1/48 Hasegawa “Year of the Cat” F6F-3K Drone
Hello again all. This is the last of the four Hellcats I was building at the same time for the "Year of the Cat" Group Build. I finished this one up a few nights ago, and photographed it last night.
I wanted to build some Hellcats with marking that you normally do not see. I also wanted something very colorful. This one fit the bill nicely.
After the War, some Hellcats were converted into flying Drones. They were remotely controlled by persons flying in other planes nearby. As the project progressed, the technology advanced to where these planes could be flown from remote ground stations, much like the Drones we know of today.
The brightly colored Hellcats had different colored tails to indicate different flying frequencies, similar to how RC planes were done several years ago with frequency tags attached to the antennae of the radio transmitter.
So in essence, we owe a lot to the advances made by the engineers that worked out the bugs with this project of a remotely controlled flying plane.
These planes were actually flown through the radioactive clouds from the Atomic Explosions during Operation Cross Roads. They gathered air samples to measure the radiation levels in the atmosphere.
Later on during the Korean War, radio controlled Hellcat Drones were used as flying bombs and deliberately flown into bridges, and occasionally rail road marshalling yards in an effort to disrupt the supply columns of Communist North Korea and China. On occasion they were successful and managed to score several direct hits.
I was lucky and found another great picture in my Squadron Signal book "F6F In Action" written by fellow Imodeller (and friend) Jim Sullivan. In Jim's excellent book, he had this picture which shows "Number 7" flying in formation with two other control Hellcats. This picture showed me some details I had not noticed before on exactly how the wing walk areas were painted.
George Henderson provided a very cool original color photo showing me exactly how the cruciform tail antennae was installed on these planes. He also gave me a little heads up about how the decals I had planned on using were for the early dash 3 variants with the small fuselage side windows just behind the main sliding canopy. The earlier dash 3 Hellcats also had a different shaped windscreen from the later dash 3 and 5's. (The decal sheets stated the drones were all the later dash 5 variant.) Surprise surprise... They were all not. It pays to check your references... and to have good friends point you in the right direction.
I tried to replicate this look with my build... This "cruciform" tail antennae had to be the hardest part of the entire project. No matter what I tried, the tension from the antennae cables always managed to pull the cruciform section a little out of square. I finally settled with what you see here.
So armed with all of this various bits of information, I sat out to build a fairly correct and authentic looking Hellcat Drone.
One other modification done to these drones on a regular basis was the extension of the tail wheel strut. This made it easier for the drone controller to see where the plane was headed on takeoff, since the Hellcat was a "tail dragger" and sat a little nose high when parked.
You can check out the build log by following this link here:
This one was build using Model Master enamels. Other than the obvious additions of the cruciform tail antennae and the lengthened tail wheel strut, the only other change was adding a vacuum formed canopy.
This was done out of necessity, since I managed to fog the original kit part horribly during the painting process. Luckily the replacement allowed me to pose the canopy in the open position. This is something that is very hard to do, (if not impossible) using the kit supplied parts.
Special thanks go to Jim Sullivan, George Henderson and Dan DeSilva for providing me the needed detail photos and guidance along the way. Thanks Guys !
I also want to take the time to thank all of you who have commented and provided the encouragement along the way, during this lengthy build journal.
So now on to the plane... Here she is... the Pratt and Whitney is getting ready to fire up. All that's missing is the belching blue / whitish colored smoke and noise...which I consider to be music to our ears. If you ever get the chance to watch a real life radial engine fire up, go for it. You don't know what you are missing.
Enjoy... and as always,
Comments are encouraged.
31 additional images. Click to enlarge.