This aircraft was the second version of a basic carrier based navy airframe design. Its predecessor was the f4f Wildcat, considered a good all around fighter but lacking in power. The Japanese fighters of the time (WW2) were more agile and had much higher power to weight ratios. The Wildcat held its own in air to air combat with these more advanced fighters primarily because of its heavy armor and firepower (6 Browning .50 cals). The Hellcat was the solution to the power issue. The first prototype of the Hellcat was in 1941, but it did not enter service until July 30 1942.
Several new engines were tried but the Pratt and Whitney R 2800 “Double Wasp” was settled on. This is the same engine that powered the legendary f4u corsair (my all time favorite prop plane). It is a double radial 18 cylinder, air cooled engine producing 2000 hp. A lot of you might be thinking “2000 hp, that’s not that much”. Keep in mind that, unlike a drag racing car that makes 2000 hp for 5 seconds, this engine makes 2000 hp ALL DAY. In addition, it does it in a marine environment, with corrosive salt air, spray from waves, high altitude, and under positive and negative g forces. It never idles or comes to a stop light…its at almost full boar the entire time.
This new powerplant gave the Hellcat a boost from the 1200 hp the Wildcat. With this upgrade the Hellcat could easily match the Japanese fighters as well as being much stronger and more heavily armed. There have even been accounts of mid-air collisions between the Hellcat and the Zero, the Hellcat remaining intact while the Zero being ripped apart instantly!
There will be more coming. Here are a few pics: