The museum's F6F-3 spent the war in Hawaii, being used for proficiency training. It survived a belly landing--pilot forgot to put the gear down. Post war it was converted to a drone and carried radiation monitoring instruments through the clouds of the Operation Crossraods nuclear bomb test at bikini in 1946. Grumman restored this Hellcat for the NASM.
The contract for the F6F, to replace the F4F, was signed on 10 June 1941; first prototype flew about a year later. On 16 Jan 43, first delivery reached carrier Essex. Little more than 7 months later, -3s went into action for first time over Marcus Islands. Later, 223 -3s equipped as night fighters having radar in wing pod and designated -3Es and -3Ns. -5 differed from -3 in engine, extra armor, heavier armament, and some structural details. Also, 1434 -5 series equipped as night fighters. British Navy received 252 -3s and 932 -5s and called them Hellcat MkI and MkII.