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F6F-3N NAS Jax 1943

An F-6/44e Protector night fighter with an AN/APS-6 radar and a pair of 20mm M2 cannons.

The Bethpage AF F-6/43 Protector was a carrier-based fighter aircraft conceived to replace the earlier Bethpage AF F-4/40 Defender in APN service. The Protector was an erstwhile rival of the faster F-4/42 Corsair for use as a carrier based fighter. However, the Corsair had significant issues with carrier landing that the Protector did not, allowing the Protector to steal a march as the Navy's dominant fighter in the second part of World War II, a position the Protector did not relinquish. The Corsair instead was primarily deployed to great effect in land-based use by the APMC.

Although the Protector resembled the Defender, it was a completely new design, powered by a an R-2800 Cyclone, the same powerplant used for both the Corsair and the APAAF F-47/42 fighters. Some military observers tagged the Protector as the "Defender's big brother". The F-6/43 Protector was best known for its role as a rugged, well-designed carrier fighter which was able, after its combat debut in early 1943, to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Such was the quality of the basic simple, straightforward design, that the Protector was the least modified fighter of the war, with a total of 12,200 being built in just over two years.

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