Valiant Wings Publishing | Airframe & Miniature No. 15: The Grumman F6F Hellcat
Reviewed by Kevin Futter
UK publisher Valiant Wings Publishing has released Number 15 in its Airframe & Miniature series, entitled The Grumman F6F Hellcat: A Complete Guide to the Famous American Naval Fighter. The author is Richard Franks, and the illustrations are shared between Richard Caruana and Wojciech Sankowski. The terrific cover art is by Arkadiusz Wróbel.
The first thing that struck me when I picked up this book was how heavy it is; at a hefty 224 pages plus a gatefold section of scale drawings, it is indeed a weighty tome. It's extremely well printed on quality glossy paper, and the reproduction of all drawings and photographs is first-class.
The contents are broken up into nine separate chapters, grouped into two distinct sections:
- Airframe Chapters
- Reconnaissance, Night-fighters, Drones, Test Airframes & Projects
- Camouflage & Markings and Colour Profiles
- Miniature Chapters
- Hellcat Kits
- Building a Selection
- Building a Collection
- In Detail: The Hellcat
There is also a preface, along with a collection of appendices at the rear of the book:
- Hellcat Kits
- Hellcat Accessories
- Hellcat Decals & Masks
The sample images below (courtesy Valiant Wings Publishing) should give a good indication of the nature and style of the book's contents:
While not mentioned in the table of contents, the Preface weighs in at a substantial 28 pages, and describes a potted history of the Hellcat which provides useful support for the subsequent technical information.
The sequence of chapters covering the evolution of the airframe spans 21 pages, and consist of brief summaries supported by crisply-rendered greyscale profile drawings. They are clear and easy to follow, and form a handy guide for discerning what features distinguished which variants.
The Camouflage & Markings section covers 36 pages, and includes a two-page stencil placement guide. Rather than a dedicated section for colour profiles, they are instead interspersed throughout the text as necessary. They are by Richard Caruana as usual, and are very nicely rendered indeed. A set of profiles for aircraft in foreign service is also provided.
Chapter 5 features a brief description of the commonly available Hellcat model kits. Not only do we have a range of options in 1/32 scale, there is also now an option in 1/24 scale, thanks to Airfix.
The modelling section features five kit builds, comprising 1/72 Eduard and 1/72 Cyber-Hobby builds by Libor Jekl, 1/48 Eduard and 1/32 Trumpeter builds by Steve Evans, and finally a build of the Airfix 1/24 kit by John Wilkes. These models are extremely well done, and will serve as inspiration and guidance for our own Hellcat builds when we get to them.
Chapter 7 is called Building a Collection, and features a series of annotated isometric 3D line drawings by Wojciech Sankowski. These are designed to illustrate the salient differences between the various prototype and production airframes as the series developed, and form a perfect companion to the earlier 'evolution' chapters.
Chapter 8, In Detail, features an extensive selections of archival and contemporary photographs and diagrams, including a series of walkaround detail photos of surviving airframes. The walkaround photos have been selected with a modeller's eye, which is not only welcome, but very handy.
The four appendices cover the usual list of available kits, aftermarket, decals, and mask sets, as well as a concise bibliography for further research.
The scale plans included at the very back of the book are to 1/48 scale, and presented in gatefold format. They're printed on heavy, non-glossy plain stock, covering the following airframes:
- Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat
- Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat
- Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat (early)
- Grumman F6F-5P Hellcat
- Grumman Hellcat F Mk I
- Grumman Hellcat FR Mk II
- Grumman F6F-5D Hellcat
- Grumman F6F-5E Hellcat
- Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat (late)
- Grumman F6F-3E Hellcat
These are drawn by Richard Caruana and look very nicely done.
Not being a Hellcat expert, I can't give a considered evaluation of the accuracy or veracity of the text itself, and so will leave that to more knowledgeable readers. All other elements of the book ooze quality however, from the clear photography to the beautiful profiles and the detailed scale plans. Contemporary photographs are plentiful and very nicely reproduced. Overall it's an impressive attempt to be the Complete Guide the title alludes to. Recommended!
Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for the review copy.
© Kevin Futter 2020
This review was published on Wednesday, September 02 2020; Last modified on Wednesday, September 02 2020