by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) received 1,263 F6Fs under the Lend-Lease Act; initially it was known as the Grumman Gannet Mark I. The name Hellcat replaced it in early 1943 for the sake of simplicity. The FAA adopted the use of the existing American naval names for all the U.S. made aircraft supplied to it. The F6F-3 being designated Hellcat F Mk.I, the F6F-5, the Hellcat F Mk.II and the F6F-5N, the Hellcat NF Mk.II. FAA Hellcats saw action off Norway, in the Mediterranean and in the Far East. A number were fitted with photographic reconnaissance equipment similar to the F6F-5P, receiving the designation Hellcat FR Mk.II. The FAA Hellcats primarily faced land based aircraft in the European and Mediterranean Theatres, and as a consequence experienced far fewer opportunities for air-to-air combat than their USN/Marines counterparts; they claimed a total of 52 enemy aircraft kills during 18 aerial combats from May 1944 to July 1945. 1844 Naval Air Squadron, on board HMS Indomitable of the British Pacific Fleet was the highest scoring unit, with 32.5 kills.
FAA Hellcats, as with other Lend-Lease aircraft, were rapidly replaced by British aircraft after the end of the war, with only two of the 12 squadrons equipped with the Hellcat at VJ-Day still retaining Hellcats by the end of 1945.These two squadrons were disbanded in 1946.
The Eduard range of 1/48 scale Hellcats have been around since 2008 and releases have included Royal Class, profiPACK, Dual Combo and Weekend Editions. This release is the Weekend Edition so the contents only contain injected plastic parts and decals. Well I say only, that is doing this kit a huge injustice as the plastic parts themselves are superbly detailed with fine recessed and raised detail. The panel lines and rivet detail is excellent. The only minor issue is a result of all the grey plastic parts being in one bag. There are quite a few fine scratches marring the otherwise shiny surface of the plastic. Not a big deal as the marks should polish out easily enough. Thankfully the clear plastic sprue is bagged separately as are the decals.
-4 x grey coloured plastic sprues
-1 x clear plastic sprue
-2 x small sheets of decals
The cockpit is well furnished with eleven plastic parts. The instrument panel and side consoles have some exquisite detail moulded on them. There are decal harnesses for the seat. The decal instrument faces look pretty good and come in several parts. The clarity of the clear parts is very good, the canopy is a separate part and can be displayed open if you wish. The side windows are also separate and do require some care when attaching them in place.
The fuselage is split vertically and the cowling is a separate and is split into three parts. There are two different cowlings. The difference is subtle so pay attention to the instructions. Eduard has captured the all-important face of the Hellcat very well. The Double Wasp 18-cylinder five part engine is nicely detailed and is presented as two separate banks of cylinders. The first bank has the push rods moulded on, the second bank does not. This is not a big deal as it’s not that easy to see the second row of cylinders inside the cowling. The prop reduction gear casing and the magnetos are separate parts. There are four sets of exhaust pipes to fit. The propeller is one piece and looks good in shape. There are manufacturer’s decals for each blade.
The wings have separate ailerons and flaps and the tail surfaces have separate elevators and rudder. The machine guns are moulded onto a short length of plastic and fit in the wing before assembly. The wings when constructed fit into recesses in the fuselage, an unusual approach but quite effective. The undercarriage bays have plenty of raised detail and there are additional parts to create a good looking area. The main undercarriage legs look as robust as the real thing. There is plenty of plastic at the attachment point so a strong joint is assured. The main undercarriage tyres are split in two as are the hubs. The tyres fit around the hubs very well. The spokes and rivet detail looks very good. The tail wheel, door and oleo are one piece and fits into the fuselage before assembly. To finish off there is a belly fuel tank to fit.
Eduard has provided two marking options, both flown by the FAA:
-Hellcat Mk.I FN430, flown by P/O Hannay, 1884 Squadron FAA, HMS Indomitable, Indian Ocean, August 1944.
-Hellcat Mk.I JV105 800 Squadron FAA, HMS Emperor, Aegean Sea, September 1944.
Both aircraft are painted olive drab and ocean grey on the upper surface and sky on the lower. Eduard research has deemed that JV105 had part of the invasion stripes on the starboard side of the fuselage was partly over sprayed with olive drab.
Eduard featured FN430 once before in kit no 8223 in 1/48 scale.
The decals are created by Eduard and look very good. The colour density and the definition of stencilling is top class. There is minimal carrier film. I do like the look of the instruments, though I’m not too sure about the look of the seat harnesses.
The eight page A4 instructions break down the construction sensibly enough. The exploded black line drawings are easy enough to follow. The coloured paint guide is much appreciated and there is a grey tone stencil positioning diagram. Eduard has chosen Mr Color Aqueous and Mr Color for paint reference
There are lots of built examples out there as the Eduard 1/48 scale Hellcats have been around for almost ten years now. I have built a couple and can testify that the kit builds really well. It is acknowledged by modellers that know the Hellcat a lot better than I do, that the Eduard kit is the best 1/48 scale Hellcat on the market at the moment and the foreseeable future.