Kit No. OT2-29-600
Cost: $15.00 (aftermarket)
Decals: Three versions (2 U.S. Navy; 1 Fleet Air Arm/Royal Navy)
Comments: Engraved panel lines, excellent overall detail and ease of construction; consider aftermarket decals
The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter designed to replace the U.S. Navy’s earlier F4F Wildcat, and to counter the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. It suceeded in this mission to the degree that more than any other Allied naval fighter, it helped turn the tide of WWII in the Pacific. It competed with the faster Vought F4U Corsair for use as the Navy’s primariy carrier-based fighter, and emerged as the Navy’s dominant fighter in the second half of the Pacific War. While the Corsair was faster with identical firepower (six .50 caliber machine guns), it also had significant issues with carrier landings, in part due to the long-legged design of its landing gear to ensure ground clearance for its large, propeller (13 feet, 4 inches in diameter). The Corsair instead was primarily deployed to great effect in land-based use by the U.S. Marine Corps.
The extremely rugged Hellcat first saw action against the Japanese on 1 September 1943 when fighters off the USS Independence shot down a Kawanishi H8K “Emily” flying boat. The Hellcat used the same powerplant as the Corsair and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800. Hellcats were credited with destroying a total of 5,223 enemy aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm — more than any other Allied naval aircraft. The Hellcat was specifically designed to beat the fearsome Japanese Zero, and it did. No Japanese fighter could effectively counter it until the appearance of the Kawanishi N1K-J (Allied code name, “George”), and land-based version of a floatplane fighter considered by many to be the finest Japanese fighter of the war. But the N1K-J came on the scene too late and in too small numbers to affect the outcome of the war. Postwar, the Hellcat was phased out of front line service but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter.
Otaki’s Grumman Hellcat, like all its other 1/48 scale offerings, is still competitive with state-of-the-art models 25 years after its introduction. The Hellcat’s engraved panel lines, modicum of detail and ease of construction make it a desirable kit even today. The kit also features a color print showing two versions of the Hellcat in profile, one a British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm aircraft, the other an F6F of the U.S. Navy. The source of popularity of Otaki kits was and is their accuracy, aesthetic appeal, and simplicity.
The kit is molded in pale gray-green and consists of 53 parts, 2 of them clear plastic for the canopy and gunsight. It features engraved cockpit detail, particularly on its main and side instrument panels, although the seat is a bit crude by today’s standards, with molded on seat straps, detailed control column, boxed in wheel wells with molded detail, and two 500 lb. bombs with engraved panel lines and separate parts for the bomb fins.
The decals come in 3 versions, are made by Otaki itself, and appear to be of good quality. They offer a choice of two U.S. Navy versions: one is for the commander of Air Groups 5 and 9 aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown, 1943, and features the slightly smaller red-bordered star and bar insignia; the other is for an aircraft of No. 16 Squadron (CV-16) aboard the U.S.S. Lexington, no date given, with standard national insignia minus the red border. The third version is for a Hellcat of No. 808 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm aboard H.M.S. Khedive, 1945. These markings will get the job done — but their color is not as realistic as some aftermarket brands.
For the cost, this is an outstanding kit that gives many kits of more modern tooling a run for their money. What it may lack in photo-etch or resin accessories, it delivers in abundance it terms of a perfect balance between detail and ease of construction. Very highly recommended.