The F6F-5 in Aces High II
Fairly common, the Hellcat is especially prevalent on maps that include lots water because it is a popular CV launched aircraft. Inland it tends to be less commonly seen although there are several hardcore Hellcat pilots out there who fly it regardless. The characteristics of the Hellcat in general are better than average, but more importantly there is no real weakness as is common in many of the AH aircraft. This makes for something that can adapt to the fight and simply slug it out sometimes. It's a tough aircraft designed for the tough fights.
Engine power is likely the weakest part of the Hellcat though it is really better than average. Cruise speed at sea-level is 320mph (330mph WEP), not that great, increasing to 330mph at only 2.5K, and rising to 370mph at 17K. Top speed is only around 380mph at 18.5K with WEP, hardly worth climbing that high. None of those are outstanding numbers but the F6F-5 is not really a 'runner', it was made to stay and fight. Still, while on the slower end of the spectrum it isn't too bad, you are still going to find better than parity with many common rides down low like the Spit V (293mph), Spit IX (310mph) and N1K (313mph). Against something like a P-51D, 190D9 or La7 though you are badly over-matched. Climb rate is average, about 3,200ft/min at sea-level and it holds pretty solid up to 15K or so, again giving you decent performance. Fuel duration is only 30 minutes, again about average, but with the option to extend this by 18 minutes with a single drop-tank. That drop tank is generally the difference and is typically carried. The big engine on the front doesn't offer great acceleration when level, somewhere near the middle of the pack yet again, but pushed over into a dive it can haul this big aircraft up to speed nicely. WEP is pretty important on the Hellcat but is limited to only 5 minutes. Save it and use it when you need it in combat and don't waste it on the way to the fight. It tends to buy you around 10mph, which can be significant when you are only middle of the pack in speed.
Aces High II Performance Charts
Firepower is what I like to think of as standard US issue, six 50s with a solid 400 rounds/gun. Usually when you get six guns there is one pair that has less ammo than the others but not with the Hellcat, giving consistent firepower from start to finish. There is little to complain about with six guns like that and lots of ammunition for them. They are good at snapshots, deflection, and long ranges, giving you flexibility to adapt your shooting to your situation. Nobody wants to face that sort of firepower and if you can get into position you can make quick work of just about any aircraft in the game. Maybe they aren't as effective as lots of cannons but there is certainly something to be said for volume of fire. Convergence is a matter of personal taste, longer settings tend to give better distance performance while closer settings are more effective for snapshots or tight dogfights. I tend to go with something in the D300 type range which still gives some longer range shooting out to D500 or so. Externally, the Hellcat can take a very respectable amount of external ordinance, two bombs of up to 1,000lbs and 6 rockets, making a good attacker. The bombs interfere with the carriage of the drop tank but the rockets do not, so I generally only carry bombs if I know it's a relatively short fight and my primary goal is bombing, otherwise I'll take rockets for targets of opportunity and a drop tank. Of the CV capable planes used in the attack role, the F6F is very common as it is much easier to take off from a CV deck with a loaded Hellcat than a Corsair.
Maneouverability is very good, surprising for an aircraft that looks as large as the Hellcat does. This isn't a dainty little plane, this thing is a monster that weighs in at over 12,000lbs so it's no lightweight by a long shot. The wingspan is over 42 ft, more than 2 ft longer than a P-47, 5ft larger than a P-51, giving a little more area to carry all that mass. Turn-rates are very similar to the P-38 and only slightly worse than a Spitfire Mk IX. The Hellcat isn't very sensitive to speed and is good both slow and fast though at low speeds it can develop a fairly abrupt snap stall. Recovery is not usually a big problem with a simple release of stick pressure enough to stop any snapping motion. Deep stalls seem fairly rare. The Hellcat can be a little mushy at the bottoms of loops most noticably when near the ground so you don't want to wait until the last second to pull out. Dive control and speed are excellent and roll rate remains solid through the entire envelope from around 150mph up to 575mph. Recovery from even serious compression is not very difficult.
Fighting in the F6F-5
What surprises me most often is how many options I have when I fly the Hellcat in a fight. It is just good enough a turner to beat many aircraft that are unsuspecting of you while it can also BnZ with the best of them.
Generally it is advisable to start from a reasonable position if you can rather than try and fight uphill, grab a little altitude to start with and don't enter the fights at very low level. BnZ styles of fighting are all very good because the snapshot power of the guns are good and the speed tolerance of the F6F-5 in general is excellent. You really don't need to worry about compression unless you are performing VERY long dives at incredible speeds. The abundance of ammunition should allow you to take shots whenever you think you have a reasonable chance to hit something. Be it long range, crossing or snapshot, open fire a bit early and let the enemy aircraft fly through the bullets. The ballistic properties of the .50cal guns are excellent allowing easy aiming so a little spraying isn't too bad if you can land some lucky hits in the process. As a turn-fighter, the Hellcat can hold its own and against any average opponent can probably beat it. From my corner velocity information the F6F-5 appears to beat out the likes of the F4U, P-51D, P-47, and 109G6 (and later) but would run about even with the P-38 or 109G2 series. I wouldn't recommend turn-fighting something in the class of a Spitfire or better unless it is at higher speeds in excess of about 230mph. An underappreciated factor in the F6F-5 is the ability it has to shake off a little damage from 12.7mm type hits or less. 20mm or larger hits are still going to hurt and the F6F-5 is not a small aircraft so tends to attract a couple more hits than usual but often it can simply fly through relatively unscathed. Your largest problem will be catching and cornering the faster aircraft as well as re-building energy if you get into trouble. Zoom climb is reasonable and feels much like a P-47 under full power.
Defensively, you don't really want to hang out and get slow in a group of better turners. In general that's good advice for most aircraft but the Hellcat seems to attract trouble pretty quickly when low and slow. While it can take a bit of damage, eventually someone will hit you enough or with big enough guns, to cause you trouble. Try and stay near the edges of the fight and work your way outwards towards friendly aircraft rather than dive, or chase, enemy aircraft long distances into enemy territory. Always be careful of your 6 as the Hellcat can be pretty easily caught by a number of aircraft in short order and your rear-downwards view is not all that great. Always keep track of your options too and evaluate your opponent, you can probably take the fight into an area where an opponent it not really that strong, be it a high speed fight or a tight turning fight, it depends on the situation and the enemy aircraft involved. If you can though, try and split off 1-2 enemies at a time and deal with them, regaining your energy before heading back to pick up more. Rolling is a strength so most defenses that involve it are good, including scissors or Split-S. The extra advantage of a tough hide can also provide the opportunity to force overshoots, accepting a couple of hits if required, but putting the enemy in lethal guns range for you. Don't fight the Hellcat heavy if you can help it though, any more than 75% fuel and any external stores tend to add quite a bit of weight and remove some of the performance advantages you may have.
Fighting against the F6F-5
The one thing you are going to probably find with Hellcats is you need to punish them before they submit. I don't think there is any other way to describe it but unlike some planes where a single good pass is enough to shoot it down (Spitfires, 109s, etc), the Hellcat might take the best you've got and then fly off. There are a few other aircraft like that, the P-47 and F4F come to mind, but the Hellcat seems almost as good.
You should never consider the F6F to be a one pass kill. By that I mean, don't trade your position advantage, or energy advantage in for a single good pass thinking that will be enough to knock it down. I always consider that I'll need to make 2-3 passes, the one I'm doing, the next one, and one more after that before I get a Hellcat kill. I've seen them take 30mm hits to the rear and survive though that is a little rare. Hellcats are not good at generating energy so any style of fight that can get, or keep, a Hellcat at an energy disadvantage it good. You will not see many Hellcats fight uphill so if you can start out above one then that is best. Hellcats are not good runners either so it is unlikely they can avoid you in a chase for long and will have to turn to fight. Vertical fighting is good as long as you keep in mind the mass of the F6F-5 and watch for a sudden vertical zoom at high speed. Also be careful though to not get too slow, the Hellcat can generate good turn-rates and remains very manoeuverable at lower speeds, generally below the normal corner velocities of many aircraft. Chasing a diving Hellcat is probably risky, if you are in a great diver then it might be possible but if not then it could be a trap. Be patient though if you can, the Hellcat generally can't run away easily but won't be afraid to spin around and spray you down from any angle, even a Head-On, so you can't rush and give up any opportunities.
Defensively, your best bet is often to simply build some separation and try to give yourself some time to build up energy. The F6F-5 is not a good pursuit style aircraft and anything with better acceleration and climb can probably build up an advantage over time. Don't dive away steeply unless you get a great head-start, as the Hellcat is amongst the best divers in the game and can likely follow just about any high speed maneuver you may perform. You cannot give up any shooting opportunities either, most Hellcat pilots are not afraid to fire at almost anything within D850 because the ballistics of the .50's give reasonable chance of success in wounding your aircraft or worse. Vertical zooms are ok if you start with enough separation and excess energy but be mindful of the energy stored in the Hellcats mass, they can sometimes zoom much better than you'd expect. Try and isolate your advantage if you can though, there are several aircraft that can simply out-turn the Hellcat at mid-lower speeds and there are several that only need to buy a couple of seconds worth of advantage in order to simply run away with pure speed. The most dangerous Hellcat is likely the one above you with some stored energy advantage but any Hellcat near you that can get within guns range for even a second is not safe.
The Hellcat is solid American iron, can take quite a bit of abuse before they start to loose important parts. If you be persistant, don't give up and go find easier prey, and don't let it get on your tail, then you stand a decent chance of knocking it down.
Soda's Aircraft Evaluations