Frog 1/72 F6F-3 Hellcat Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||January 2009||Manufacturer||Frog|
|Kit Number||F245||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice basic kit of Hellcat||Cons||Near nil cockpit interior detail. Thick cockpit transparency. Raised panel lines may not please some modelers. Wings are solid with no folding option|
|Skill Level||Novice||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” was a carrier-based fighter aircraft developed to replace the earlier F4F “Wildcat” in U.S. Navy service. Although the F6F bore a family resemblance to the Wildcat, it was a completely new design powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine. Some tagged it as the “Wildcat’s big brother”. The Hellcat and the Vought F4U “Corsair” were the primary USN fighters during the second half of WWII.
The Hellcat proved to be the most successful aircraft in naval history, destroying 5,171 enemy aircraft, while in service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (5,163 in the Pacific and 8 more during the invasion of Southern France, plus 52 with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm during WWII. Postwar, the Hellcat aircraft was systematically phased out of front line service, but finally retired as late as 1954 as a night-fighter in composite squadrons.
Grumman was working on the successor to the F4F Wildcat well before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. While the F4F was a capable fighter, early air battles revealed that the Mitsubishi A6M Zero was more maneuverable and possessed a better rate of climb than the F4F. The F4F did have some advantages over the Zero. Wildcats were able to absorb a tremendous amount of damage compared to the Zero, and had better armament. The F4F was also much faster in a dive than the Zero, an advantage Wildcat pilots used frequently to elude attacking Zeros.
These advantages carried over into the F6F and, combined with other improvements, created a fighter that outclassed the Zero almost completely. Instead of the Wildcat’s narrow-track undercarriage retracting into the fuselage, requiring awkward hand-cranking by the pilot, the Hellcat had hydraulically-actuated undercarriage struts set wider and retracting backward, twisting through 90 degrees into the wings. This was exactly like the Chance Vought F4U Corsair’s landing gear did. The wing was low-mounted instead of mid-mounted and folded the same way as the later versions of the Wildcat, allowing the Hellcat to take on a compact, tucked-in appearance on a flight deck.
Frog was a model company that was based in the UK. It was founded in 1931, and at first produced rubber-band powered flying models. In 1936, a range of 1/72nd scale aircraft models in kit or pre-built form, molded in cellulose acetate was marketed under the Frog Penguin name. These were the world’s first plastic model construction kits. During WWII, the company produced flying models for target purposes and 1/72nd scale aircraft recognition models. The Penguin range was dropped in 1939, and a new range of Frog polystyrene kits was introduced in 1955. A wide variety of aircraft, ship and car subjects, in various scales were issued during the 50’s and 60’s. In 1971, Frog Tri-Ang entered receivership. Some of the molds were transferred to various factories in the Soviet Union (notably NOVO). Molds of WWII Axis Powers subjects were acquired by Revell around 1977. The Axis types having been declined by NOVO. Molds of many jet aircraft were acquired by Hasegawa. The last Frog-brand kits were produced in 1976.
The kit comes in a clear cello bag stapled to a header card. Inside the bag are 4 dark gray trees of parts, a clear cockpit transparency part and the decal. A cover sheet is provided for the face of the decal to protect it. However, this is floating around in the bag and of little use for protection therefore. The dark gray parts trees are complete trees, not chopped up from larger trees like in some other FROG bag kits I have. This is nice to see. They also have part numbers molded next to the parts, sometimes totally missing in some other FROG kits. However, there are no parts tree drawings on the instructions and the trees are not alphabetized. This means modelers have to search the 4 trees for the part number needed. Bad move FROG.
The header card has a cover art of 3 Hellcat F.Mk. 1’s attacking the German “Tirpitz” in a Fjord. The Hellcat in the foreground is in a camouflage of matt extra-dark sea gray above and matt dark slate gray undercarriage. It has the fuselage code in sky type S of a large letter E (roundel) smaller B. The tail has a fin flash. In front of the tail is black lettering ROYAL NAVY above JV108. The propeller hub and propeller blades are jet black. There is a black letter B on the main landing gear doors. The aircraft sports a belly tank.
The portion of the header card that drapes over the back of the bag has this scheme shown again in full color as a 3 view. It says that the aircraft was with 800 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Emperor, July/August 1944. It was fighter escort for “Operation Tungsten” attacks on the German “Tirpitz”.
The other 3-view is in the same two grays and has a fin flash that is just dark blue and white with the roundels the same two colors only and small. The fuselage code, in white, is 5 (roundel) A. The propeller spinner is bare metal with black blades. It too is carrying a belly tank. The aircraft was with 1839 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Indomitable, Indian Ocean, 1944.
A banner under this illustration says ROVEX/Tri-ang and MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN.
The inside of the header card is the assembly instructions. It begins with explanations of 7 international assembly symbols, in 7 languages including English. There are 8 assembly steps. In step no. 5, you opt to put the model on the provided desk stand or not. Landing gear can be posed open or shut in step no. 7. Alternate parts are provided for either way.
The first dark gray parts tree holds: the left fuselage half, halves of the landing gear struts, the horizontal stabilizers, cowling and drop tank halves (8 parts)
The second tree holds: the right fuselage half, desk stand parts, firewall and engine cylinders (6 parts)
The third tree holds: the upper wing halves, landing gear covers (both for folded or extended gear) and the propeller (7 parts) The wings are molded solid and would take major surgery to fold them for carrier storage.
The fourth tree holds: the lower wing halves, main wheels, tailwheel, pilot seat, pilot, propeller shaft, small main landing gear doors, pitot tube, radio antenna, tailwheel door, main gear scissors and actuating arms (16 parts)
Landing gear wheel wells are just holes in the bottom wing and need to be walled out and better detailed.
The clear canopy part and decal (already described above) completes the bag’s contents. This clear part is molded solid and thick. Better to be replaced with a vacformed one. However, the inside of the cockpit is very, very sparse. There is only the pilot and his seat that mounts to a lug in the fuselage wall. A scratchbuilders workplace for sure. Detail on parts is of the raised variety.
This kit is now long out of production. I purchased my kit, back in the 70’s for a paltry .98 cents. It is a kit that will be an easy build for novice modelers or a good springboard for a super-detailist. A nice very basic kit of the Hellcat.
There are numerous kits and accessories on the market for the Hellcat in all the popular scales.