Grumman F8F Bearcat
1944
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Grumman F8F Bearcat

Last in the line of single-seat single-engined fighters to originate from the F4F Wildcat, the Bearcat had the distinction of being one of the most successful piston-engined aircraft to serve with the US Navy. The provision of significantly more power than the R-2800 engine of the F6F Hellcat was impractical, so the design team concentrated upon producing a smaller lightweight aircraft which would ensure the performance required of a carrier-based interceptor.

The prototype XF8F-1 flew for the first time on 27 November 1943, confirming at once that Grumman had produced a high-performance fighter, and deliveries of F8F-ls to the first operational squadron began in May 1945. Variants included F8F-1B with cannon armament; F8F-1N night fighter with redesigned power-plant section and revised radio and radar equipment; F8F-2 with an 1,863kW R-2800-E engine, fin and rudder height increased by 30.5cm to improve directional stability (made a controlled climb from take-off to 3,050m in 92 seconds); F8F-2N night fighter; and F8F-2P photo-reconnaissance aircraft. Entering service too late for operational deployment in World War II, ex-US Navy Bearcats were used by the French Armee de l'Air and the Royal Thai Air Force, playing a significant role in the conflict in Indo-China.

F8F-2 Bearcat


Specification 
 MODELF8F-1B
 CREW1
 ENGINE1 x Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp, 1566kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight5873 kg12948 lb
    Empty weight3207 kg7070 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan10.92 m36 ft 10 in
    Length8.61 m28 ft 3 in
    Height4.22 m14 ft 10 in
    Wing area22.67 m2244.02 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed678 km/h421 mph
    Cruise speed262 km/h163 mph
    Ceiling11795 m38700 ft
    Range1778 km1105 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 454kg bombs or 4 x 127mm missiles

3-View 
F8F-1 BearcatA three-view drawing of F8F-1 Bearcat (1280 x 956)

Comments1-20 21-40
Ron, 08.10.2015

Not only is the F8F shorter than the F6F, it is also shorter than the F4F!
Next to a Sea Fury, the Bearcat looks like it's in a carnival mirror!
I dig that climb rate though!
The 20mm cannon version needed the RAF Hispano MkV in place of the M3 Hispano of the US. The postwar M3 still didn't get it right!

Vic Mottarella, 01.03.2015

I had twenty seven years of total Naval service. We got our first Bearcats 1946 while I was a young Ensign in VF-32. I started in Hellcats but this thing was something that almost overwhelmed me by it's performance in rate of climb. I was lucky enough to pick up a brand new one at Beth Page. I got in trouble at Otis AfB when I rolled one on take off in 1948. The CO of the base saw it and called the Admiral at Quonset Point. I've also flown the Corsair but at 89 the Bearcat remains my all time favorite airplane and includes the several jets that I flew later.

JLB Cdr. USNR-Ret, 03.02.2015

The Bearcat was probably the best propeller driven fighter plane ever built. That
big powerful engine made this plane so easy to fly that numerous times while
practicing instrument flying, when its pilot reached the “beam” he would do a loop
while still on instruments, and never needing to change the power settings.

Bob Kusterer, 20.05.2014

A friend of mine had one. I almost had him talked into letting me fly it but he crashed it before I had the chance. The closest thing I got to fly was a P-51D; that was terrific but the Bearcat has almost twice the power; I sure would like the opportunity to fly one.

Ron, 09.01.2014

I don't know, but the designers of the F8F may have gone too far in trimming its weight. And why shrink the cockpit to fit only short pilots? Maybe too much Zero envy from the early war days. I mean snap-off wingtips to avoid beefing up the wings for 6gs+ stresses to save weight? That ended badly.
A little more strength and the added pounds might help tame the overpowered engine from getting out of hand and it would still have stellar powerloading.
Grumman needed this plane to intercept kamikazies only to be aced out by the F4U-4 due to missing the war. And then when it was ready it was again passed over for the Corsair to do ground support in Korea. Jets would take over the air supremacy role. But not to worry, air shows you know.

As it turned out maybe the F8F was the wrong choice when something between the Hellcat and Bearcat would have been more timely. It was already in hand but the new F8F carried the day and missed its war. Who could foresee that the Bear would't be nearly as carrier friendly as the Hellcat?

Ron, 03.06.2013

Absent any official military reports, I've heard tell that the F8F was the only U.S. fighter able to match the maneuverability of the Type 5 Kawasaki Ki 100!
I also know that the Type 5 would at times carry less than a full load of fuel in intercept mode. Thus making it much lighter on its feet.
And don't count out the J2M Raiden.
Aaron, I'm with you on the F4U-4 since it saw action in WW 2 unlike the F8F.

Jim Aylward, 18.02.2013

On April 9, 1953, I flew an F8F-1, bureau #95321 as a NAVCAD. Other than my first solo in an SNJ,it was the greatest aviation experience of my life. The F8F was not doing Carrier Operations at this time so we had to transition to the F6F and get our Carrier landings and then our designation as Naval Aviator.

Brounto, 16.12.2012

Durring 1970 an F8F "Raced" a plymoth superbird witch broke the land speed record of 202 miles per hour i was there as the Superbird speed gun watcher

joe nason, 09.12.2012

my dad(GRHS)flew Helldivers from the Wasp and Skyraiders from the Boxer in Korea. He flew the Bearcat at NAS Glenview in May 51.Anyone ever heard of using 4x4's on the tarmac to get a little extra bounce for the f8f's flight demonstration to altitude?

Larry Warren, 21.08.2012

correction to prior: When I couldn't get the hook down, I was sent from Phil Sea to the USS Midway - also in the Med - because she had a longer deck and higher flank speed.

Larry Warren, 21.08.2012

Wally Schirra and I went thru flight training together, he as an officer, me as aviation midshipman. We were both assigned to VF-71 in Quonset Point, RI in August 1948 (until Jan 1951). I was his wingman - in late '49 we went thru jet training together (TO-1, F-80). In 1949 aboard USS Philippine Sea, Wally made the 15000th landing, but got no cake because it resulted in a damaged aircraft. I wrote the accident report.
The Bearcat was hot and fun, but lots of things went wrong. Lost two squadron mates who went into the sea due to low-altitude engine failure; and I made both a no-hook and no-flap landing on the Phil Sea cruise due to mechanical failure. As for climbing to 10,000 feet with no loss of speed! Even Grandpa Pettibone would laugh at that one!

Rick Funk, 11.06.2012

Follow up to Ray Gibsons comment. Your comments are identicle to a story my father told me. He was an F8F pilot in the reserve out of Anacostia and also did CQ landings on the Saipan. He said he had been at the end of the runway with some buddies where carrier approaches were being practiced. He jumped on the back of a jeep to ride back and then noticed an F8F losing control, leaving the runway and headed right for them on the taxiway. Dad yelled at his buddies but they didn't hear and he thought they would be hit. He jumped off the jeep and then the F8F
was able to swirve to avoid the jeep but then ran into an SNJ and knocked the engine off the SNJ and spun it around. This SNJ had the FAA investigators on board. Seems like the same occurrence to me. It was Dad's response to answering a question from his son, me, as to any life threatening experiences as a pilot. This was one and it was a ground experience.

Ray Gibson, 21.06.2011

In the early 1950s I was in a reserve squadron (VF-661)out of Anacostia NAS on a two week cruise to Jacksonville NAS and then out of Norfolk, VA on the USS Saipan (CVL48).While in Jacksonville I was a plane captain of an F8F. We had 16 of them, 8 on each side of the apron facing each other.
I was running through the check list when the guy on the fire bottle started giving me the cut sign and I saw pieces
of things flying through the air. After I got the canopy open and got out I saw that one of the planes had jumped it's chocks and was chewing up the wing of the plane in front of it and that plane was doing the same to it.
The flying metal put two other F8Fs out of service.To top it off another of our F8Fs practising touch and goes spun off the runway and chewed up the wing of the SNJ that the investgators from Norfolk were in waiting to turn onto the runway.We were not activated to go to Korea, but our sister Squadron at Anacostia (VMF-321) was. They had F4Us. Cheers.

Gene Gifford LT.USNR, 12.06.2011

The Bearcat was the nearest thing to riding a Harley D.
It could climb straight ut to 10,00 ft.with out slowing down; and I would wonder at seeing the prop bending forword.

Klaatu, 07.05.2011

My late Dad flew everything from Buffaloes to Bearcats. He was not a pilot, but an aviator. He used to say pilots fly for the Air Force or live in the bottom of water heaters."

This business of "pilot" vs. "aviator" arose simply because, in the Navy, there is already somebody else who is known as a "pilot". In the Navy a "pilot" is what they call the local expert who brings a ship into and out of port. "Pilots" do not go to sea on ships, they embark or disembark at the harbor entrance, known as the "pilot station", to and from a "pilot boat". Although the "pilot" is officially considered an advisor to the captain, and does not legally assume command from the captain, he actually issues the the orders bringing the ship in and out of port.

Tony Moors, 05.05.2011

Copied from Grumman Plane News. From BillWilke.
"When I started with Grumman in Jan '49 there were still a few F8F Bearcats at Bethpage, including the last one. This last one was specially built for the Gulf Oil Co., with all the military components (armor plate, self-sealing gas tanks, gun mounts, ammunition boxes, arresting hook, wing folding structure, survival gear, etc) eliminated.
Although the F6F Hellcat had managed a kill ratio of 22 to 1 over the Zero, the Japanese were stripping their Zeros down even more and trying to build what was almost a suicide fighter. The F8F was designed to cope with this problem. The F8F never made it into combat in WW2, although some were on Jeep carriers on their way to the war zone when the war ended. The Frence used them in the Korean war.
Before the war, the Gulf Oil Co. had purchased several Grumman Biplane fighters, which were modified for aerobatics. For publicity purposes, these planes were flown by a retired military pilot, Major AL Williams. They were stationed at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, NY and were called Gulfhawks. These airplanes were painted bright orange, with the Gulf Oil Co. logo on the wings. Al Williams would occasionally give a little show at Roosevelt Field (airport), including flying down the runway upside down, about 10' above the ground.
Unfortunately the Navy would not allow Grumman to deliver the last Gulfhawk. It was repainted in Navy colors and used by Grumman for demonstration purposes. I have seen Corky Meyers, a Grumman test pilot, fly it. It was awesome, as it could take off in less than 100' and then climb straight up until it was out of sight. Corky would stand at the end of the runway and rev the engine a little, and lift the tail off the ground-and hold the plane perfectly horizontal without moving forward, with ease!
Reports were that the F8F was the fastest propeller driven plane in the world that would take off and land in a conventional manner. I believe that it still holds the world record for climbing to 10,000' from a standing start without assistance. It could leave a P51 or Corsair in the dust regardless of how they were modified. The Navy never released it for racing or commercial purposes!!! So goes the GLORY of the world.

Dean Woolery, 14.03.2011

LCDR Craig, we must have been at Kingsville at the same time. I also went from SNJ's to the F8F with about 350 hours, and the transition was MORE than interesting. I flew the Corsair and the F6 also, but nothing held a candle to the Bearcat. After the first few hours of being scared silly by the performance, it was GREAT FUN to buzz those unconcerned King Ranch cattle at 20' and 400 knots.

Rob, 27.11.2010

My late Dad flew everything from Buffaloes to Bearcats. He was not a pilot, but an aviator. He used to say pilots fly for the Air Force or live in the bottom of water heaters. He described the Hellcat as "rock solid", the Corsair as "a twitchy SOB", and the Bearcat (recounting vertical climbs to altitude)as the "funnest airplane he ever flew second only to a J-3 Cub."

Donn Foreman, 02.11.2010

From 1954 to 1956 I logged about 200 hours in the F8F Bearcat in Utility Squadron 3 at our base at NAAS Ream Field at the south end of San Diego Bay. The body was dark blue, but because the pilot was flying two aircraft, his own and a drone in front of him, the wings were painted a bright yellow with a red stripe at the mid section. We used the Bearcat as a control aircraft for F6F Hellcat drones which were painted red because they could be flown without a pilot, taken to sea and used as target aircraft. The Bearcat was an exciting plane to fly. It responsed so beautifully to anything we asked of it. With its vertical stabilizer mounted on the fuselage turned 2 deg. to the left, torque adjustments were gone. Takeoff, climb, cruise, and landing were all done pretty much with neutral rudder. After the full right rudders we needed for takeoff with the F6F, we realized that Grumman had, indeed, with that one modification, provided its pilots with "an elegant solution" for elimination of takeoff engine torque. The cockpit was quite a cramped environment. For anyone over 5' 10" his helmet rubbed on the top of the bubble canopy and for longer legs, with a shorter rudder extension, the knees were bent up a little, which put a lot of the pilot's weight on his rear end, that got a little sore on a 3 hour flight. No one in our squadron had to bail out of an F8F during my deployment, so I was never sure about that rumor: that because the horizontal stabilizer was so close behind the cockpit if a chap had to leave and roll over the side, it was said that he would wind up wrapped around the stabilizer.
God, it was a lovely litte sweetie! I still get envious comments from others when I tell them I got to fly it.

Don Safer, 23.10.2010

Pardon me.
Of coarse I meant the F8F Bearcat.

1-20 21-40

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