The Grumman F6F Hellcat is an American carrier-based fighter aircraft of World War II. Designed to replace the earlier F4F Wildcat and to counter the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it was the United States Navy's dominant fighter in the second half of the Pacific War. The Hellcat competed with the faster Vought F4U Corsair for that role and prevailed, as the Corsair had significant issues with carrier landings. The Corsair instead was primarily deployed to great effect in land-based use by the U.S. Marine Corps.
Powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same powerplant used for both the Corsair and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, the F6F was an entirely new design, but it still resembled the Wildcat in many ways. Some military observers tagged the Hellcat as the "Wildcat's big brother".
The F6F was best known for its role as a rugged, well-designed carrier fighter which was able, after its combat debut in September 1943, to outperform the A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. 12,275 were built in just over two years.
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.[Note 2] This was more than any other Allied naval aircraft. Postwar, the Hellcat was phased out of front line service but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter.