Hellcat vs Zero

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Garyt, May 12, 2014.

  1. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    #1 Garyt, May 12, 2014
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
    You know, I've very often heard how superior the US second generation fighters, notably the Hellcat, was against the Zero. Now if you look over the test performances of the planes, the come out pretty equal.

    Here are some interesting numbers on climb and speed taken from true flight testing:

    F6F5 (common version of Hellcat, improved over the F6F3 Hellcat)
    Feet---------------------------
    Feet/max velocity/climb in FPM/minutes to altitude
    5,000/326/2405/ 1.95
    10,000/346/2360/ 4.0
    15,000/366/2325/ 6.25
    20,000/377/2000/ 8.6
    25,000/389/1520/11.4
    30,000/370/ 835/15.6
    35,000/NG/ 335/26.0

    A6M3 Zero (Most common Zero at time of Phillipine sea battle)
    5,000/317/3275/-1.7
    10,000/334/3050/3.4-3.6
    15,000/332/2620/-5.6
    20,000/352/2620/7.4-7.8
    25,000/350/1850/10.4
    30,000/325/1000/14.2
    35,000/270/-100/----

    If you notice, at 20k and less feet the difference in top end speed is not much, and the zero is a better climber (and should be a better accelerator). And of course it is a better turner. The Hellcat would be a better diver, but the Zeke could handle 450+ velocity dives due to the thicker skinning which was one of it's problems in earlier versions.

    The Hellcat has 6x.50 - The A6M3 has 2 x 20mm and could have anywhere from 2 x 7.7mm to 2-3 x 12.7mm. And these 20mm's were not the same as the earlier Zeke 20mm that only carried 75-100 rounds, drum fed - they were 125 rounds of belt fed, and of a higher velocity than the A6M2 versions, these cannon would actually have similar ballistics to the machine guns, better for harmonization and range finding.

    The A6M3 also had armor as well - pilot armor, though not as heavily armored as the Hellcat, it had an armored wind screen tested against .50 caliber projectiles,
    and while not having self sealing fuel tanks they had fuel tank extinguishers.

    From overall performance as an individual plane, I'd say they were pretty close. Speed was similar, acceleration and climb go to the Zeke, Dive to the Hellcat. And a little top velocity to the Hellcat, but of a marginal difference in the altitudes many of the encounters would occur.

    I think there was a lot of things that gave the Hellcat advantages, such as outnumbering it's opponents, better vectoring due to better quality/more use of radar and radios, better trained pilots, and better state of readiness to meet opposing airstrikes (radar again), to name a few. I think we could even throw in that the Hellcat was maintained far better due to better US logistics, and a worsening Japanese maintenance system as the war went on due to parts being not readily available, planes not being given overhauls or replacing the planes soon enough, and inferior parts stemming anywhere from not having proper tolerances to lower octane fuel being available (and increasingly worse fuel as the war went on). Some of the problems the Japanese had in the air stemmed from the great successes the US sub program had.

    But when truly comparing planes performances, armor, weaponry, the Hellcat and the Zero were not that far apart.
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Have you considered stick forces at high speeds?
     
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  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    There are certain ar3as where the hellcat has a very clear advantage. Strength and protection being the most important.

    Range remained in favour of the Zeke till the end. At most combat speeds the Zeke could slightly out turn the Hellcat.

    Hellcat had a higher top speed in the level and a higher dive speed. it high speed, and dive capabilities were its major advantages as well its protection and strength.

    Hellcats did not achieve a 19:1 exchange rate in air combat. Over 2000 Hellcats were lost for all sorts of reasons, compared to about 6000 Zekes, not including those expended as suicide craft. Still impressive, but 19:1 it aint.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The F6F-5 have had water injection fitted as standard. Against the speed at military power, it was capable for up to 30 mph speed gain under ~23000 ft when using water injection (war emergency power). That means 370-380 mph at 15000 ft, 360-370 mph at 10000 ft, and circa 350 mph at 5000 ft. The gains in rater of climb under 20000 ft were also notable, between 3500-3000 fpm from SL to 10000 ft.
     
  5. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    All the meatballs had trouble with the Hellcats, Gary, not just the Zekes. When you could get up high on your opponents, it's like shooting clay pigeons.
     
  6. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    I agree. The KI-84, perhaps the best fighter plane in the pacific theatre (arguably, the Corsair was very good as well) struggled with the Hellcat in the grand scheme of things. I guess that is part of my point - most of the all of these planes on paper are either similar or better in performance than the Hellcat, but did not have much success. It strikes me that there were many other factors more important than the quality of the plane as tested.

    Good point, a notorious weakness of the Zeke, even the later models though they were better. The KI-84 did not have these same issues though and also struggled.

    The US tactics against Japanese planes in general was to fight vertical, strike and run. The areas that help a plane here are climb, dive, top speed, acceleration, and high speed stick forces. The Zeke has the Hellcat beat in climb by a good margin, top speed is close at most altitudes, the Zeke has it in acceleration. The Hellcat is a better diver but the A6M3 is no slouch, and the Hellcat is better at high speed stick forces. Pretty similar I'd think.

    Gotcha. Found a report with water injection below. Looks to be somewhat better, but the Zero still has the climb advantages. I'm only using the numbers where there was an actual test - there are some differing numbers by "credible" sources but who do not reference a specific test - unless a test is referenced I look at these as heresay. Even with true tests there seems to be slight differences - my guess is a few gallons of gas here or there make a difference, or one plane may be a bit better or worse for the wear. I've found some that use unarmed "recon" plane test specs to indicate performance



    5,000..337/2890
    10,000.356/2800
    15,000.366/2430
    20,000.376/1940/ 7.7
    25,000.377/1450
    30,000.360/ 905
    35,000.NG./ 360

    Maximums: 380 mph.@ 23,400 ft. and 2,980 fpm.@ S.L.
     
  7. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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  8. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    Interesting. Still a 3:1 ratio, but not terrible when you account for the other issues, i.e. pilot quality, outnumbering, etc.
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That holds true for almost any WWII era fighter aircraft. Altitude can be exchanged for speed which allows the higher altitude aircraft to engage and disengage at will.

    Flip side of the coin.
    Aircraft with superior rate of climb have best chance to gain an altitude advantage. Hence P-40 is great in a dive but rarely has opportunity to gain the necessary altitude advantage. Me-109 was a different story as climb and instantaneous dive rate were both excellent.
     
  10. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    That's why the superior radar, radio and vectoring of the US made a big difference. I know US radar was always ahead of Japanese rader - and that for some period during the war, the US early warning radar could give altitudes of incoming planes, I know at least for a portion of the war the Japanese radar could not determine altitude, and I'm not really sure how reliable the Japanese radar ever became at this.

    Of course, the Wildcat with it's pedestrian rate of climb might have struggled to get ot the right altitude LOL
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Those factors matter only when defending an airfield or CV. Since Japan was on the defensive most of the time after fall 1942 they would normally have advantage of ship or ground based control.

    AWACs provides attacker with somewhat similar capability but that wasn't available during WWII.
     
  12. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

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    Sure it was. :)

    Wellington_Ic_(R1629).jpg
     
  13. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    The Hellcat out-turned the Zeke at higher speeds, not lower speeds.

    It most emphatically DID achieve a 19 : 1 kill ratio if one looks only at losses due to enemy aircraft, which is how kill ratios versus enemy fighters are almost universally calculated. There are three basic components of losses. These are airborne losses to enemy aircraft, losses to A/A, and all other operational losses to include losses while on the ground. When you talk Navy planes (like the Hellcat), there is a fourth loss component; losses on a ship ... that is a plane lost when the ship sank. It is not the fault of the plane or the pilot, it is a Naval loss, but it IS some kind of non-combat loss (non-combat for the plane and pilot anyway).

    The proper term for combined kills or losses is overall kill or loss ratio. Almost nobody uses it for anything except when they are "defending" their favorite fighter's reputation.

    Personally, I feel the best ratio for comparison purposes would be victories to combined losses due to airborne enemy aircraft as well as operational losses excluding losses on the ground. That way, the reliability of the combination of the plane and pilot is taken into account. The plane might be wonderful, but if the idiot flying it ran out of fuel because he wasn't paying attention, the combination of plane and pilot suffered a loss. It could even be worse if the empty plane is forced landed and subsequently captured and returned to flying status by the enemy!

    However, these data are generally available for US aircraft only, so the most commonly accepted loss (or kill, depending on how you look at it) ratio is victories to losses to airborne enemy aircraft. Since that is the accepted "kill ratio," the Hellcat DID, indeed, have a 19 : 1 kill ratio.

    I have been searching for such loss data from the UK, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, etc. for 20+ years with little success. So it seems the "kill ratio" we are stuck with is victories to loss to enemy A/C ... and we take a guess for Axis (as well as Soviet, British, etc.) planes.

    We can't even agree on THAT since a definitive victory list for the Axcis as well as the UK, etc. are nearly impossible to find. The Japanese victories weren't kept by the military except by squadron or unit. Individual victory totals are mostly from personal memoirs collected after the war.

    Nobody seems to question the guesses at all, but there is a raging debate over the US numbers since data are available. In point of fact, the USAAF and US Navy didn't even save the same type data. so you can't really compare their numbers either!

    I have a very good file of worldwide claims and nothing as far as a "vetted" list of confirmed victories that match losses on the same day for the Axis or even some of the Allies. I have good data on "official totals" for the USA only. We have people over here who are adamant about taking victories away from Greg Boyington, but have almost nothing to say about the top Axis aces kills ... because the data seemingly cannot be found. So ... if we accept the Axis claims, then the only fair comparison to the Allies is against allied claims as well.

    Claims to claims seem fair to me. Exhaustively researched data versus claims and guesses does NOT seem fair. It seems to be a touchy subject for some, but why dig into the details of the US victories for utter and complete verification unless you are also ready, willing, and able to dig into ALL the victories, both Allied and Axis?

    I have no axe to grind at all and am just looking for the data. So far, most of it remains well concealed to the general public, even to the interested general public like me. It would be very nice to find it sometime, if only to settle some long-standing debates.
     
  14. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    As far as the comparison between Zeke and Hellcat goes, the Hellcat handily out-accelerated the Zero at all airspeeds, had a very benign stall, could be reefed around with no bad habits, and did almost everything well. It was faster than the Zero at all altitudes, even if by a small amount, and was rugged enough to seem almost indestructible to the Zeke pilots.

    I think reliability was about a wash, possibly with the Zeke being slightly more reliable.

    The Zeke also had many good characteristics, but ruggedness wasn't one of them and neither was diving away from an attack. The Zeke had a very low dive limit speed and the ailerons in particular heavied up rapidly with speed after 280 mph or so.
     
  15. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Where did you source the A6M3 data? I wonder if that's actually data for an A6M5?

    http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/japan/Zeke-32-TAIC-102C.pdf (A6M3)
    http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/japan/Zeke-52-TAIC-102D.pdf (A6M5)
     
  16. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    A little info on the A6M5 #52 -

    This shows better top end control stiffness that it's predecessors.

    I think one issue that seems to crop up a lot when comparing the Zeke and the Hellcat - the performance numbers of the A6M2 or the A6M3 Hamp are often used - and these were not the standard Zero of the day when the Hellcat came on the scene.

    Again, problems for the A6M2 and A6M3, somewhat rectified in the A6M5.

    Here's a little info on some of the difference of the A6M5 compared to earlier versions:

    A6M5a

    I've read elsewhere that the terminal dive velocity for an A6M2 was 390 mph, for a A6M3 it was 410.
     
  17. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    You are correct. I've been discussing the A6M5 all along as it was the contemporary of the Hellcat, the above was a typo.
     
  18. CORSNING

    CORSNING Active Member

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    That pretty much sums up the whole comparison.

    I am in the middle of putting some information together for the P-51 Mustang vs F6F Hellcat thread so I may not do this thread justice tonight. Well, anyway, here goes. The hardest part of this reply was trying to figure out WHEN the A6M5 entered service. I knew the A6M3 was being test flown somewhere in 1941 and entered service long before the A6M5. So that comparison did not seem right. I dug through my William Greens, Gordon Swanboroughs, Bill Gunstons, David Andertons, Francis Mazons and even a David Monday. I did not realize this was going to be so hard.

    I have been cleaning out the garage (for the 15th time in 18 years) and thinking about getting the AIRPOWERS, WINGS and Air Enthusiast/Internationals out of my office to make room for more books....and that's when it hit me to check the indexes. And there it was, Vol.42, No.1 Air International. "The first Model 52s began reaching operational units in the autumn of 1943....." The F6F-5 entered combat operationally on July 3, 1944. The information I have puts the water injected F6F-3 in January 1944 and the initial F6F-3 without water injection in August 28, 1943.

    Gary,
    The figures in your post #1 are actually from the TAIC report on the A6M5, not A6M3.

    I did a workup on the F6F-5 (Mk.II) a while ago using information off a DATA SHEET ( http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/f6f/hellcat-II-ads-a.jpg ) and matching it up to performance lines on other F6F-5 graphs. I will post a matchup tomorrow when I have more time.

    One last thing, the maximum velocity of the F6F-5 using war emergency power has been recorded as 409 mph.@ 21,600 ft.

    Good night guys, Jeff
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    2 out of 3 - In hindsight, it was crazy not to have radio communication in fighter aircraft during all operations!!!
     
  20. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    Yep, I'm aware. Had all intentions of listing it as the A6M5 (even refer to the results as coming from the A6M5), but apparently my fingers were moving faster than my brain.
     
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