The F6F Grumman Hellcat was developed for the United States Navy as a carrier-based fighter after the outbreak of war in the Pacific theater during World War II. The earlier F4F Wildcat design had several weaknesses that made it less effective against the Japanese Zero. While the Wildcat was tougher and slightly faster on a straight course than the Zero, the Zero had far greater maneuverability, making it extremely difficult for Wildcats to beat Zeroes in a dogfight.
The Hellcat was essentially an improvement on the Wildcat design concept, using a larger engine and sturdier airframe to improve on the Wildcat's strengths. In the process, it also became roughly as maneuverable as the Zero, allowing US Navy and United States Marine Corps pilots to engage Zeroes on roughly equal terms.
Hellcat in Days of Infamy
The Hellcat was introduced to the US Navy in 1943 to replace the Wildcats as the Navy's front line fighter, and to counter the Zero. The fighter was first used successfully in 1943, when the United States destroyed the Japanese Task Force guarding Hawaii. Japanese pilots, quite confident in dealing with Wildcats, were taken by surprise by the superior Hellcats.
After this victory, the Hellcat went on to support the US campaign to liberate Hawaii. Against the Oscar, the Hellcat proved the superior fighter, and within a matter of days, Japanese army air forces were effectively wiped out. Even without opposition, the Hellcat still proved a deadly foe, as it was more than capable in a CAS role.
Hellcat in Joe Steele
During World War II, US Navy Hellcats would defend the fleet and take the war to the Japanese. After gaining air superiority and then complete control, Hellcats would also be used in a ground attack role. Most famously, a flight of Hellcats attacked four tanks escorting a black car with rockets and machine gun fire, killing Emperor Hirohito.
- Joe Steele, pgs. 321-323, HC.