Italeri 1/72 F6F-3 Hellcat




CDN $8.99


Three Aircraft


Olivier Lacombe


Hypothetical Paint Scheme


For a brief history and a look in the box, click here.


 1944 had been a rough year for the US Navy.  They had managed to force Imperial Japan into a truce in the Pacific, but had lost Midway and the Hawaiian Islands in the process.  They also had been badly mauled, Yamato and Mushashi having confronted the bulk of the US fleet in a classic night surface action off the Solomons.  What was left of the US ships of the line were now safely moored in San Diego, being repaired and upgraded. The brass had now switched their attention onto Europe, where Germany was wreaking havoc after the collapse of the Red Army at Kursk in 1943.  At sea, the Kriegsmarine was the master of the North Sea, with 6 fleet carriers (Graf Zeppelin, Peter Strasser, Hindenburg, Kaiser, Das Reich and Wilhelm Grosser), 10 light carriers, 5 huge battleships straight from Plan Z and numerous support vessels (cruisers, Bismarck and Tirpitz, destroyers, etc..).  The fleet carriers all had the same complement, except the last two who were bigger than the rest : 20 Fw 190T-8/R-14 torpedo fighter-bombers, 20 Ta 152T-0 fighters, 20 Ta 152T-1 high altitude fighters and a mixture of recon planes and other bombers.  The last two of the fleet carriers replaced their Ta 152T-1 with a mix squadron of Ta 183T and Me 262T, the later being very able planes, with the ability to carry 1 000kg of bombs very quickly into the heart of the enemy fleet.  The escort carriers had a mix of Focke-Wulfs, but were mainly used as defence for the larger carriers.

 Such was what the US carriers had to face in the cold seas of the Atlantic.  The bulk of the fleet comprised 15 carriers of various classes, the majority of them being Essex class.  Their complement was very similar to what the Japanese had faced in the Pacific:  Grumman F6F Hellcats still played a major role as bombers, both with torpedoes and bombs, while the fleet defence work was undertaken by the mighty Goodyear F2G with its massive Pratt and Whitney R-4360.  The aircraft was perfect for intercepting high flying bombers.  For the reconnaissance role, the Navy had mobilized the US Air Force thoroughbred, the P-51D Mustang, known to the sailors as a F51J.  It was perfect for scouting the vastness of the ocean, with its tremendous range, and if challenged it could defend itself pretty well.  However, the US Navy was not alone in these cold waters, the valiant Royal Navy was fighting alongside with 5 fleet carriers equipped with Sea Hornets, Sea Tempest II (the Sea Fury was still going through its paces) and a few precious Sea Vampires. These were essential to counter the sleek German jets.

 Deep inside USS Princeton, Lieutenant Edward Mayer awoke to the sound of the general quarters.  He stood up, put on his flying suit, grabbed his helmet and ran to the briefing room.  Fellow pilots joined him as he ran in the red-lighted carrier to the briefing room.  They all rushed in and sat down.  Admiral Bruebaker started : “Gentlemen, half an hour ago, one of our F51J broadcasted that he had found what appeared to be 2 light carriers with a fleet carrier being escorted by a few cruisers and destroyers.  We haven’t heard from him yet.”  He paused and looked at the pilots in the room.  He went on explaining what exactly it meant for the 14th US Atlantic Fleet, and he gave way to a Commander who gave further details about the mission.  As he began to speak, the pilots started to take notes.  “VF-27’s and VF-48’s Hellcats will conduct a torpedo run on the capital ships.  VF-48 will split in two sections and engage  the two light carriers while VF-27 will deal with the fleet carrier.  VF-66 and its F2Gs will sweep the target area just before you arrive and will deal with any air opposition.  The Royal Navy will have two flights of Sea Hornets and one of Sea Vampires standing by if the fight gets rough.”  As he exposed the distance to be flown, Mayer’s stare widened as he saw that a mere 200 miles separated the two fleets.  The weather briefing came next and the admiral wished them all good hunting. 

 Before stepping in the cold North Atlantic winter, the pilots went to the dressing room and donned warm gears, similar to the one the B-29 crews were wearing above Germany.  They stepped on the bridge and started walking towards their mount.  The Corsairs were upfront, clad in the same Gloss Sea Blue as their brethren on the Pacific Coast.  Towards the front of the ship came VF-48’s aircrafts, painted in the Atlantic scheme like the sub-hunting Avengers.  They had a big Mk 13 torpedo under the belly and their canopy had the side frame removed to enhance visibility.  VF-27’s aircrafts had the same modifications, but they weren’t camouflaged the same way.  They had Light Grey under surface with a Non-Secular Sea Blue wavy pattern on the top which in turn was mottled with Neutral Gray.  The cowling sported their trademark cat mouth.  This unusual camouflage had its roots within the Luftwaffe, VF-27’s CO having followed the same route as the 56th Fighter Group in England (which now had P-82s). 

 The pilots climbed in their cockpits and started up the mighty Pratt & Whitneys, engulfing the deck in thick blue smoke.  Once they were warmed up, the carrier veered into the wind and the fighters launched one after another. 

Mayer was neatly tucked under his leader’s wing, a mere 200 feet above the greyish ocean.  The high waves sometimes sent spray crashing into the windshields, reducing the visibility which was not very good to start with.  Above them and a few miles ahead, the Corsairs were leading the way.  All of a sudden, the sky cleared up a bit and a dozen long-nosed aircraft zoomed by the  F6Fs, ruining the surprise effect.  “152s!!!” yelled the CO on the radio, and all the pilots in the Hellcats shoved their throttle forward.  The Corsair formation exploded with F2Gs going in all directions after the Focke-Wulfs, but one pilot spotted a big ship just over the horizon.  “Here is your target ‘Cats, go get them, we’ll take care of the bastards!”.  The pilot then rolled over, chasing a Ta 152.

 The flight leader quickly rocked his wings, signalling the squadron to move into attack formation, which they promptly did.  Mayer could now see two huge carriers over the horizon, and they were launching planes.  A squall obscured part of the horizon, but the two flattops seemed to be lightly escorted.  The F6Fs closed the distance quickly, and the pilots throttled back to release their torpedoes. 

 The F2Gs were having a hard time containing the Ta 152T-0, 3 Corsairs were already on the bottom of the sea with 1 Focke down.  Flak erupted all over the torpedo bombers, puncturing  wings and fuselages.  VF-27 took the first of the big carrier for a target, while VF-48 split in two and raced for the second big one and what seemed to be a light one, just emerging form the squall.   

A few Hellcats had already exploded, leaving holes in the formation.  A few 152s had closed up on the F6Fs and had started to harass them.  The situation couldn’t possibly get worst, but it did : out of the squall emerged not one, but two Z Class battleships, which opened fire on the speeding bombers.  As he looked up in his mirror, Edward Mayer realised what were the aircraft the flattop was launching : Me 262Ts and Ta 183Ts.  The later each had a torpedo under the belly and skimmed the surface from where the Americans had came from, while the sleek Messerschmitt jets split in two groups, one going for the Corsairs while the 152s were breaking for the Hellcats.  Two Corsairs managed to break free of the dogfight and sped after the jets, frenetically trying to contact the Task Force to warn them about the incoming danger. 

 The carrier now filled Lieutenant Mayer’s gun sight and he recognised the ship to be Das Reich.  “So,” he told himself, “that’s where the jets came from.”  He carefully took aim, and reached for the torpedo release handle, pulled on it hard and the F6F literally jumped up, freed from the weight of the fish.  As he nosed down in a shallow left turn, a huge explosion rocked his plane, taking out a sizeable chunk of his right wing.  Mayer levelled the plane and shoved the throttle forward, the R-2800 acknowledging with a mighty growl.  Tracers zoomed by his canopy, and he rolled the aircraft ninety degrees to the left and pulled hard on the stick before reversing the manoeuvre.  A Ta 152T-1 sped right above him as he exited his second turn.  He raised the nose slightly and managed to fire a quick burst at the fighter before it sharply breaked right, trailing a fume of glycol. 

 Mayer was looking for some of his fellow wingmen, but saw none, although a lot of chatter was going on over the radio.  Spotting a couple of dots in front of him, he started to climb away into the clouds to get some cover and contact the fleet for a bearing home.  He had no idea if his torpedo had hit the  German ship, although he hoped that someone had put something into her side …


The first step was to assemble the cockpit (a bold move!), which was duly painted Model Master Green Zinc Chromate (still that bottle to empty!), with the seat Flat Black, like the instrument panel.  The seat belts were picked up with Model Master Dunkelgelb and the buckles received some Chrome Silver.  The decals provided for the dash is too big, so it was left all black (it’s almost invisible once the fuselage is closed anyways), but the decals for the side consoles were used and they worked as advertised.  I opened up the holes for the rear windows, but the operation is rather difficult for someone like me who’s a novice at opening holes in kits. 

 The wings were mated together, without forgetting to install the guns before gluing everything shut.  The fuselage halves followed, and the wing assy was glued to it.  The fit is not bad, but seams prevailed, so Tamiya Putty was used in the process to cure the disease, after which sanding and priming completed the job.  When I separated the cowl form the sprue, I managed to slice through it with the X-Acto Blade, so super glue was used to restore a unscathed appearance to the part.  The cowl flaps were also cut out and displayed open.  The trailing edge and the wheel wells were then coated with Green Zinc Chromate, as was the tail wheel well and the inside of the cowl (no more of that colour, the bottle is empty!).

 The engine was next, with the cylinders receiving a Model Master Gun Metal treatment, while the crankcase was busy with some Model Master Neutral Grey.  Once everything had dried up, the propeller governor was painted Flat Black and the ignition system collar (or whatever the name is) Chrome Silver.  The propeller was hand painted Flat Black with a Chrome Silver hub and Insignia Yellow tips.  The engine was glued to the firewall first, after which the cowling was placed over.   

The KMC torpedo went next, with the propeller hub super glued to the body and the tiny fins and blades coming next.  Damn, these parts were small!  The body was brushed with Dark Ghost Gray with a Chrome Silver propeller.  I decided not to install the wooden prop protector to show the tiny blades, but also because it wouldn’t had fit under the plane (my reference also showed no protection on the torpedo).

 Finally, the sink holes in the flaps were filled over, masking was done and the aircraft was ready for the paint shop.

 A note about the canopy : for an unknown reason, the middle frame on the side of the canopy is not moulded.  You will have to mask it to build an accurate F6F, however, I dithered on mine to represent my hypothetic aircraft.


Since the whole point of this Italeri aircraft was to have a Torp-Cat, I allowed my imagination to flow and came up with a Luftwaffe style camo for the bird.  The belly was painted Model Master Light Grey, as were the wheels, the struts and the gear doors.  Next, the top surfaces was coated with Gunze Light Blue with some mottling on the side, after which Gunze Neutral Grey was applied in a pattern inspired by the one on a Ta 152, again with mottling on the sides. 

 I choose VF-27’s cat mouth decals, since it really make the Hellcat look like, well, a cat out of Hell! The front of the mouth was hand painted red before the usual coat of Future.

 The decals went on beautifully, although the white in the stars is not quite opaque enough.  I discarded the pilot’s name and the Japanese victory symbols.


 The flaps and the pitot tube were glued, and the necessary paint touch ups were made before gluing the torpedo.  The landing gears were then glued, and problem aroused.   The locating pins for the struts are too big, so I enlarged the holes in the wells with an X-Acto blade until it fit.  Even then, a strip of tape firmly held them while the glue set.   The fitting of the torpedo posed a problem, since the only drawing I had of such an installation showed the torpedo attached by it’s center with what appeared to be small wires.  Not the best way to have a sturdy assembly on a model.  What I did was that I took the drop tank’s straps, measured them with the torpedo attached with tape, made mark on the plane, and wound up shortening the aft strap a bit.  I decided to locate them at either end of the projectile for maximum strength.    The straps were super glued to the torpedo, before gluing the whole thing with Humbrol glue on the belly of the Grumman.  It really helped that the underside is rather flat. 

 I realised that I missed the side cowl bumps (near the exhaust) to accurately portray a F6F-3 of the early series with the cowl flaps.  I dug into my spare box and only managed to find one, so I scratchbuilt the other as best as I could (that’s why one is different from the other). 

 With every part on the model except for the clear bits, I coated the plane with Model Master Dull Coat, but I believe (after consulting the forum) that I didn’t thin the stuff enough, because it dried up leaving whitish patches all over the place.  The effect is not that bad, it looks like some kind of weathering, although unwanted.  The clear parts were installed next, and while the sliding portion of the canopy fits rather well, the windshield is not stellar in that area.  White glue solved the gap problem.


This was a very fun modeling project.  The paint scheme is not your father’s Hellcat paint scheme, but the aircraft builds up to an accurate early F6F-3 (although the middle frame in the windows is missing).  You can also build an F6F-5 if you don’t open the cowl flaps, leave the bulges off and keep the small rear windows sealed.  There were no big troubles with the kit, except maybe the opening up of the rear windows.  I recommend this kit to anyone looking for a little Cat!

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet.  

Olivier Lacombe

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