Eduard 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat Kit First Look
|Date of Review||February 2008||Manufacturer||Eduard|
|Kit Number||8221||Primary Media||Styrene/Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Very nicely detailed kit||Cons||No provision for folding wings|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$39.95|
Grumman's first monoplane fighter was the F4F Wildcat, retaining the fixed wings of its older brother, the F3F biplane fighter. The F4F was not as maneuverable as the F3F, and when put against the A6M Zero, US pilots had a difficult time holding their own against the agile Japanese. Only after gaining combat experience did Wildcat pilots appreciate the strengths of the F4F and it would carry on though the remainder of the war, even receiving folding wings with the F4F-4 and FG-1.
Even before the US entered the war, Grumman was already hard at work on a suitable replacement for the Wildcat, working toward a design that was higher in performance, more heavily armed and armored, optimized for carrier operations, and ease of production. Grumman knew that their place as lead fighter on the deck of US Navy carriers was potentially up for grabs with the Vought F4U. The first production version of the Hellcat was the F6F-3 as Grumman quickly upgraded the design as details came in from the theater about the F4F's shortcomings. Grumman replaced the Wright Cyclone of the earlier designs with the R2800 Twin Wasp, adding an additional 25% more horsepower.
In combat, the Hellcat decimated the Japanese, credited with 5163 kills, plus an additional eight axis fighters over France. Royal Navy Hellcats also downed 52 enemy aircraft. The Hellcat was rugged, powerful, well-armed, easy to maintain, and deadly. Even with its successes, Grumman knew that the Japanese would not let the Hellcat run unopposed, so work was started on the next generation of fighter, the F8F Bearcat, but the war ended before the F8F could see combat.
Eduard has released the first installment to their long-awaited Hellcat family, the F6F-3. They certainly have done an excellent job with this one! Molded in gray-green styrene, this kit is presented on four parts trees plus a single tree of clears. One small supplemental tree is also included with two additional cowling sides to capture the configuration of the late F6F-3 cowl without the exhaust stack bulges on the sides.
In addition, the kit includes two frets of photo-etched parts, one of which features color printing. The color-printed fret features the new standard of cockpit beauty and detail with instrument panels, side consoles, seatbelts and shoulder harnesses all represented in color. The other fret tackles the engine with an ignition harness and two sets of bomb fins. A set of yellow paint masks and a nice set of decals round out the kit.
One of the areas looked at for accuracy on a new Hellcat is the rear fuselage. The sheet metal overlapped as the tail cone diminished in size moving aft from the cockpit to the tail. Some companies have represented this as simple panel lines or other interpretations, but Eduard nailed this nicely.
Another detail that as eluded Hellcat kit makers and even some aftermarket makers is the cowing. the chin scoop and engine opening was never caught quite right and Eduard has caught this detail in the kit.
Markings are provided for five aircraft:
- F6F-3, BuNo 66016 (probabe), #32, VF-16, USS Lexington, 1943
- F6F-3, BuNo 25813, #13 (33-F-13), VF-33, Ondonga, 1943, as flown by Lt. C.K. Hilderbrandt
- F6F-3, BuNo 40090, #9, VF-1, USS Yorktown, 1944, as flown by Lt William Moseley
- F6F-3, BuBo 40467, #19, VF-6, USS Intrepid, 1944, as flown by Lt Alexander Vraciu
- F6F-3, BuNo unk, #17, VF-27, USS Princeton, 1944, as flown by Lt Richard Stambook
The decals are Eduard's usual nice quality and feature a set of maintenance stencils to busy up the surface of your Hellcat. That interesting set of markings in the upper left of the sheet capture the hastily applied ID numbers to 40090 when it was ferried from the factory and not overpainted by the time the reference photo was taken.
We've posted the common three-color camouflage scheme used by all five subjects in this kit along with the available paints that correspond to the Gunze Sangyo colors listed in the Eduard profile.
Eduard has turned out another masterpiece and will not be as intense a build as their super-detailed Fw 190, yet it will not leave much room for improvement unless you opt to open up the gun bays, fold the wings, or unbutton the cowling. Don't worry, I am sure those options will come along in the aftermarket soon enough.
For a look at this kit build-up, look here.
My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!