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The Grumman F7F Tigercat is a heavy fighter aircraft that served with the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) from late in World War II until 1954. It was the first twin-engine fighter to be deployed by the USN. While the Tigercat was delivered too late to see combat in World War II, it saw action as a night fighter and attack aircraft during the Korean War.

Designed initially for service on Midway-class aircraft carriers, early production F7Fs were land-based variants. The type was too large to operate from older and smaller carriers, and only a late variant (F7F-4N) was certified for carrier service.

Design & development

Based on the earlier Grumman XP-50 that was eventually canceled, the company developed the XP-65 (Model 51) further for a future "convoy fighter" concept. In 1943, work on the XP-65 was terminated in favor of the design that would eventually become the F7F.[1] The contract for the prototype XF7F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. Grumman's aim was to produce a fighter that outperformed and outgunned all existing fighter aircraft, and that had an auxiliary ground attack capability.[2]

An F7F-3N of VMF(N)-513 at Wonsan, Korea, in 1952.

Performance of the prototype and initial production aircraft met expectations; the F7F was one of the fastest piston-engine fighters, with a top speed significantly greater than single-engine USN aircraft – 71 mph faster than a Grumman F6F Hellcat at sea level.[3] Captain Fred Trapnell, one of the premier USN test pilots of the era, stated: "It's the best damn fighter I've ever flown."[4] The F7F was to be heavily-armed: four 20 mm cannon and four 50 caliber (0.50 in; 12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes. This speed and firepower was bought at the cost of heavy weight and a high landing speed, but what caused the aircraft to fail carrier suitability trials was poor directional stability with only one engine operational, as well as problems with the tailhook design.[5] The initial production series was, therefore, used only from land bases by the USMC, as night fighters with APS-6 radar.[6]

While the F7F was initially also known as the Grumman Tomcat, this name was abandoned, because it was considered at the time to have excessively sexual overtones;[7] (from the 1970s, the name Tomcat became commonly associated with, and officially used by the Navy for, another Grumman design, the F-14 twin-jet carrier-based interceptor). The first production variant was the single-seat F7F-1N aircraft; after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added and these aircraft were designated F7F-2N.

A second production version, the F7F-3, was modified to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance, and this version was again trialled on the USS Shangri-La. A wing failure on a heavy landing caused the failure of this carrier qualification as well. F7F-3 aircraft were produced in day fighter, night fighter, and photo-reconnaissance versions.[8]

The final production version, the F7F-4N, was extensively rebuilt for additional strength and stability, and did pass carrier qualification, but only 12 were built.[8]

Operational history

Marine Corps night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 flying F7F-3N Tigercats saw action in the early stages of the Korean War, flying night interdiction and fighter missions and shooting down two Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes.[9] This was the only combat use of the aircraft.

Most F7F-2Ns were modified to control drones for combat training, and these gained bubble canopies over the rear cockpit for the drone controller. An F7F-2D used for pilot transitioning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.[10]

In 1945, two Tigercats, serial numbers TT346 and TT349, were evaluated, but rejected by the British Royal Navy, who preferred a naval version of

Designed initially for service on Midway-class aircraft carriers, early production F7Fs were land-based variants. The type was too large to operate from older and smaller carriers, and only a late variant (F7F-4N) was certified for carrier service.

Based on the earlier Grumman XP-50 that was eventually canceled, the company developed the XP-65 (Model 51) further for a future "convoy fighter" concept. In 1943, work on the XP-65 was terminated in favor of the design that would eventually become the F7F.[1] The contract for the prototype XF7F-1 was signed on 30 June 1941. Grumman's aim was to produce a fighter that outperformed and outgunned all existing fighter aircraft, and that had an auxiliary ground attack capability.[2]

An F7F-3N of VMF(N)-513 at Wonsan, Korea, in 1952.

Performance of the prototype and initial production aircraft met expectations; the F7F was one of the fastest piston-engine fighters, with a top speed significantly greater than single-engine USN aircraft – 71 mph faster than a Grumman F6F Hellcat at sea level.[3] Captain Fred Trapnell, one of the premier USN test pilots of the era, stated: "It's the best damn fighter I've ever flown."[4] The F7F was to be heavily-armed: four 20 mm cannon and four 50 caliber (0.50 in; 12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes. This speed and firepower was bought at the cost of heavy weight and a high landing speed, but what caused the aircraft to fail carrier suitability trials was poor directional stability with only one engine operational, as well as problems with the tailhook design.Grumman F6F Hellcat at sea level.[3] Captain Fred Trapnell, one of the premier USN test pilots of the era, stated: "It's the best damn fighter I've ever flown."[4] The F7F was to be heavily-armed: four 20 mm cannon and four 50 caliber (0.50 in; 12.7 mm) machine guns, as well as underwing and under-fuselage hardpoints for bombs and torpedoes. This speed and firepower was bought at the cost of heavy weight and a high landing speed, but what caused the aircraft to fail carrier suitability trials was poor directional stability with only one engine operational, as well as problems with the tailhook design.[5] The initial production series was, therefore, used only from land bases by the USMC, as night fighters with APS-6 radar.[6]

While the F7F was initially also known as the Grumman Tomcat, this name was abandoned, because it was considered at the time to have excessively sexual overtones;[7] (from the 1970s, the name Tomcat became commonly associated with, and officially used by the Navy for, another Grumman design, the F-14 twin-jet carrier-based interceptor). The first production variant was the single-seat F7F-1N aircraft; after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added and these aircraft were designated F7F-2N.

A second production version, the F7F-3, was modified to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance, and this version was again trial

While the F7F was initially also known as the Grumman Tomcat, this name was abandoned, because it was considered at the time to have excessively sexual overtones;[7] (from the 1970s, the name Tomcat became commonly associated with, and officially used by the Navy for, another Grumman design, the F-14 twin-jet carrier-based interceptor). The first production variant was the single-seat F7F-1N aircraft; after the 34th production aircraft, a second seat for a radar operator was added and these aircraft were designated F7F-2N.

A second production version, the F7F-3, was modified to correct the issues that caused the aircraft to fail carrier acceptance, and this version was again trialled on the USS Shangri-La. A wing failure on a heavy landing caused the failure of this carrier qualification as well. F7F-3 aircraft were produced in day fighter, night fighter, and photo-reconnaissance versions.[8]

The final production version, the F7F-4N, was extensively rebuilt for additional strength and stability, and did pass carrier qualification, but only 12 were built.[8]

Marine Corps night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 flying F7F-3N Tigercats saw action in the early stages of the Korean War, flying night interdiction and fighter missions and shooting down two Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes.[9] This was the only combat use of the aircraft.

Most F7F-2Ns were modified to control drones for combat training, and these gained bubble canopies over the rear cockpit for the drone controller. An F7F-2D used for pilot transitioning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.bubble canopies over the rear cockpit for the drone controller. An F7F-2D used for pilot transitioning also had a rear sliding, bubble canopy.[10]

In 1945, two Tigercats, serial numbers TT346 and TT349, were evaluated, but rejected by the British Royal Navy, who preferred a naval version of the de Havilland Hornet.[11]

Beginning in 1949, F7Fs were flown to the then-U.S. Navy storage facility at Naval Air Station Litchfield Park, Arizona.[12] Although the vast majority of the airframes were eventually scrapped, a number of examples were purchased as surplus. The surviving Tigercats were primarily used as water bombers to fight wildfires in the 1960s and 1970s and Sis-Q Flying Services of Santa Rosa, California, operated an F7F-3N tanker in this role until retirement in the late 1980s.

Airworthy
F7F-3
On display
F7F-3
Under restoration or in storage
F7F-3

Specifications (F7F-4N Tigercat)

Drawing of an F7F-3N.

Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[28]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 45 ft 4 in (13.82 m)
  • Wingspan: 51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m)
  • Wing area: 455 sq ft (42.3 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 23015; tip: NACA 23012[29]
  • Empty weight: 16,270 lb (7,380 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 25,720 lb (11,666 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 2,100 hp (1,600 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed constant-speed fully-feathering propellers

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 460 mph (740 km/h, 400 kn)
  • Range: 1,200 mi (1,900 km, 1,000 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 40,400 ft (12,300 m)
  • Rate of climb: 4,530 ft/min (23.0 m/s)

Armament

  • Guns:
    • 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) AN/M3 cannon (200 rpg, wing roots)
    • 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun (400 rpg, in nose) (normal fighter versions only; replaced by radar unit in the -3N nightfighter)
  • Bombs:
    • 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, or
    • 8 x 127mm unguided rockets under wings and
    • 1 x 150 gallon fuel or napalm tank under fuselage, or
    • 1 × torpedo under fuselage (day fighter only)

Avionics

  • AN/APS-19 radar

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

References

Notes
  1. ^ Dorr and Donald 1990, p. 119.
  2. ^ Thruelsen 1976, p. 204.
  3. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 51.
  4. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 54.
  5. ^ Meyer 2002, p. 55.
  6. Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II[28]

    General characteristics

    • Crew: 2
    • Length: 45 ft 4 in (13.82 m)
    • Wingspan: 51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)
    • Height: 16 ft 7 in (5.05 m)
    • Wing area: 455 sq ft (42.3 m2)
    • Airfoil: root: NACA 23015; tip: NACA 23012[29]
    • Empty weight: 16,270 lb (7,380 kg)
    • Max takeoff weight: 25,720 lb (11,666 kg)
    • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 2,100 hp (1,600 kW) each
    • Propellers: 3-bladed constant-speed fully-feathering propellers

    Performance

    • Maximum speed: 460 mph (740 km/h, 400 kn)
    • Range: 1,200 mi (1,900 km, 1,000 nmi)
    • Service ceiling: 40,400 ft (12,300 m)
    • Rate of climb: 4,530 ft/min (23.0 m/s)

    Armament

    • Guns:
      • 4 × 20 mm (0.79 in) AN/M3 cannon (200 rpg, wing roots)
      • 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun (400 rpg, in nose) (normal fighter versions only; replaced by radar unit in the -3N nightfighter)
    • Bombs:
      • 2 × 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, or
      • 8 x 127mm unguided rockets under wings and
      • 1 x 150 gallon fuel or napalm tank under fuselage, or
      • 1 × torpedo under fuselage (day fighter only)

    Avionics

    • AN/APS-19 radar

    See also

    Related development

    Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

    Related lists

    References

    Notes
    1. General characteristics

      Performance

      • Maximum speed: 460 mph (740 km/h, 400 kn)
      • Range: 1,200 mi (1,900 km, 1,000 nmi)
      • Service ceiling: 40,400 ft (12,300 m)
      • Rate of climb: 4,530 ft/min (23.0 m/s)

      Armament

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