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1/48 Hasegawa “Year of the Cat” F6F-5K Hellcat “Target Tow / Drone “

Here she is in all her glory… hot off the work bench.

This one was built as one of four F6F Hellcats that I was building at the same time in our “Year of the Cat” Group Build.

I wanted to build something different, so I chose different schemes that you normally don’t see built. I also wanted some with color. The “Target Tow” version fit the bill nicely.

Once I chose to build this particular type of paint scheme, it was brought to my attention by George Henderson and Dan DeSilva, that some of these planes had wing tip modifications done to them. Up until this point I was not aware of the modifications done…

Thanks guys for the heads up !

On the real planes, fuel tanks were sometimes added, being built as part of the wing tip, along with the associated vent and piping lines. To top it off, these Target Tow / Drone planes also occasionally had the tail wheel strut extended. The extension made it so that the tail wheel was no longer retractable.

This was something I had not noticed before. George was even kind enough to post a few pictures for me. Here’s one he provided that clearly shows the modifications. Look close in this photo below and you will see what we are talking about

Hasegawa was notorious for including decals with their kits where the white colors were actually off white, almost a cream color. This came into play later during the build, when I decided that I would build a plane other than the number #15 (which was provided by the kit decals). More on that later…

Plane #15 had the wing tip mods done when this picture was taken that George so kindly provided for me. As he pointed out, it is possible that the plane was modified prior to the picture, so a standard Hellcat wing tip may have been possible earlier in it’s career.

Now the hunt was on to find another picture or two that showed Target Tow / Drone planes without these modifications done…

It just so happened that I found these pictures in my Ginter F6F Hellcat book.

These photos show a nice side view of a drone plane that did not have an extended tail wheel, and it also appears to have the standard wing tips… BINGO ! We have a winner.

Here’s a picture of my build in a similar pose:

In this picture you can see there are several Hellcat planes getting ready for take off. Plane #7 is getting ready to clear the deck… Number #6 is getting ready to taxi into position on the right side catapult. A pilot is clearly visible in the cockpit of this plane.

These photos were taken just before the Cease Fire was signed for the Korean War. Not may people know this, but F6F Hellcats were used as flying bombs during the Korean War. A few successful hits were made on several targets using the planes in this manner.

On to the build… Here’s a link to where I constructed the four F6F’s. I have one more plane left to complete. It’s almost done now.

This model was built with a minor change. I used an aftermarket resin cowling in place of the kit supplied part. There has been some grumbling that Hasegawa got the look of the Hellcat “grin” wrong. I have had access to an actual F6F undergoing restoration and it is off some. But I can live with the kit provided parts too, as they are acceptable to me.

The choice is up to you if you decide to build one of these… Here’s a close up of the resin cowling as viewed from the front.

The replacement resin cowl also has the cooling flaps posed in the open position. This adds a little more details to the nose of the plane.

I had a minor fiasco when the canopy fogged during the painting process. Luckily I was able to salvage it and it actually turned out quite nice after a few dips in some Future… Here you can see the kit supplied cockpit as viewed through the kit’s canopy after the Future treatment.

The plane I chose to depict was number #5. I picked this number because I was afraid that if I used a different number from the decal stash, it would not match the off white Hasegawa provided decals. So I simply removed the number #1 that was ahead of the 5 and went with it.

The planes in the carrier take off photo as well as the side view picture look to me as if they all had short tail wheels. They also don’t appear to have the top of the forward fuselage painted as an anti glare panel. This was most often done using flat black paint. I chose not to replicate this on my build. If I happen to come across a picture in the future that shows this on a number 5 plane I can go back and add it at a later date.

I also chose not to add the small unit designator numbers for “VU-3” that was displayed on the sides of the rear fuselage. I didn’t want a true white colored decal to be closely displayed to the off white decals from the kit. It would have probably been very noticeable. The Bureau Number on the side is also not 100 percent correct. It is for a F6F-5K drone, but not for number 5…

One other thing I noticed in the original photos is the landing gear and main wheels. They appear to be darker. They could be painted in “Engine Gray” or Gloss “Sea Blue”… The wheels could simply be dirty from brake dust and grime too…it’s hard to know for sure.

Number #11 in the original picture also appears to have something mounted under the wing, inboard of the under wing rocket mounting stubs. This is something that you normally don’t see on Drone planes as the armaments were normally removed. I filled in the gun ports on the leading edge of the wing to duplicate the look of having the weapons removed.

I’ll call this artistic license.

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed building these Hasegawa ‘Cats. They look pretty good once completed and are not too fiddly…

I hope you have enjoyed looking at this one…

as usual,

“Comments are Encouraged”.

19 additional images. Click to enlarge.

41 responses to 1/48 Hasegawa “Year of the Cat” F6F-5K Hellcat “Target Tow / Drone “

  1. OK, Louis, you’re definitely in the running for the most colourful entry in the Year of the Cat group build. Joking apart, this is well up to the standard we’ve come to expect from the Ironworks, first class build, great history and reference material and an entertaining and informative post, good job all round.

  2. I like, Louis! Nothing much better than oddball schemes on airplanes that don’t usually carry such schemes. Nice job!

    • The bright color scheme is what drew me into building this one…………. I wanted something that was eye catching, and not your typical overall Gloss Sea Blue Navy plane from this era. Thanks for the compliments and for “liking” the article too buddy………………

  3. Recognized your stuff right away, my friend…nice presentation (and model). 🙂

  4. Very striking colorful build. Great job. Can’t wait to see the others.

  5. Louis, what a beaut! Definately stands out in any lineup, and utility aircraft don’t get no love, anyhow. I like that aftermarket cowling, with the cowing flaps open, a real improvement, IMHO.

    • Thanks Bernard for the compliments and for “liking” the article too.

      I was very pleased with how the cowling turned out. The resin was too thin in one spot and I had to repair it before painting. It does look better with the replacement cowling, once you compare it sitting next to the other Hellcats I have built.

      Having the flaps open is a plus…………. like icing on the cake.

  6. Excellent build Louis!
    I had one of these slated for my Hellcat build list- not sure how it got taken off- now I am wanting to make sure one is back on my list!

    • Thanks Dan !!!

      I don’t think it would have turned out as nicely as it did, if not for the help I received from you and George. You guys helped to steer me in the right direction and I appreciate that tremendously.

      Your Korean War F4U has me wanting to build a few of my Hobby Boss kits a little sooner than expected………… 🙂

      I say go for it and build your Hellcat my friend. You will be glad you did.

  7. Beautifully built, very eye-catching & something different. Thanks for posting.

  8. Lovely warbird, Louis. Really sharp, another work of art!

  9. Very nice presentation, Louis.

  10. Incredible Louis, well done model and presentation. Unique I would say in the scheme. I’m glad that you have the passion to build the unusual and yet important job that these little known units did stateside. Here in California while stationed at Pt Mugu, NAS, the number of utility and test squadrons based there were important and quite active with their unusual variants of P-3’s, F-14’s(Vandy 1), F/A-18’s, KA-3’s, F-4 drones etc, still in service. So going back to the WWII era and the beginning of what the Navy was doing in their effort to improve combat operations and tactics is will represented with this Hellcat variant. Thanks for sharing not only the model, but the history of it’s organization.

    • Thanks Chuck. I sincerely appreciate the kind words. With you being a Navy man, I thought this article would be close to home.

      I just posted up another article about Hellcat Drones. The history is one of the main things that draws me to build the planes I do. We need to preserve these memories for future generations.

      Take care my friend. And thanks again for the kind words, and for “Liking” the article too……………

  11. Louis, great looking old work horse, very eye catching/attractive paint scheme, and very well done. Always reminds me of the “battle of Palmdale” ! (if you’ve never heard of that, look it up, I think it occurred around 1956).

    • Yes Terry, I read about the battle of Palmdale. I believe I had an article about it in one of my “Aviation History” magazines too. These things are what drew me into wanting to build a few drones. (That plus the bright colors) 🙂

      I still have some more decals left to build a few more drones. I want to build one from “Point Mugu” eventually.

      I sincerely appreciate the compliments……………

  12. Wonderful work Louis! Lovely contrasting colours and faultlessly put together. Well done as ever!

  13. Great ‘Cat, Louis! I love the Hellcat (it was one of the planes my Dad flew in WWII) and this one lives up to the great reputation you have for building & decorating plastic.

    Terry, I looked up the “Battle of Palmdale” and thanks to the Wiki page learned a lot. 208 rockets expended with no hits! (Not counting the few that scraped the fuselage and underwing area, but didn’t detonate!) That sure makes the case for guns being on all fighters!

    Bravo, my friend! One of these days I’ll actually FINISH my F6F-3 (kindly provided by Tom Bebout last year) and I hope I can do it justice.

    • March 10th buddy you have the time, lets get this bird to the finish line.

    • Thanks my fellow brother DAT……….. I appreciate the kind words.

      The Battle of Palmdale should have been an eye opener for the top brass / powers to be. Instead they waited until about 10 years later (or so), to add a gun pod to the belly of the F-4 Phantom. The Crusader was called the “Last of the Gunfighters”. Many planes we flew in Southeast Asia did not have machine guns or cannons for weapons. Instead they used missiles…………….

      They call them “Missiles” and not “Hit les” for a reason………. I saw that one on TV, it was a comment made by a current US fighter pilot.

      Eventually the lesson was learned, but it was the hard way and it cost many men their lives in Vietnam. We probably wouldn’t have had as many POW’s sitting in the Hanoi Hilton had they done something about this earlier…………….and armed these planes properly.

      I’d like to see your ‘Cat once you get it done………….

      Thanks again for the compliments and for “liking” the article too. Good to hear from you buddy…………

  14. Fantastic looking beast Louis. Another thing you avoided doing with your version was making the cruciform tail antenna. That was the most nerve wracking part of my drone build

    • You know George, the cruciform tail was the hardest part of the other Drone plane just like you said. I couldn’t avoid it on that one……….. but on this one I dodged it, as well as the wing tip mods.

      Thanks again for the heads up and additional information that helped bring these builds to life.

  15. A fine looking Hellcat Louis. A really colourful looking aircraft. Very well done.

  16. Explain yourself. Something I heard as a young man (a lot) and I think its a carry over for some of us modelers who make it to adult hood. It drives us into making a better model or it is cause for rationalizing on why we do the things we do to a kit. Doing the right thing in the name of history and having a conscious about it is what some of modeling is about. Louis, you came up with a neat article and build. The cowling adds a little more to the build for those who think about these things and take the time and interest to do those things. Colorful birds add interest and are a great hook into getting people to read an article. Two thumbs up.

    • Thank you Stephen for complimenting this build and for “Liking” the article too. You are correct about doing the right thing for the sake of history.

      I try to build my models as accurately as I can with the resources I have available at the time. The cowling was like “icing” on the cake for this one. The bright colors didn’t hurt either………… 🙂

      Thanks again my friend.

  17. Another excellent ‘Cat ,Louis, well done!

  18. This was a terrific series of builds, Louis, but I think this is my favorite!

  19. Great job Louis, nice article concerning the history of that unit and a colorful presentation too.

  20. Love it Louis – glad to see another one made it off the line in such fine shape and unusual livery!

    • Thanks Greg. I have to finish the P-40 “Light House Louie”, the Panzer III and the Sherman for the Kasserine Pass GB. Then the assembly line will be busy building four Wurgers………. Please stay tuned for updates on these………. Thanks again my friend.

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