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View Full Version : Hellcat, its role post introduction of Bearcat



mynameisroland
08-06-2007, 07:01 AM
Why did the Hellcat not receive a bubble canopy ? I got to thinking that it was because of the Bearcats near introdcution to service that the Hellcat wasnt further developed. That and its huge significance to the USN in 1944 meant that Grumman and General Motors (they did manufacture it too yes?) were maxed out producing the F6F3/5 and couldnt spare anytime in modifiying the plane.

Possibly any changes to the rear fusealge may have worsened what was one of the Hellcats best features: safe and predictable handling characteristics on landing.

anyone more clued up on this subject>?

leitmotiv
08-06-2007, 07:36 AM
The Hellcat was aced because it was too slow. The Bearcat had great speed and phenomenal climb---ideal for countering Kamikazes from a flight deck scramble. The Hellcat was already being replaced in the fleet by the Corsair in 1945. In essence, the Bearcat was a smaller, lighter Hellcat optimized for speed.

ForkTailedDevil
08-06-2007, 08:19 AM
My understanding is that a Hellcat is a "SUPER" Wildcat. They ended up making some changes after the first production models after they got there hands on the A6M which led to the F6F-3. I think that the Hellcat was just a stop-gap measure until the Bearcat was ready. Really when the Hellcat entered service the IJN was already on its knees. It fought for just about 2 years or so. The Wildcat including the FM-2 fought pretty much the whole war.

3.JG51_BigBear
08-06-2007, 08:27 AM
Originally posted by mynameisroland:
Why did the Hellcat not receive a bubble canopy ?

I remember reading a story in an old Flight Journal that the Hellcat was fitted with a bubble canopy but the canapoy exploded in a dive each time. The pilot, Corky Meyer I think, blamed the problem on Grumman engineers.

The Hellcat was never meant to stay in service past the end of the war. It was a result of the Navy's need to fill in the gap left by the Corsair project which was running over budget and over time. The Hellcat was meant to be produced cheap and to give a decent account of itself. It was not nearly as advanced or as fast as the Corsair in many ways but the Navy could get 3 Hellcats for the cost of 1 Corsair and it was much easier to train pilots to fly the Hellcat than the Corsair.

The Bearcat started as an uprated Hellcat. When Grumman started the project they considered going in two directions: 1. would be a larger, faster version of the existing Hellcat; 2. was the Bearcat which borrowed a lot of ideas from the Focke Wulf. In the end Grumman execs and test pilots were much more enthusiastic about the smaller fighter.

Grumman had to come up with something to replace the Hellcat especially after the Navy saw the British operating Corsairs off of carriers and Chance Vought began modifing the Corsair to fly off of American carriers. It was only a matter of time before the higher performing fighter took over.

mynameisroland
08-06-2007, 08:33 AM
great stuff guys thats what Im after. Basically this guy I talking to maintains that the only reason the Hellcat didnt get a bubble canopy was that it didnt need one because it was shooting down the IJN and IJA left right and centre.

I said that while it was a great and very effective fighter it wasnt a long term player for the USN and was an 'aircraft for the moment' meaning it was a war winner in 44 but come 45 the USN had better planes to replace it with particularly Grumman's own F8F. It didnt get a buccle canopy because it wasnt worth slowing production for what was in effect turned out to be a stop gap fighter - a brilliant one dont get me wrong, but still not a long term proposition.

I didnt know about thewhole blowing up canopy thing - wow.

berg417448
08-06-2007, 09:19 AM
There was a proposal for a Hellcat with improved performance.

Two XF6F-6 prototypes were built and were fitted with a more powerful engine. This had a two stage two speed supercharger and water injection. It also was equipped with a four-bladed propeller. The first flight was in July 1944. The Navy was interested in this version, but the order was canceled after the end of the war in August 1945.

Aaron_GT
08-06-2007, 10:22 AM
Basically this guy I talking to maintains that the only reason the Hellcat didnt get a bubble canopy was that it didnt need one because it was shooting down the IJN and IJA left right and centre.

Most WW2 aircraft that started off with a razorback and later gained a bubble canopy had issues with directional stability (hence additional fillets on P51s, P47s., etc.) compared to the razorback versions. If you think about the stability needed when doing a missed approach on a carrier the need for directional stability when absorbing the power of the big engines is quite an issue. If you look at the size of the fin in the Bearcat it is quite big in comparison to that of the Hellcat.

To get the bubble canopy right in the Hellcat would have required a lot of work in terms of modifying the fin, fillets, etc. If you have a limited number of top-notch staff then it might be seen as effort wasted on a fighter that is doing ok when the effort would be better employed on the next generation machine (Bearcat).

Korolov1986
08-06-2007, 10:40 AM
One of the key things about the Hellcat was the general no-nonsense design. I think for all intents and purposes, it was the ideal carrier fighter - simple, rugged, tough, and dependable. Unlike the Corsair which had lots of quirks to go with the high performance, the Hellcat was a plane you could just get in and fly.

With all that in mind though, one has to take into account it's relative performance was pretty low. It wasn't what I would call a high-performance fighter; just better than what the enemy had to offer - up to a point. Once you start bringing late war IJ planes into the mix, it starts coming up short. The Bearcat just slaps the Hellcat silly performance-wise, so it's an obvious replacement to work alongside the Corsair in the fighter/interceptor role.

One13
08-06-2007, 12:16 PM
This what Corwin 'Corky' H. Meyer, Grumman Test Pilot said about the bubble top.
"In the final approach to the carrier, visibility was superior to that of the Vought F4U-1 Corsair. This was because of the Hellcat cockpit's proximity to its nose coupled with the 8-degree down angle of the forward fuselage. The Hellcat had the best forward visibility of all fighters until the bubble canopy arrived on fighters in late 1944. 1 tested a sliding bubble-- canopy design similar to the Spitfire's on a Hellcat in late 1943. After three test canopies burst impressively, leaving me in a violently windy cockpit long before the limit dive speed had been reached, Grumman's engineers realized they didn't understand bubble-canopy design problems, and further tests were, thankfully, discontinued."

horseback
08-06-2007, 01:51 PM
If you look at the size of the fin in the Bearcat it is quite big in comparison to that of the Hellcat. Note also that the later models of the Bearcat had even bigger tailfins than the earlier F8F-1s.

It should be noted somewhere around here that Grumman was all about production; a cut down rear fuselage and bubble/teardrop canopy would have played Hob with aircraft output and (probably) resulted in a less forgiving aircraft, which were after all, the Hellcat's two greatest selling points.

As for the Corsair being significantly 'better' than the Hellcat in terms of performance, that would be a matter of opinion and individual aircraft until the delivery of the F4U-4. Whoever you ask, though, would tell you that the Hellcat was faster than the Corsair three day of every week because the Corsair would be in the hanger for repairs or maintenance at least that much of the time.

cheers

horseback

VMF-214_HaVoK
08-06-2007, 01:55 PM
My understanding is that a Hellcat is a "SUPER" Wildcat.

Actually I believe it was the Bearcat that was considered to be a "SUPER" Hellcat. The Hellcat is a completely different design compared to the Wildcat and they really look nothing alike.

S!

3.JG51_BigBear
08-06-2007, 02:21 PM
Originally posted by VMF-214_HaVoK:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">My understanding is that a Hellcat is a "SUPER" Wildcat.

Actually I believe it was the Bearcat that was considered to be a "SUPER" Hellcat. The Hellcat is a completely different design compared to the Wildcat and they really look nothing alike.

S! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

The Hellcat actually did start as a super Wildcat but they found that the massive radial Grumman planned on using couldn't be packed into a Wildcat no matter how hard they tried. The biggest problem was going to be engine torque and the Wildcat narrow landing gear. Then they decided to scrap it and go with a whole new airframe.

Platypus_1.JaVA
08-06-2007, 02:23 PM
Believe it or not, a bubble canopy will cost you airspeed. Razorback aircraft have smaller drag.

3.JG51_BigBear
08-06-2007, 02:35 PM
Originally posted by Platypus_1.JaVA:
Believe it or not, a bubble canopy will cost you airspeed. Razorback aircraft have smaller drag.

After doing a little research I've found that they were also more expensive to produce, WW2 bubble canopies tended to crack in heat and humidity, and if the canopy took battle damage it was far more likely to shatter/crack than a framed canopy which would usually only lose the effected pain of glass.

LilHorse
08-06-2007, 02:59 PM
Originally posted by VMF-214_HaVoK:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">My understanding is that a Hellcat is a "SUPER" Wildcat.

Actually I believe it was the Bearcat that was considered to be a "SUPER" Hellcat. The Hellcat is a completely different design compared to the Wildcat and they really look nothing alike.

S! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Indeed, the Hellcat design was already on Grumman's tables before the U.S.s involvement in the war. To the best of my knowledge it was never designed to be a "stopgap" for anything. Though the Navy might have looked at it's aquisition in that respect since the Corsair was not ready at it's introduction for carrier ops (though the British FAA didn't seem to have any qualms about pressing it into service straight away). It was meant to be Grumman's replacement for the Wildcat.

Of course after the war there was no reason for further developement of the Hellcat or the Bearcat for that matter. Big slashes in military budgets and knowing that developement of jet designs was already on the horizon put an end to that. The Navy went with the best plane they had in large numbers that they felt still had a capability in a future dominated by jets. That was the Corsair. The Bearcat being relatively new and in smaller numbers just succumbed to the budget axe.

This, of course, was no skin off Grumman's nose since they saw their future in Navy contracts in Jets. Why have the Navy buy more Bearcats when they can buy Panthers? $$$$$

LilHorse
08-06-2007, 03:14 PM
P.S. One developement for the Hellcat postwar... Those that weren't scrapped outright were used as pilotless drones to be used in aerial gunnery practice. Kind of a sad ending for them. It's a miracle that there are any around still flying.

horseback
08-06-2007, 03:32 PM
Bearcat was designed as a fighter/interceptor; it couldn't carry remotely as much ordnance as the larger Corsair, which soon became a bombtruck. The Bearcat's Fleet Defense role was soon filled by the FH-1 Phantom and Grumman's own Panther jets, and joined the remaining Hellcats in the Reserves.

Hellcat was only considered as a 'super Wildcat' in the very early design stages on the drawing board. Initial prototype was very recognizably the Hellcat, but it was underpowered by the R-2600 engine originally proposed (same engine in the Avenger), and the R-2800 was quickly seized upon as the best powerplant available to haul all that metal around the sky, which it did admirably.

BUT Hellcat was designed to a proven technology standard; there was no real innovation or ground breaking taking place as in the Corsair, P-38, P-47 or Mustang. Grumman just crammed a bunch of the very best features that were already known to work into their new design, and built it to the highest production standards they could manage.

Once those features were superseded by better technology, Grumman thought it was time to sit down at the drawing board and start on a new fighter, not try and extend the life of the old one.

cheers

horseback

VW-IceFire
08-06-2007, 03:40 PM
Some of those pilotless drones were actually used as a primitive cruise missile being remotely piloted into bridges (and filled with explosives) during the beginning of the Korean War.

Hellcats were not stop gaps and they weren't extensively modified after the capture of the Zero either. The Hellcat was very much a deliberate design from Grumman to offer the US Navy a better fighter than the Wildcat. The US Navy felt the Corsair had better performance but it wasn't ready so...given that it was wartime...they did the right thing given massive resources and a wartime budget and selected both. The Hellcat was a big enough improvement over the Wildcat to be worthwhile to send in to combat while the Corsairs were tweaked for Carrier use and used from land bases by the USMC.

The Bearcat was basically Grumman taking the Hellcat design apart, figuring out how to make it lightweight in as many ways as possible, and cramming the most powerful R-2800 they could find into the cowling at the front. I believe they even studied the Zero and the FW190 during development although Grumman certainly had their own way of doing things.

Also worth noting that the Corsair outlasted both the Hellcat and the Bearcat in US Navy service.

R_Target
08-06-2007, 03:50 PM
Originally posted by mynameisroland:
I said that while it was a great and very effective fighter it wasnt a long term player for the USN and was an 'aircraft for the moment' meaning it was a war winner in 44 but come 45 the USN had better planes to replace it with.

That's pretty much it. The right plane at the right place at the right time.

Post-war, many were used as trainers, Naval Reserve fighters, target tugs, and as noted above, target drones and flying bombs.

Last time I checked, there were less than five still flying. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_frown.gif

Xiolablu3
08-07-2007, 12:52 AM
The Bearcat was basically an improved Hellcat+FW190.

The Bearcat was so superior to the Hellcat, the frontlines would have the new aircraft as soon as it was ready, as happens in any airforce.

Hellcats may have stayed in service for training purposes or in 2nd line forces, or in unimportant theatres, which were unlikely to see action.