War Master WMAPF001 USN Grumman F6F 5K Hellcat Drone Aircraft - Operation Crossroads, Bikini Atoll, 1946 (1:72 Scale)
"Why should we have a navy at all? There are no enemies for it to fight except apparently the Army Air Force."
- General Carl Spaatz, Commander of the US 8th Army Air Force, after WWII
The F6F embodied the early lessons learned by users of Grumman's previous fleet-defense fighter, the Wildcat. In June 1941, Grumman lowered the wing center section to enable the undercarriage to be wider splayed, fitting more armor-plating around the cockpit to protect the pilot while also increasing the fighter's ammunition capacity. When the prototype made its first flight, it was realized that a more powerful engine was needed to give the fighter a combat edge. A Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10 engine was installed for added power.
The aircraft made its combat debut in August 1943, and from that point on, the question of aerial supremacy in the Pacific was never in doubt. Hellcats served aboard most of the US Navy's fleet carriers, being credited with the destruction of 4,947 aircraft up to V-J Day. The Fleet Air Arm was also a great believer in the Hellcat, procuring almost 1,200 planes between 1943-45. The Hellcat saw only limited service in the post-war years, being replaced by the more powerful F9F Bearcat. Of the nine F6Fs believed to be airworthy today, seven are based in the USA and two are located in the UK.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a US Navy Grumman F6F 5K Hellcat Drone took part in Operation Crossroads, at the Bikini Atoll during 1946.
Release Date: July 2011
Historical Account: "The World's First Nuclear Disaster" - Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. Its purpose was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships. The series consisted of two detonations, each with a yield of 23 kilotons: Able was detonated at an altitude of 520 feet (158 m) on July 1st, 1946; Baker was detonated 90 feet (27 m) underwater on July 25th, 1946. A third burst, Charlie, planned for 1947, was canceled primarily because of the Navy's inability to decontaminate the target ships after the Baker test. Crossroads Charlie was rescheduled as Operation Wigwam, a deep water shot conducted in 1955 off the California coast.
The Crossroads tests were the fourth and fifth nuclear explosions conducted by the United States (following the Trinity test and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). They were the first of many nuclear tests held in the Marshall Islands and the first to be publicly announced beforehand and observed by an invited audience, including a large press corps.
The test resulted in the radioactive contamination of all the target ships by the underwater Baker shot. It was the first case of immediate, concentrated local radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion. (The fallout from an air burst is global, held in the stratosphere for days and widely dispersed.) Chemist Glenn Seaborg, the longest-serving chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, called Baker "the world's first nuclear disaster."
To prepare the atoll for Crossroads, Bikini's native residents agreed to evacuate the island of Bikini. Many were moved by the LST 861 to the island of Rongerik. Later, in the 1950s, a series of large thermonuclear tests rendered Bikini unfit for subsistence farming and fishing. Because of radioactive contamination, Bikini remains uninhabited as of 2010, though it is occasionally visited by sport divers. Although there are claims that participants in the Crossroads tests were well protected against radiation sickness, the Oscar-nominated documentary Radio Bikini showed footage of Navy sailors wearing little or no protection during their inspection of the target ships only hours after the explosions, even though some of the observer ships were caught in the fallout of the Baker explosion. In addition, the documentary revealed that Navy ships used contaminated water from the area for drinking and bathing purposes after the blast. One study showed that the life expectancy of participants was reduced by an average of three months.