Hellcat with three drop tanks?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Maxrobot1, Apr 21, 2015.

  1. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    All these years I have overlooked a detail in a photo of an early Hellcat. My attention was always focused on the odd size of the national insignia, but recently I noticed that this a/c appears to have three drop tanks.
    The normal 150 gal center line one is supplemented by a tank(tanks)on the removable bomb shackles. The small size of the extra tanks makes me think they were old SBC biplane tanks modified. I have never seen another Hellcat with tanks on the wing hardpoints. I wouldn't even think the plumbing was there!
    Anyway, did the Air Group Commander have to hang around flying while the planes under his command took off and came back? He probably had to stay in the air longer. IMG_0001.jpg
    IMG.jpg
     
  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Good question.
     
  3. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    In the Aircam Aviation Series book, "Grumman F6F-3/5 Hellcat in USN-USMC-FAA-Aeronavale Uruguayan Service", the first photo in Post#1 is also shown and has the caption, "Cdr. James Flatley, Commander Air Group 5 and Strike Co-ordinator, leading Air Groups 5 and 9 against Marcus Island in the Hellcats first combat action, 31 Aug. 1943........" So I'm thinking he is directing traffic during the strike.

    Geo
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    From the flight manual...

    “5. ARMAMENT
    “The armament consists of six .50 calibre machine guns located in the outer wing panels with a maximum of 2400 rds. of ammunition. Two 1000# bombs can be carried under the center section of one full sized torpedo under the belly. When the airplane is operating with the torpedo or 1000# bomb under the belly, 100 gallon droppable fuel tanks can be carried under the wing center section.”

    From wiki...

    "A center-section hardpoint under the fuselage could carry a single 150 gal (568 l) disposable drop tank, while later aircraft had single bomb racks installed under each wing, inboard of the undercarriage bays"
     
  5. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #5 GregP, Apr 21, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
    If you look at bthe Standard Aircraft Characteristics for the F6F-5, it shoows under Fuel and Oil that the aircraft can carry 250 gallons in the fuselage, 150 gallons in a fuselage drop tank, and 300 gallons in drop tanks on the wing, I believe ALL F6F aircraft could do this ... but it also wasn't standard procedure. Perhaps thay were short of drop tanks or , more likely, the missions weren't so long as to require that fittment.

    Also, because it COULD carry three 150-gal drop tanks didn't mean they HAD to be that size. All it means is the plumbing was there and the pylons / shackles could handle that weight, probably NOT under combat conditions.
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Or was he ferrying the aircraft?
     
  7. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    From the "At War - the F6F Hellcat at War" book, "...Air Group Commander James Flatley Jr. took off in the last Hellcat from the Yorktown loaded down with extra fuel tanks to manage the attacks on Marcus from the air..." There is another photo showing the aircraft but the caption says it was probably taken during his second flight that day.

    Geo
     
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  8. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    That answers it!
     
  9. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Just noticed that your second photo is cropped and greatly enlarged from the photo in the At War book. This photo shows close to 30 other Hellcats in the background.

    Geo
     
  10. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    This is one of the many reasons I love this site.
     
  11. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    I wonder if any night-fighter variants used extra tanks? Still photos of anything on the wing hard points are not common. Maybe it affected the handling.
     
  12. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    #12 Koopernic, Apr 23, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
    Photo-reconnaissance Me 109G could also carry 3 x 300L (3 x 66Imp gallon) drop tanks. That's a total of 900L on top of the 400L internal fuel supply.

    It wasn't usable for an escort mission in that the range of an late war Me 109 flying at maximum cruise (after allowances for climb and take off) was less than 330 miles. In an escort mission you would have to drop the tanks which would hardly have been used up half of the fuel because you can't fight with drop tanks on.

    So what use would they be?

    However 900L would allow the aircraft to loiter about 6 hours on top of whatever it could do on its internal fuel. I can think of a few uses:
    1 Ferrying.
    2 Observing and directing action from a distance.
    3 shadowing a convoy, if FM2 or Martlets are launched the 109 jettisons its external fuel tanks and simply out runs them.
    4 Loitering above a naval force or U-boat. You can only do this out to a range of say max 250 miles from base but you can do it for 6 hours.

    In the case of a US Marine or US Naval Hellcat directing a strike from a distance as in the RAF strategy of having a master of ceremonies is one use.

    Also those radar picket ships that operated a great distance from the task force might receive some protection by Hellcats loitering above them, providing CAP ready to drop their tanks the moment they encounter an enemy. The empty drop tanks would weigh little and could be brought back on ship.

    I've just read an article on scribd called "Precision Time Pieces of the Luftwaffe" which although about horology, distributing time, synchronising fancy Lange and Sohne wrist watches and navigation has an interesting narrative of a Ju 290 mission shadowing an allied convoy.

    Using their radar they were able to detect the convoy at 130km, and count the number and size of ships. They were able to approach the convoy, photograph the allied ships with their 7cm lens cameras, observe the escort ships turn to face them and send out ineffective long range AAA fire. Moreover they were able to detect Martlet Launches by radar and were confident that they were relatively safe from interception since the aircraft couldn't venture more than 50sm (sea miles) from the carrier. That's not very far.

    Clearly Naval aircraft had limitations and reserves that severely limited their operational use and large excess fuel supplies come in handy when the option is a bath in the sea.

    I suspect that without a huge fuel capacity there was great danger for any aircraft in leaving the operational area of the carrier where it was within radar range and the range of homing beacons. Venture out beyond that extra fuel is important. Hellcats escorting dive bombers or torpedo bombers would need the fuel reserves in order to remain with the bombers as they search for their target.
     
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