Eduard 1/48 F6F-3/F6F-5 Hellcat Royal Class Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|F6F-3/F6F-5 Hellcat Royal Class
|Very nicely detailed kit
|No provision for folding wings
The F6F was the next evolution in fighter design improving on the F4F Wildcat. Development of the F6F was well underway when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and emphasis was placed on improving its speed and maneuverability. While there was initial criticism of the earlier F4F after early combat experience in the type, the Wildcat was Grumman's first monoplane fighter and had emphasized ruggedness and ease of maintenance. These traits would remain in Grumman's subsequent fighters.
Initially powered by a 1700 horsepower Wright R2600 Cyclone engine, combat experience in the Wildcat emphasized the need for more power to keep the heavier Grummans agile against their Japanese counterparts. The F6F-3 received the 2000hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp and the combination of airframe and engine was very effective.
The F6F-5 was an incremental improvement in the production line which incorporates the 2100 horsepower R2800-18W engine with a two-stage supercharger. One further improvement to the series was in the works which would have resulted in more power turning a four-bladed propeller and would have become the F6F-6, but development was cancelled at war's end. The Hellcat achieved the best combat effectiveness statistics of the war with a 19:1 overall kill ratio and was credited with over 5100 kills by war's end.
Eduard has released their next installment in their Hellcat series, this time producing a Royal Class offering (two complete kits) with the parts for one F6F-3 and one F6F-5. At first glance, you might think that there are two identical kits in this box, but the differences are in the details. Let's take a look:
This kit is molded in a gray-green styrene and presented on nine parts trees, plus two trees of clear parts. The kit is rounded out with one fret of color-printed photo-etch parts for the cockpits, and four frets of photo-etch for the external details. Yellow-tape paint masks are also included.
If you look at the first two photos, you can see the upper photo has the rear window cut-out molded into the fuselage halves for the F6F-3 and bulges in the cowlings for the exhaust stacks. The second photo shows these parts to be the F6F-5 as the rear window and exhaust bulges have been deleted, just as with the full-scale aircraft.
The wings look identical to one another, but if you look closer, Eduard has captured the production differences in inspection panels on the undersides of the wings between the -3 and -5 Hellcats. The ailerons and flaps are separately molded and can be position to taste. Ditto for the elevators and rudder.
The next two sets of trees are common to both kits and contain the engines, propellers, landing gear, gear doors, basic cockpit details, etc.
The last tree is new and applied only to the F6F-5. It has two different types of air-to-ground rockets reproduced here with separately molded tail fins.
The clears are also common to the first release and have two sets of canopies, one fitted to be posed closed, the other for an open canopy.
The photo-etch is all new for this release. The color photo-etch fret has parts for both aircraft in full color and provide the alternative parts to render a night fighter should you opt to build one.
The next fret in the line-up is one that was released separately for the earlier Hellcats and provide detailed wheel wells to replace the styrene should you go that route. Two sets of this fret are provided to render both aircraft.
The third fret provides engine details, bomb fins, and other exterior details for both models.
The last fret allows you to open up the wing gun bays and detail out this area in style. Only one set is included for one aircraft.
The famous yellow tape masks are also included with sufficient masks for both models. The image is contrast-altered so you can see the finely cut outlines.
What is new for the Eduard Hellcat is the set of nice resin additions to the kit. Two sets of resin wheel hubs are included to update the styrene hubs should you want to use the styrene tires in the kit, but they've also included two sets of complete wheels should you prefer an all-resin solution.
Two sets of resin engines replace the styrene engines along with a pair of finely cast ignition rings to overlay the photo-etched ignition harnesses for both aircraft. Resin gun breeches are provided for the gun bays. Last and certainly not least are the night fighter parts. One radar pod and a set of leading edge gun inserts are provided to arm up your night fighter with the inboard 20mm guns with the extended barrels and flash suppressors.
Royal Class kits are famous for having something 'extra' in the box and this one is no exception. This release has a replica metal placard that is placed prominently on the instrument panel so that the pilot will remember the essential steps to get his aircraft safely in the air and back on the ground without blowing up or starving the engine, or inadvertently landing gear-up.
So what can you do with this release? The kit has sufficient parts to render the following variants:
You can build only one night fighter and you can only open up the gun bays of one of these two aircraft, but these are your only limits!
Markings are provided for nine aircraft:
- F6F-3, VF-32, 5, USS Langley, Apr 1944
- F6F-3, VF-9, 12, USS Essex, Nov 1944
- F6F-3N, VMF(N)-534, 10, Orate Field, Guam, 1944
- F6F-5, VF-19, 99, USS Lexington, 1944, CAG
- F6F-5, VF-12, 9, USS Randolph, May 1945
- F6F-5N, VMF(N)-542, F(N)76, Okinawa, Jun 1945
- F6F-5, Flotille 11F, 11.F20, French Navy, Indochina, Apr 1954
- F6F-5K, VU-1, UA/15, Oahu, Sep 1959
- F6F-5K, D94, Chincoteague NAS, VA, 1949
The decals are provided on two sheets and provide all of the markings you'll need including maintenance stenciling.
When Eduard does a Royal Class kit, they don't mess around. If you're a Hellcat fan and have been looking for the ultimate combo kit, your wait is over. There are lots of USN and USMC veterans in here as well as the lone French Navy example. Even if you opt for other markings to make your Hellcat into a favorite subject, you will still have the stenciling and other essentials to make your build an AMS modeler's delight.
My sincere thanks to Eduard for this review sample!