Eduard 1/48 F6F-3/5 Hellcat 'Royal Class'
KIT #: R0006
DECALS: Nine options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Two full kits plus lots of brass


      The F6F‑3/5 Hellcat is the most successful naval fighter series ever built.  With pilots of moderate training levels, the airplane could more than hold its own against its opponents, while it was tractable enough that the same moderately‑trained pilot could bring a damaged one back and get aboard his carrier, a point of no small importance in naval warfare.  It is the only fighter of the Second World War to remain essentially unchanged in basic design from its introduction to service to its post‑war withdrawal, with the main difference between the two production variants being engine power.

 The Myth of the Hellcat:

      To straighten out the myth of the airplane, the Hellcat was  not produced "in answer" to the Japanese Zero, which would be its major wartime opponent; it would have been impossible to design an airplane starting in 1942 (following the discovery of the Zero in the Aleutians that August) that would have had any hope of getting into production in the required timescale.  The Hellcat was already in preliminary design stages well before the outbreak of the Pacific War, and first flew about the time of the Battle of Midway.  What was indeed fortunate was that both Grumman and the "Fighter Desk" of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics had paid attention to what was going on in Europe with regards to air combat.  They guessed right in giving the Hellcat the biggest wing of any Second World War fighter for maneuverability, and the largest ammunition capacity, to improve its ability as a fleet defense fighter.  They were fortunate that the airframe was amenable to initial change from the underpowered R‑2600 to the far‑superior R‑2800, the finest radial piston engine ever built. With this engine, the airplane had sufficient power to outfly its opposition.

     The Hellcat first entered combat in the fall of 1943, as the Navy was beginning the Central Pacific Offensive, with squadrons based aboard both the big "Essex" class fleet carriers, and the "Independence" class light carriers which were based on cruiser hulls.  The U.S. Navy was the only air force of the Second World War to insure its fighter pilots went into combat knowing what to do both with their airplanes and their weapons.  With this superior gunnery training, many Hellcat pilots became an “ace in a day" in the swirling air battles that began over Truk in early 1944, and then moved on across the Central Pacific with the invasions of the Marshalls and Marianas later that year.

      Striking across the breadth of the Pacific against Okinawa, Formosa, Indochina and the Philippines during the summer and fall of 1944, Hellcats shot down everything they ran across.  From their first introduction into combat in the summer of 1943 through August 15, 1945, U.S. Navy Hellcats shot down over 5,000 enemy aircraft, and over 300 Hellcat pilots achieved ace status while flying the airplane.  Truly, it was an "ace maker."


     Many modelers wondered why Eduard would do a Hellcat when two different good models were already available.  After studying the various releases Eduard has done to date of the Hellcat, I can say that they did it for the same reason they released a series of Fw-190s in 1/48: their product is superior.

      The kit has surface detail that is superior to either the Otaki or Hasegawa kits, with very petite engraved rivet detail along panel lines, and separate control surfaces that can be posed dynamically.  The kit has separate fuselages, wings and cowlings for the F6F-3 and F6F-5, which take into consideration detail differences beyond the obvious that other kit manufacturers have missed in their desire to cut costs, as well as ordnance that is different to the two types as regards the F6F-3 and F-6F-5.  The kits include nicely-detailed cockpits in plastic, accompanied by very good pre-painted photo-etch detail that is up to Eduard's usual standards.  Additional photoetch is there for the engine ignition detail, as well as more detail for the wheel wells.  Resin engines and corrected resin wheels, as well as separate resin parts for the night fighter versions of both the F6F-3N and F6F-5N are provided.  Decals are provided for no less than nine Hellcats: three F6F-3s, and six F6f-5s including a French Aeronavale F6F-5, and two different Hellcat drones.  The best-known aces on the sheets are “Holly” Hills, the RCAF/USN ace; night fighter ace Bruce Porter, and first Hellcat ace Hamilton McWhorter, including his VF-9 F6F-3 and later VF-12 F6F-5.  The VU-1 Hellcat drone is in the later three colors, while an early drone in overall orange is included.

     There has been the usual brew-ha-ha regarding the release of this kit among those with too much time on their hands over at The Other Place, regarding the accuracy of the kit in general and the “grin” in particular.  In his comprehensive review of the kit, Brett Green points out that of the available Hellcat cowlings - both those from kits and those from aftermarket producers - none is entirely accurate, though some are more so than others, concluding that the Eduard cowling is overall the most accurate.  This is also the conclusion that has been drawn after copious study of photo comparisons between actual Hellcats and the kit, from those participating in the commentary Over There. (Sprue pics in the preview. Ed).

      Demonstrating that Eduard listens to valid criticism, the plastic wheels people have complained about are accompanied by resin wheels no one should have any problem with.  The resin engines are also beautifully cast.  There is an additional bag of resin parts for the night fighters, including the radome and a wing gun replacement that includes the most accurate representation of the 20mm cannons inboard I have seen in any kit.

      I particularly like that the canopies are thin enough that they can be posed in the open position, since this is likely the best-detailed cockpit of any Hellcat kit, including the aftermarket resin cockpits that have been released over the years. 


      There has already been screaming and yelling across the scale modeling internet regarding the $160 MSRP.  For starters, there are several distributors (Squadron and Hannant's that I am aware of) that are selling the kit for at least US$20 less than the MSRP.  However, I would say a modeler should consider the fact that while all these decals have been available on other sheets, none of those is currently in production, and eBay prices (assuming you can find the sheet) are not cheap.  Additionally, the resin bits are not cheap.  The Eduard BigEd set that has all the photoetch is also more expensive than what one is paying here.  Overall, this is a kit that needs nothing else from the aftermarket, provides markings not commonly available elsewhere of interesting subject matter, and provides great detail.  If you're a Hellcat fan and only want to do one of each, this is a great kit to get hold of.

 Thanks to Eduard for the review kit.

Tom Cleaver

October 2008

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Previews Index Page