|Richard A Franks|
|Valiant Wings Publishing|
|£22.95 MSRP at www.valiant-wings.co.uk|
224 pages, A4 Format, softcover,
ISBN: 978-1-912932-11-5, Airframe and Miniature #15
First flying several months before the start of the Pacific war, the F6F was a follow-on to Grumman's successful F4F Wildcat. It was designed around the most powerful radial engine of the time, the R-2600. This engine was soon replaced by the even more powerful R-2800. It was fairly heavily armed with six .50 caliber machine guns. The plane's folding wings used the Grumman designed system where they folded back against the fuselage. This feature was not powered, but was easy enough for ground crew to perform in a brief period of time.
Above all, the aircraft was designed to be fairly easy to fly and thanks to rather large wings and tailplanes, was quite maneuverable. If one combines all these factors into one airframe then the result is a superlative piston engine naval fighter. The ease of handling was a real bonus, as the war required a lot of new pilots to be able to successfully operate from the fleet's aircraft carriers with minimal deck crashes, an issue that kept the F4U Corsair off carriers for several years.
So successful was the F6F, that it was credited with more enemy aircraft shot down than any other naval fighter of WWII. One would have thought that it would have lasted well into the post war years, but aside from some being used by the Reserves and other converted into drones, the type quickly disappeared from the fleet, having been replaced by the even more potent F8F Bearcat.
This latest volume from Valiant Wings details the differences in sub-variants, though the F6F was pretty much perfect right from the start. Only the addition of more capabilities, night fighter versions, and some smoothing out of features made for any differences.
What all this results in is another superb book from Valiant wings. The Hellcat was widely used by USN squadrons and also by the British navy, mostly in the Pacific. The development of the type and various camouflage and markings are well covered. I particularly like the section that includes all the geometric ID patterns used by the dozens of units in the later years of the Pacific war. These pages also include the use by the French and Uruguay, the only other nations to fly the Hellcat. Several aircraft have been successfully retained in museums and as warbirds so we have a nice section of detail images of these planes as well as sections from tech manuals. These sorts of things are a real boon to scale modelers who want a lot of detail.
The Miniatures section has your kit reviews and some builds of various scales. Modelers have been blessed with a plethora of nice kits and not surprising that the newest ones are featured in the full build sections. This is topped off with an extensive detail section using both period and extant airframes to cover all the parts and pieces. As usual, there are appendices with kits, decals, aftermarket and books. Unlike the book on the Merlin Spits, this one includes everything that has ever been done, available or not. As a bonus for the first edition, a huge foldout of 1/48 plans is included in the back of the book.
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that this series is undoubtedly one of the best done when it comes to completeness in regards to covering a subject for both the enthusiast and the modeler.
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