheme with the sea blue extending down the fuselage side at the wings, red outline on national insignia. I was not able to identify a pilot.
- VF-6, USS Intrepid, 1944, tri color scheme, straight horizontal delineation between colors, white 99. I could not identify a pilot.
- 800 Squadron, JV131, 1944 not indicated but operating from HMS Emperor during the attack on the Tirpitz. Camouflage is Khaki green and extra dark sea gray over an unidentified color not called out in the paint guide, H74, Sky. Invasion stripes are included. Pilot was, I believe, Blythe Richie.
- 804 Squadron, JW723, 1945. This aircraft was probably operating off of HMS Empress and HMS Shah in the Pacific. According to thi article on Fleet Air Arm Archive 804 squadron was operating the F6F-5, or Hellcat II in British nomenclature at this time in the war. Paint scheme is khaki green over extra dark sea gray with the same sky underside. If 804 squadron had the Hellcat II, this would be the most correct of the marking options for the box contents.
In summary, it appears that this is the F6F-5 kit that Cyber-Hobby released earlier, with the two windows on the fuselage being opened and markings for the F6F-3 being the only significant addition. It looks very detailed and will certainly build into a nice looking model . However, the cowling provided is incorrect for all of the aircraft depicted in the decal schemes. The 20mm cannon faring still molded in place will have to be removed-again no indication in the instructions. There is no armored glass screen in the cockpit and the canopy appears to be for the F6F-5. The inclusion of the etch seatbelt is a big plus, as are the multiple markings, but a little more information on the aircraft depicted would have been nice. The mixed effort in the boxing results in a lower overall evaluation.
This kit MSRP is listed at $41.95, which is expensive, especially for the issues, but by shopping around you should be able to find it for less. My thanks to Aeroscale and Cyber-Hobby for making this review sample available.