F-8F Bearcat, Grumman

F8F Bearcat

The supreme radial-engined shipboard fighter design. Was too late for WWII. The F8F, a reaction on the continuous weight and size increases, combined a very powerful engine with an airframe that was small enough to be put on board of escort carriers. However, it had limited armament and short range. Despite the end of the war, 1266 were built. Some saw action with the French airforce in Inochina.

Type: F8F-1B
Country: USA
Function: fighter
Year: 1945
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 1566 kW P&W R-2800-34W
Wing Span: 10.92 m
Length: 8.61 m
Height: 4.22 m
Wing Area: 22.67 m2
Empty Weight: 3207 kg
Max.Weight: 5873 kg
Max. Speed: 678 km/h
Ceiling: 11800 m
Max. Range: 3160 km
Armament: 4 * g20mm 2*b454 kg

History: The Bearcat was the last of Grumman's piston-engined carrier-based fighters. Two XF8F-1 prototypes were ordered in November 1943, and the first of these was flown on 21 August 1944. Grumman decided once again to utilize the most powerful engine available at the time, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp -- the same engine that had powered both their Hellcat and Tigercat designs. This time, the engine was fitted to the smallest, lightest airframe that could be built. This resulted in a highly maneuverable, fast airplane with a rate of climb 30% greater than the F6F Hellcat.

Production of the F8F-1 began just six months after the first flight of the prototype, and the first airplane was delivered to the US Navy's VF-19 squadron on 21 May 1945. The Navy's order totaled 2,033 airplanes, and Grumman contracted with General Motors to build the Bearcat under license, with the designation F8FM-1. Only a few Bearcats had been delivered to the Navy when the end of the war halted production. Grumman cancelled 1,258 of its Bearcats, and General Motors cancelled its entire order of 1,876. Production resumed after the war, and several variants were produced, including the F8F-1B, with four 20mm cannon in place of the previously-fitted 12.7mm (0.5 inch) machine guns; several night fighter variants (F8F-1N and F8F-2N); and a photo-reconnaissance version (F8F-2P). Production continued until May 1949.

At least 24 US Navy squadrons flew the Bearcat, some until as late as 1952, after which some were sold to the French Armee de l'Air for combat operations in Indo-China. Another 129 Bearcats were sold to the Thai Air Force.

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